I’ve had a lot of new events happen in my life recently. I’ve moved from a house that I’ve lived in for a very long time (and consequently my garage is still mostly boxes). I’ve started this blog, my YouTube channel, and two weeks ago I took an airplane to San Francisco for a family wedding.

Shortly before the wedding, my daughter was unboxing some more of her stuff from the move in her room. In a box, she found a book. “Dad,” she said as she walked to the kitchen. “I think this book is yours.”

She brought me, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know. I have no idea where this book came from – it wasn’t one I had ordered, and I don’t recall anyone getting it for me. But here it was, brand new looking, and unread. Why it was in her stuff is a mystery, but it was not her book, as she just informed me.

She wants to do what daddy does. circa 2011

Fast forward a little, and I’m about to embark on a plane ride: roughly a nine hour trip if I include the one layover and the in-air time. I had just enough space to put this book in my laptop bag, so in it went.

“When you guide her, she gains confidence.”

Dr. Meg Meeker

The time in the air both to San Francisco, and the return home proved to be more than enough to consume the book in its entirety. The book was a good read, and I’d say it is a lot of common sense, but sadly common sense seems to be lacking a lot these days. In a nutshell, the book is written by Dr. Meg Meeker, a pediatrician who not only practices medicine, but also counsels families when prescriptions are not the answer. Her real world examples of issues that she has seen with girls who walk into her office is very informative (and should make most concerned fathers very worried).

What I found most useful, are the citations she has in her book. I have met a lot of people who reject ideas simply for the fact that the idea has no scientifically-backed study (or perhaps it does, but you are unable to cite one). Her work in this book is good fuel for people who refuse to explore an idea’s merit on its merit alone.

One of the topics she emphasized numerous times throughout the book, was that children want your leadership: “When you guide her, she gains confidence.” My own daughter, as well as her friends and other kids with whom I’ve had the privilege to work, legitimizes her quote for me. I’ve seen how intent my daughter is on the things I teach her, and the experiences I introduce her to. When she sees my excitement for something, it echos within her as well, and she can’t wait to see if its just as exciting as I made it out to be.

The power to parent comes from the desire of the child to belong to you.

Gabor Maté

Gabor Maté is another doctor whose work I’ve come across several times online. He is probably best known for being a co-author of the book, Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers. His research has lead him to a similar conclusion: That children want to feel like they belong to us. They want to know we are present in their lives. Two quotes that should highly resonate: “Children have a need to attach. They need to have a connection to somebody”, and also, “In the absence of the parent or a nurturing adult the child will fill that void with their peer group.”

The theme with both of these doctors is similar: For us to be a legitimate leader for our children, and for them to readily accept our leadership, we need to be present, encouraging, loving, and steadfast. Children see their parents as their heroes. They see them as bigger, smarter, and stronger versions of themselves, and they want to be like us. They soak up what we share with them, if they feel like we’re leading. Both doctors approach the topic slightly differently, but both have the same conclusion: Kids want to belong to our tribe.

Whether your motivation is to raise a defender and advocate of our natural areas, a way to have a closer bond with your children, or your motivation is to encourage a healthy lifestyle, your presence is paramount to their engagement. The two doctors I quoted above are worth paying attention to, and I’d encourage you to read the books above, and do some online research as well for more content from them. One of the best things we can give our children is a solid relationship with us, and having that will give them the confidence and tools to venture into the world on their own…

… And while we’re at it, we may just end up with an adventure buddy who can’t wait to share in our wonder of the world around us.

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