Austin JenkinsThe idea of positive parenting may sound simple, but throughout the month of April, in recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month, it holds a special significance. As the popular saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, and Seattle Children’s Hospital believes that in banding together as a community, the prevalence of child abuse can be decreased.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), parental feelings of isolation, stress and frustration are major causes of child abuse and mistreatment in the U.S., which is why Seattle Children’s is asking parents, caregivers and community members to take a moment to make a positive parenting pledge. Whether it’s being patient with a crying child or embracing the turbulence of parenting, the pledges represent a promise, not just for parents, but also for members of the community. By encouraging parents and empathizing with their daily struggles, a community can be built with a foundation rooted in parental support, instead of judgement.

And this April, Seattle Children’s is focusing on an extraordinary group of caregivers that don’t get as much recognition: fathers.

It takes a strong man to be gentle

Like mothers, all fathers face challenges. Finding a perfect balance between work, life and home, may at times, feel near impossible. But what is most important for a father to know is how to cope when challenges arise, remembering that it’s never acceptable to take frustration out on a child.

The three Seattle fathers you’ll meet below reflect on the personal challenges they’ve faced as parents, and explain why they’re making a positive parenting pledge this year.

Meet three local positive parenting fathers

Jeff Culp has three amazing children, two daughters (15 and 17 years old), and one son (7 years old). He is a principal at an area elementary school and is around children every day.

Marcus Naylor is a father of two. His youngest is 6 years old and just beginning kindergarten. His oldest, and step-daughter, is 17 years old and attends high school at Skyline High.

Austin Jenkins is a father of two toddlers, Jack, who is 4years old and Sophie, who is 3years old. Austin works full-time as a public radio reporter while his wife stays at home to care for their two children.

Each of the dads answered three questions: what is your favorite aspect of being a father, what is the hardest, and what is your positive parenting pledge? And here’s what they had to say.

What do you love about parenting?

“I love being a father because it gives me the opportunity to teach. Kids always ask questions and it’s a wonderful experience to sustain that learning process,” said Culp. “I also love parenting because every kid is so unique.”

“Parenting is a lot of fun,” said Naylor. “It’s such a great feeling to be able to spend time with your children. Watching them grow up and engage the world before your very eyes is a tremendous blessing.”

“Seeing my kids discover the world and explore their surroundings has been the highlight for me,” said Jenkins. “You derive so much pleasure out of your kids and have the opportunity to see the world through their eyes.”

What is most challenging about fatherhood?

“What was most challenging for me as a father was relating to my children when they were younger,” said Culp. “It was hard to always know what they wanted and most of the time what they needed was something only their mother could offer. I also found it hard to connect and build relationships when they were so young.”

“As parents of teens we deal with common issues that all teenagers face – drugs, alcohol and issues with school; it can be difficult,” said Naylor. “We’re a melting pot of a family and being a step-father increases that challenge at times. Sometimes I’ll hear my daughter say ‘He’s not my real dad.’ And although it is true, I wouldn’t treat her any differently; I treat her as she is my biological daughter.”

“Being a father is hard work,” said Jenkins. “As parents, we feel challenged and frustrated at times. I’ve never been under the illusion that this experience would be easy, but positive parenting classes have been extremely helpful. We’ve learned that it’s okay to get frustrated or upset. What’s most important is how you choose to deal with those frustrations. It’s okay to walk away and say ‘Daddy can’t be with you right now,’ after I make sure my child is in a safe place.”

What is your pledge?

“To be more patient,” said Culp. “If I could give advice to other fathers, it would be to enjoy your kids. There is so much to enjoy about each stage, from childhood to adolescence. The stages don’t last long, so enjoy them while you can. Also, understand that you will never be 100 percent ready.”

“For me, my pledge is to be supportive and to instill good qualities into my children – kindness, generosity and public service,” said Naylor.

“I’m pledging to model the behaviors I want my kids to carry through their lives,” said Jenkins. “I want to be positive and thoughtful in my actions. In the end, it’s how I behave that will make the difference and mold their behaviors.”

And with those pledges in mind, here are some other tips to encourage dads to practice positive parenting.

Tips for positive parenting fathers

  • Be a good example, children look up to their fathers
  • Try to spend individual time every day with kids
  • Be a consistent presence
  • Encourage goals
  • Help children find successes and celebrate that success
  • Inspire children and let them inspire you as well
  • Be patient and find positive ways to cope with stress
  • Fully engage with children, put down electronics when speaking with kids

It may sound simple, but everyone in the community can make a pledge to the children in their lives.

Other ways to help support positive parenting

Passing by Seattle Children’s, or walking through its grounds, patients, families and community members might notice something different during the month of April: Pinwheels, thousands of them, each serving as a beautiful and whimsical reminder of support. The pinwheel planting is a yearly tradition at Seattle Children’s, and people may purchase their own pinwheels at the gift shop to show their support for positive parenting.

Resources: