Sometimes You Just Gotta
By Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC
"Daddy, help me, I can't
I watched as my five-year-old
son flopped around in the snow with no intention of trying
to get himself up.
The makings of a classic
father-child conflict were perfectly in place.
All at once I felt compassion,
disgust, understanding, and anger. I was also in the middle
of a campaign to let my son "take care of himself" and
not depend on his dad to take care of him.
My daughter pleaded with
me to pick him up so we could ski back to the park headquarters
and get something to eat. "I know you can do it," I
said for the tenth time that day. But he couldn't--that is,
In the battle of wills between
father and son, there's an intense urge to hold your position
and to be "the victor." It feels as though any kind
of compromise is a loss. In this case, I was sure
that if I helped my son again I'd be enabling him to be weak and incapable.
Could there be anything worse
for a father?
As my daughter's pleas became
louder and my son's cries more dramatic, I quickly considered
my options. It's difficult to think creatively when you're
playing the role of Patton, and now the screams were coming
from both sides.
I was headed for anger and
overwhelm in a hurry.
"I'll tell you what,
Michael. If you give it one more good try and you can't get
up, I'll help you. But you have to try." He gave it one
more awkward flop and settled down into the snow.
For a reason I'm not aware
of, I put a smile on my face.
"That was it? That's
your effort?" He caught my smile and began to laugh. I
toppled onto him to tickle him and trade playful punches. The
anger, disgust, and concerns of a few minutes before were completely
As we sipped hot chocolate
later inside, Michael confessed, saying "the more you
wanted me to get up, the more I wanted to stay down."
He knew that I wanted him
to get up as much for my sake as his.
Kids are smart that way.
I hope there's a day soon
when I'll be smarter that way too.
MA, CPCC, is the author of "25
Secrets of Emotionally Intelligent Fathers".
For more great tips and action steps for fathers,
sign up for his FREE bi-weekly newsletter, "Dads,
Don't Fix Your Kids," at www.markbrandenburg.com.