Q: I'm a newlywed soon-to-be dad. I never knew my own father, so when I think about teaching my son to be "manly," I'm intimidated. What does "manliness" really look like?
Jim: I think a common misperception is that "manliness" equates to brute power and strength. But when it comes to being a good father and husband, I'd suggest something else. How about "sacrifice"?
"Sacrifice" is considered a weakness by a lot of guys. That's too bad, because when you look at healthy families you generally see a common trait: sacrificial men. These are the guys who go to their kids' soccer games even if they'd rather stay home and watch football. They're patient with their kids when a bike gets left in the rain for the umpteenth time. Men who sacrifice develop stronger, more loving family relationships.
It's a paradox, really. We're at our strongest when we lay down our lives, even in small ways, for our wives and children. It can be hard to do, and we don't always do it well. But that's why it's called "sacrifice."
As fathers, we have to challenge ourselves to sacrifice for our families. We should not only tell them we love them, but show them that they're the most important people in the world to us. It could be leaving work early for a special dinner with our wives. Or maybe it's staying patient and lovingly correcting your children when they're careless and scratch your car. Sacrifice will lead you to make significant choices. But being a dad is a significant experience.
For help with your fathering, visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Q: Is there anything special we need to know about raising twins? We just became the proud parents of two precious children, and we'd like to get our family off to a good start.
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: Apart from the fact that it's twice the work (and twice the fun!), raising twins doesn't differ significantly from the rearing of other children. Generally speaking, it's based on the same foundational principles of love, limits and close parental involvement. However, there are some special considerations to keep in mind, particularly if you've been blessed with identical twins (my father-in-law is an identical twin).
The natural closeness and identification between two kids growing up in this situation is a wonderful thing. But it can also tend to obscure the individual identities of the children involved.
There's nothing wrong with highlighting the similarities between your twins -- for example, by dressing them in identical clothes when they're small. But you should also be looking for ways to appreciate and emphasize their differences. Make a point of allowing both kids to be themselves. As much as possible, love and discipline each one individually, according to his or her own temperament and personality. Dozens of detailed studies, involving over 14,000 pairs of twins, have emphasized that each child is unique and needs a different parenting response.
As your kids grow older, check in with them from time to time to see how they're doing. Ask questions like, "How does it feel to be a twin in this family? What can we do to strengthen our relationship?" In short, do everything you can to ensure that the uniqueness of each child isn't overlooked.
In the meantime, don't neglect your own needs as parents and as a couple. Invest time and effort in building and maintaining a strong support system. Don't be afraid to request help from parents, relatives and friends. Plan regular date nights, and work to keep your marriage healthy and strong.
Raising twins is a big job, and it can be exhausting at times -- but completely worth it!
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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