Being a dad also means dealing with a lot of mundane little issues. Things like making sure your kids do their homework.
To be honest—I’m not big on homework myself. I was terrible at school. I don’t think school is a great preparation for life.
But I do strive to look at mundane little issues and ask: What’s an important life lesson that’s contained in here? What’s something meaningful that I can pass on to my sons?
Recently, my eldest son kept saying he’ll do his homework later. Inevitably, the day turned into night, with not enough time left to actually do the homework.
Not only did it mean he wouldn’t be able to present his homework, it also affected his little brother and me, because we didn’t get to spend some quality time playing together.
My eldest son very much comes after me. When he realizes that he failed at something, he can be very hard on himself.
On the one hand, I want him to set high standards for himself and strive to live up to them. On the other hand, I don’t want him to beat himself up. I want him to learn the lesson and use it to become a better version of himself. I want him to cherish his wins and learn from his mistakes.
In this episode, I’ll share
- how I dealt with my son’s homework struggles,
- how I deployed storytelling to teach him the importance of fulfilling your responsibilities
- how I shared my own challenges to help him have compassion for himself
Finding the right balance between self-discipline and self-compassion is a challenge I’ve been grappling with myself, so I’m not surprised to see this in my son. Hopefully, he’ll learn this much earlier than I did.
As always, I’d love to hear from you.
This is going to be an entry in the, I don’t know what we want to call this daddy diaries or. No. I was thinking of the journey turn like fatherhood journeys, maybe, but dirty diary sounds like a movie that’s true. Um, that he does journey to fatherhood the wisdom of, uh, the father.
I don’t know. There’s maybe something. Okay. Now instantly my mind is going, going off on a tangent, but there is something about the. Experience of being a father. Um, what it means to be a good father of this is so much in that topic, right? The father art type. What does it mean? Um, what role does a father play in the family this so much in that topic in general, then being a child without a father, like oftentimes.
We’ve had this discussion before, where it’s like in today’s society, a lot of us growing up, but we don’t have strong, maybe masculine good father role models. Right. And we, we seek that out, just like, you know, Oprah is the mother of the nation of the, you know, millions of, of women. Uh, Joe Rogan is currently maybe the father of many, many man, right?
The, the father figure the father art type, somebody that. You know, pushes you to have more discipline, to live a better life, to be more honest, to better yourself, um, and all of that. Um, so there’s, there’s a lot to the topic of being a father and the wisdom of being a father, but, um, Okay. I mean, we both, like in a funny way, I grew up without a father and you grew up sort of with a father, but not really a great role model.
Right. And so, and we’re both fathers. Now you have a daughter. I have two boys. It’s also nice as a, as a very different perspectives. Probably very different experiences and we’re both very passionate fathers. So it’s interesting to go through this experience of trying to be a father for somebody in a way that you didn’t maybe want to want to just copy because you didn’t experience that you didn’t get that experience yourself growing up.
Um, anyways, I wanted to talk about. Yesterday. Um, so it was just an interesting day for a number of reasons with my voice. I, you know, I arrived at home at like, 3:00 PM or something. And I had like an hour before my calls with the, with, uh, the U S started I’m in Germany here. So it’s like between three and 8:00 PM, I’d be on calls.
And the idea was between four and eight. And the idea was from three to four, I could spend some time with them and it would be on calls. And then at eight I would come up, have dinner and then put them to bed. Right. And the mom had to leave. So it’d be kind of responsible for it. And at three, I showed up and they were like playing the, uh, one of them watching TV.
The other one was playing game and I asked them, Hey, do we want to do something? The three of us? And they’re like, ah, we just sit down to watch. We haven’t watched TV. I haven’t played video games yet. And they first time that they preferred to do that than to play with me. Right. Part of me was like part of my ego was a little hurt.
But then part of me, the pragmatic part was like, right. Then I got some time and I could catch up on some work and do some of this stuff. Right. So then push them too hard. Okay. And then at, uh, when I finished my work, I went up and my oldest was at the table, still doing his homework and I sat down and was surprised.
I’m like, dude, it’s 8:00 PM. He usually does his homework at like right off the school or something at like one. And I could take things really late and you’re like, yeah, I didn’t, I didn’t feel like doing the homework. Can you help me? I’m like, well, I can give you some pointers. I can support you, but it’s your homework.
You have to do it. And so
my youngest wanted to play chess with me. And what I tried for a little while is to kind of please both of them play chess with my youngest and help the oldest with his, with his homework until after a little while I realized my oldest was struggling so hard. Like he was just every, it was like a, you know, a bunch of hard math stuff.
He had to do some math homework, and every, every single piece of the homework, like every calculation he was getting wrong. I can just tell it’s not focused. It’s not concentrated. It doesn’t want to do it. And so I couldn’t play chess with my youngest. And I sat there with my oldest and he basically just wanted, like, I gave him some ideas on how to get to the right number and he just, he was just over it and just wanted me to give him the results.
Just say it. And. Eventually, like in my mind, this is the first time that I’ve had a homework struggle. Like I’ve never experienced this before, up until now. Like up until recently, homework was always so simple and easy. There was not even a topic. This was the first time that there was some kind of long struggle and he’s not finished and it’s late.
And I had to ask myself, what do I do now? Right. Do I let him, like, I see, cannot finish it. I don’t want to help him. Right, but, well, that’s part on my world, but I can also stay here till like 10:00 PM to finish this. So what do we do? And then eventually, like, I try to help him and I realized he’s not going to get it done.
Like he’s just too tired. Can’t focus. Like all I do, we have to stop. It’s eight 30. And you’ll just not going to have your homework tomorrow. I don’t know what the consequences are. If you don’t have them, if there’s punishment or what’s your teacher’s going to tell you, but this is it. This is the consequence of not doing the homework earlier.
We’re going to have to wrap it up now because we have to get ready to go to sleep and looked at me. And at first he was like, Oh, okay. All you have to do is. We have to write a message to my teacher. And he brought up a little book. I hadn’t seen that before. Most of the homework stuff, you know, his mom is taking care of.
I’m not as involved. And this, this is a little book where you, the parents can write messages to the teacher and vice versa. Right. And so he opens a page and he starts writing the message from me and he’s writing. It was way too much homework. So Georgia’s could finish it.
You know, buddy, let’s slow down. It was, this is not the truth. Letting me write my message. It’s like, Oh, okay. And I write it. I’m like Georgia started way too late with this homework. And so you couldn’t finish it because he was way too tired. Right. And he’s like, Oh, okay. He did, you could tell he wasn’t happy with my ma my version of the reality, you know?
Pre wrote the message, of course. And he, and he also has his dad’s confidence in being like, just making this, you know, convenient for himself. Like, Oh, this was just too much. He couldn’t finish it. And so, um, so we go upstairs.
They put on their pajamas. And then it’s story time. Right? I’ve talked about this before and the words were lucky. Lucky is a dog where in two weeks they’re going to get a puppy. So they’re getting a doc. It’s a, um, it’s a cute little doc and they named her lucky. And so they’re very excited about it. So almost every day, one of the words is lucky that I have to talk about, and the other word was not, was not really a word, which was, I wish school didn’t exist and I was smart enough from birth to not need it.
That was my, that was my oldest word for the story versus the story time. And, uh, and. So I told them a story and it was basically like, I try to wrap this into this idea that some days you win and some days you lose and you win or you learn, right. This idea that when you win, you have the sweet tea taste of victory.
And when you lose. If you want to, there might be powerful lessons that you can learn, right? There’s something to learn here. So today, you know, I was two, my oldest, you weren’t happy. Many things happened that you ended the day defeated. You did win the day. So there might be some lessons that we can learn and those lessons might also help lucky.
So I went through a couple of things that happened that day, but the last part was about this idea that when you don’t. Keep your word when you don’t step up to your, or fulfill your responsibilities, it’s not just that it feels bad to you, but it’s also that it affects a lot of other people in a negative way.
And I was explaining to him and the story that, you know, he didn’t do his homework. It was not just him that got affected. Okay. It was also his youngest brother and me, because the three of us wanted to play chess together. We could have spent some quality time having. Having a nice match together before the day ended, but not only could he not play chess because he was busy with his homework.
I couldn’t play it either. And his little one, his little brother couldn’t play there. So we all suffered because he didn’t, he didn’t keep his responsibilities. And that was asking them what kind of, what scenario could happen, where lucky would suffer. If you guys don’t keep your responsibilities and that they came up with all these things that if they don’t do it, No lucky would suffer, not, not going out with her for walks, not cleaning up after it, but also not doing their homework.
So they don’t have time to play with lucky. Right. And you know, the, the thing that I, that I sometimes forget with my oldest it’s because we are so he’s, so come so much after me. I’m very, I can be very tough on him. Right. And what I’ve tried the last few weeks as to when I’m tough to him, to also be sweet in some way that reassures them, that, that, so I don’t like crush them.
So at the end of the story, I have my youngest kiss him, which from a good night, and then I had like bunk beds. So then I come up to hug and kiss my oldest. And as I had been kissing him, I could see that he’s still very sad. And I look at him and I go, listen, You’re not the only child that has not done their homework and struggled with school and had a bad night.
Millions of children, millions of people have done this. I have done this all lot of times. I was terrible at school as a kid and I wasn’t doing my homework well, and that was always struggling. And it took me a long time to learn this lesson. You, on the other hand, you are much smarter. I think you could learn this lesson much faster than me.
And he looked at me and he like nodded. And I was like, if you learn it faster than me, this isn’t a big problem. This was actually great. And he started like to relax a little bit. You can tell that he was relieved to hear that. I also, you know, didn’t do well at school or didn’t do my homework. But I mean, once he really learns how terrible I was at school, it’s going to give him a lot of relief, too much relief.
But I think that I, you know, sometimes I, I said, Such a high bar for myself and then inevitably for them as well that they don’t know how it looks like for me to fail or not to keep my word or whatever. Right. And to some degree I want them to, I want them to have a great example around this with us the other day as well, where, um, Leo got a punishment that I has like a little like, uh, a kid’s camera.
We can take pictures. And so. He had four strikes with something. And the fourth strike, I told him I would take away his camera for a couple of days. And so he did the four strikes. So I took the camera away and then he asked me to promise that I wouldn’t look at the pictures. He’s like, that’s private.
Those are my pictures. I don’t want you to be looking around my pictures. I said, okay, I’m not going to look around at pictures. And then my oldest was like, well, how will we know? You’ll take the camera with you. You could watch them every day. Just tell us that you’re not looking at them. And I said, that is true.
If it was just about you, but that’s not true because you know, who would know that I looked at the pictures every day and they were like, coop was like, I would know. And for me to be, to be okay with myself, for me to be happy, I need to know that I’m honest with my children and I need to know that I keep my word.
I don’t care about it. I mean, it’s important to keep the words so you don’t know, but it’s not about you not knowing it’s about me knowing I would know that I broke my word, that I lied to you and I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to look at it because I said so, and I would know that I didn’t keep my word it’s I tried to teach him these things, but I realized that at the same time I’m creating these.
I mean, even when you are a shitty dad, your kids probably see you as a superhuman. Right. But. When you were like always projecting strength and honor, and have these high standards and discipline and this, and this is very much in the vein of what I do. I mean, I joke around a lot with my kids as well. I am silly with them.
I’m very loving, very, you know, I’m intimate with them as well, but I do project that. So if it was. It was interesting for me to see how relieving it was for him to even hear that I at school also had done something wrong once. Right. Um, so that was kind of a, I didn’t plan for it. I didn’t plan to tell him that I didn’t think of not telling him that.
Right. Just kind of never popped up in my mind to talk about my experience in school. Um, but it was kind of a sweet moment that we had at the end and it was, it’s always nice to see your kid.
You know, go from sad to okay. If it’s, if it’s for the right reasons, if it’s not, because I gave him a chocolate bars, you know, not because I did something, but because of he understood something or he, you know, um, he was able to do, they can transform his state by, by realizing something. So it’s kind of an interesting issue.
It’s just the first time I’ve had. Homework school sort of struggle. It was tiny, but it was the first time I’ve experienced that. It was like, wow. All right. It’s probably going to be a lot more of that in my future.