To figure out how to be a good father to your ADD child, you need commitment, quiet time, paper, and a pen. Find an opening in your schedule, and pencil yourself in. When the time comes, turn off your phone, close the door, put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign, and get busy! Schedule a minimum of one hour to explore your memories, thoughts, and feelings for this exercise. This is not a one-time-and-you're- done kind of exercise. Keep checking in with yourself to adjust your parenting to grow with your child.
Recall Your Dad:
Begin by remembering your own Dad, as he was when you were little. Recall how he looked physically (height, weight, general facial expression, hairstyle, etc.). Recall his expression when he looked at you. Recall his touch, his scent, his voice. If you have trouble visualizing him, use a photo of your Dad from when you were little. When you have conjured up a strong image of your Dad, you are ready to write.
First, list everything you loved, liked, respected, and enjoyed about your Dad. If you have difficulty with this list, tap into some positive family memories. Use the part your Dad played in your memory to develop your list. If you had a difficult relationship with your Dad, it may take more work to remember his good traits, but a little digging will likely reveal some. Most people can find some good traits for their list once they start recalling specific memories.
Secondly, make a list about those things you wish had been different about your Dad. Remember the things he said, or did, that hurt, bothered, and/or frustrated you. Write down anything you simply did not like about your Dad.
Once you have looked at the reality of who your father was to you, in your eyes, you are ready to move on to the next step.
Create the Ideal Dad:
Next, create a list of positive traits you believe make up the “Ideal Dad.” What does the ideal dad look like to you? How does the ideal dad sound? How does he feel? How does the ideal dad look at you? What expression does he wear on his face? How does the ideal dad spend his time? What types of things does the ideal dad do for/with his child? How does the ideal dad treat his child when disappointed in him? How does the ideal dad treat his child’s accomplishments? How does the ideal dad treat his child who is significantly different from him? What are the key ingredients that you think the ideal dad possesses? Do any of your own Dad's traits fit your picture of the Ideal Dad? If so, be sure to include them on your list.
Once completed, look over your list of what makes a dad an "Ideal Dad,” for you. Recognize the likelihood that your child probably wants many of the same things as you listed, in their own version of the “Ideal Dad.”
The next step is the hardest. Looking over your list, ask yourself, “How do I measure up? Am I giving, or depriving, my child the experience of an “Ideal Dad”? Am I the best Dad I can be? Am I even close to the picture of an “Ideal Dad”? If you cannot genuinely answer “Yes!” to these questions, it is time to make some changes.
Next, make two columns. In one column, type all items on your “Ideal Dad” list. In the second column, write several ways you are going to be the dad who has that trait. See the example in the chart below.
Behavior to Match Trait
Take time to show how to do something, instead of yelling at child for doing it wrong later.
Help child be on time by telling them when you’re leaving, & setting an alarm, or timer, for them, providing gentle prompts as reminders if need be; instead of being late yourself & yelling at child to hurry up and/or blame the child for making you late.
Bring music into the home
Choose to find something to laugh about each day, instead of complaining or blaming.
Show them you love their mother by dancing with her unexpectedly.
Next, type up your list of the “Ideal Dad” and print several copies of varying sizes, for your wallet and to post. Post one inside your bedroom closet door. Every morning, and every evening, when dressing, look it over to reminder yourself of who you want to be for your child. Be sure to take the time to read it. Each day, pick one trait on which you will intentionally work. Consider posting your list in several places to remind yourself to stay present to your fathering experience. Before closing the closet door, vow to yourself that, for today, you will be the best father you can be.
Lastly, put two recurring appointments in your day planner or electronic calendar. The first one is to encourage daily follow through. Set it to go off during a time that you find particularly challenging (suppertime, bath time, etc.) with your child. If you can, enter “Ideal Dad” for the alert. When the alert sounds and you look at your scheduler, “Alert Dad” serves as your self-check on how you are doing. Set the second alarm to recur once a month. Use this reminder to take time to mindfully revisit your list, update, and revamp it, as need be. Your list should grow and change with you and your child.
To be an “Ideal Dad” takes continuous, daily, intentional effort. It does not happen by reading a book and following a few of the suggestions until they fall off your radar. Fathering is a continuous process of being present and engaged, open and flexible, willing to learn from, and to teach, your child. Children are not significantly different from adults in their wants and needs. Everyone wants to be heard, validated, accepted, and loved unconditionally. Fathers who do this for their child are richly rewarded with a very special father/child relationship when the child becomes an adult.