Six techniques for busy working dads to help their children succeed

Nora Tollenaar-Szanto (pictured below) is a psychologist and high-performance strategist. Since COVID-19, she has turned her focus toward supporting families.


The role of a father today is not what it used to be. Long gone are the days when husbands were the main breadwinners in the family and expected dinner on the table by the time they got home from work. The world is changing, the barriers are breaking down and the parental responsibilities are expanding. Both parents are now equally involved in their children’s cognitive, emotional and social development. Data shows that since the outbreak of COVID, fathers have almost doubled the amount of time they spend with their offspring.

Raising happy children and helping them succeed in life is the goal, so how can fathers better contribute to that? Here are six, easy-to-do techniques for busy working dads.

Help them develop positive character traits

Resilience, together with curiosity, optimism, gratitude, courage, honesty, discipline and grit, are among the essential traits of successful people. How can you help your children develop these qualities? First and foremost, walk the talk and be a role model for them. This greatly impacts their belief system and behaviour. Discuss different character traits and ask what they mean to them. Use real-life examples. Let them choose some of their extra-curricular activities but don’t let them quit and always acknowledge their efforts.

Focus on improving their emotional intelligence

Until the end of the 1990s, many people believed that high IQ was the number one predictor of success. Since then, studies have pointed out that EQ plays a much more important role. Teaching emotional intelligence can begin in early childhood. In my family, we took photos of our children, their facial expressions showing the basic emotions: happy, sad, scared, disgusted, surprised and angry. We printed the pictures, and in certain situations we asked the kids to use the images and point out how they felt. This exercise helped them develop self-awareness. Once children are able to label their emotions, you can teach them how to keep those emotions under control. Whenever your child is experiencing major negative emotions, ask them to count to six before reacting. This is the time it takes for the chemicals triggered by the emotion to get absorbed in the body. Finally, teach them empathy by encouraging them to imagine being in someone else’s shoes.

nora tollenaar szanto

Foster a growth mindset

People with a growth mindset believe that their abilities, intelligence and talents can be developed at any stage of life. According to the American psychologist, Carol Dweck, individuals with a growth mindset are more likely to be successful. Let your child make mistakes but always ask them what they learned from the experience. Never praise them for their talent or intellect. Focus on the effort they made and on their problem-solving strategies. Encourage them to leave their comfort zones and let them take risks.

Use the magical power of storytelling

Children love listening to stories. One way to spend the daily bonding time (if they are up for it) is to read them a book. Even better, make up a story yourself. That way you can improvise and weave things they can relate to into the tale. Storytelling gives you an excellent opportunity to convey life experiences and it boosts children’s happiness and resilience.

Take time to disconnect from work

How many times have you arrived home after a busy day at the office to find your kids eager to spend time with you but your mind is still at work, trying to find the solution to a problem? These situations are often exacerbated when you’re working from home. To disconnect, become aware of your state of mind and explain to the children that you need to be alone, just for a little while. Set a timer and try an activity like reading, meditating, or listening to music to help you unplug. Do whatever it takes to leave work behind. Only return to the children when you feel ready.

Give your undivided attention

Once you are emotionally and mentally available to your family, it is time for some special one-to-one father/daughter or father/son bonding. Give them your undivided attention for ten to 15 minutes each day and make sure you let them choose how they want to spend that time. If you have a bigger family, let your kids take turns. Surprisingly, this is one of the simplest, yet most overlooked tools fathers can use to create that special connection with their children. Spending quality time with them makes them feel secure, improves their self-confidence, and helps with behavioural issues both at home and at school.

If you put these six steps into action and practice them regularly, they will become second nature to you all. By doing this, you will be taking control of your parenting in the most effective way and empowering your children to succeed.

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