Fatherhood: Learning Life Lessons In Parenting


Fatherhood: Learning Life Lessons In Parenting

By Donovan Grant

“It’s a boy!”

Our son Emmanuel turned 10 years old last week. He was born less than a year after my father passed away. And with two older sisters at home, a boy in the house meant a lot of changes for us. In fact, our parenting skills were going to be stretched in a big way.

It’s was one thing with the new type of nappies, different clothes for boys as well as the toys that stimulate little boys. But you know what; that wasn’t the main thing… It became clear that this little boy’s was going to turn our whole parenting style upside down.

Mind you, when already have an 8 and 12 year old, you’d think you already knew enough about parenting. With 12 years of on the job training that’s exactly what I thought. The only thing was no one had given Emmanuel the script. Our success formula didn’t work anymore!

Have you ever had someone just change the rules without informing you about it first?

That’s exactly how it felt.

It wasn’t quite as bad as going back to step 1 of fatherhood, but this little guy helped to write a new script. He has definitely had a big hand in changing the last 10 years of my life.

Here are three lessons that I learnt from Emmanuel for going beyond being a good dad and becoming a great father.

#1 Testing the boundaries

Have you had a child that loves testing all the boundaries? If so you’ll know how it feels? “Can I just have 10 more minutes of TV?”, “can I have three shredded wheat?” or “can my friends come to our house to play?” When a child has a constant spirit of asking question, it can pose challenges for parents. If the answer is “yes”, that’s okay. But if the answer is “no”, then that often when the fireworks start. “Why not?”

If your son or daughter is anything like Emmanuel you’ll know that a fully qualified answer has to be given or else you may find yourself in a spot of trouble later.

So what has the boundary testing taught me? Well boundaries generally tend to contain something or to keep other things out. They can also be an indication for a level of progress that has been reached and needs to be surpassed. It only when we talk to our children that we discover why they are look to test their boundaries. It’s our job to find out why.

What would it be like if you saw some boundary challenges as a sign for us to lean in and listen closer to what our children are saying (and not saying)?

#2 Stick to your word

We make promises with our children everyday. “We’ll do it tomorrow”, “we can try that later” or maybe even “you can have a go next time”. Let me share a little secret, to a growing child, these throw away comments are all a firm contract! It may keep them quiet and content today, but children will come back to you for pay back.

You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve been held to account because “I’ve not stuck to my word.”

It’s interesting to think of the many times where I have had to ask myself out loud “did I really say that?”

What I learned here is that it is best to assume that all children have photographic memories. As soon as they are born they start recording stuff just so they can play it back to you some day! Let’s be aware of one thing: You will get called out on your promises sometime.

#3 My time is not my time

After a hard day at the office don’t you sometimes just want to go home and put your feet up? This has been a feeling for me many times. The world of commuting into London and doing a 9-5 has too many stressors to mention.

The thing is, when we get home there are these little guys and girls who haven’t seen you for 10 hours and they want some of your time. Please write a note to self, your time is not your time.

Yes, you may have mail to open up, bills to attend to or you just need some peace and quiet. But, they need you and it pays to attend to them.

I remember coming home and jumping straight onto the PC because I had a deadline to complete an assignment for my coaching diploma. My goal was to get the work done and send it off to the training centre ASAP. But I forgot the “my time rule”“Dad, can we have a game of number snap?” … “Dad, you promised yesterday that we can play today” … “Dad, all you care about is your studies and you don’t care about me!”

Talk about attitude adjusters. That sure got my attention. You know I truly think that God has made it so our children help us to grow to be all that he designed us to be as parents.

The last time I faced such a barrage of reminders from Emmanuel, I learned that my time is to serve in the best way possible. When I help a child, I serve myself too and I have learned how to manage my time even better.

In fact I have now shifted “my time” slot to later in the evening when Emmanuel has gone to bed. This has worked very well and we are back on track. Do we still have challenges with “my time?”  Absolutely. We just manage the challenges as they come up rather than leaving them to grow into big old dragons.

The development of the child is so important and parenthood is one experience that helps to shape your family’s lives and even the wider community. It’s only when you live, breathe and even mess up as a parent that you really earn your stripes.

Let’s all become the best parents that we can be!!

Your friend and parenting advocate


What do you think? Are you investing “my time” into your children? How have you changed because of lessons that you learned as a parent? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.

Donovan Grant is a coach, mentor, blogger, speaker and IT professional who brings his wisdom of parenting for the last 21 years and coaching clients through the stages of raising youth and empowering leaders with life lessons that are changing generations.  He is a passionate and committed leader who believes that we all have the ability to help to change someone else’s life. Actively doing so as a catalyst for many years he teaches how to live a life of success, balance, integrity and fun, whether at work or at play. www.donovangrant.com 




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  • Donovan, I always enjoy reading your posts. I have three sons myself and while challenging to raise them, all of the time I spent with them was joyful. The part about keeping promises is such an important part of being a parent. Our children need to know they can rely on us and by us keeping our promises, they learn that. Great job!

  • Donovan, great article. I have a son and a daughter. Boys are different. He has so much energy, imagination and photographic memory…boy, ‘stick to your word’ is important!