It’s our heartfelt gratitude to have Leo Babauta in this interview.
Leo writes about getting things done, family, personal finance and productivity tips. He has written many popular articles and well read by a large number of followers.
In this interview, the father of six talks about balancing work and family, parenting and bonding with children. He also touches on challenges and mistakes he has as a father.
1. You have six children. How do you find time for the family and each one of your children?
Finding the time for the family is just a matter of setting priorities. I’ve been working to get the flexibility needed in my work to be able to be there for my family. I’ve set limits, so I don’t work at night or on weekends. That’s my family time. And when I need to be there for them on other times, I make sure I’m there. For example, recently I’ve spent a lot of time at home with my kids, who have been taking turns getting sick. It’s hurt my job performance, but it’s important that I make my kids a priority.
Also, Sunday is Family Day. We hold a Family Meeting each weekend to determine what we’re going to do on Family Day. It’s a lot of fun.
It’s difficult to find individual time for each child. I try to make a point to spend a little time each week alone with each kid. One of my favorite ways of doing this is reading with them, and another is taking a walk with them and just talking. Another idea I’ve used is setting up individual “dates” with each child, so we do something alone together, and rotate the dates among all of them.
2. If there’s only one thing, what would be the best gift you could give to your children?
Love. There’s nothing material that I could give them that’s better than that. In everything I do, I try to show my love for them: in my concern, in my being there for them, in my spending time with them, in how I talk to them.
3. What are your biggest parenting challenges? And what do you do about them?
Patience. I get frustrated sometimes, for different reasons, but I’m working on that. It’s an ongoing challenge, and I’ve used different techniques, and I’ve improved, but I can’t say I’ve succeeded yet. I also have to be patient with myself — although I’m not a completely patient parent yet, I’ve definitely come a long way, and it takes time to change these things.
4. Do you believe in physical punishment/spanking? Why?
I do it, but only because I was raised that way. To be honest, I rarely spank my kids. And this is directly related to the patience issues I talked about above.
5. Every parent wants a happy, confident and successful kid. What’s the best way to achieve this?
Show that you care about what they do, help them become competent, give them confidence in their competence, support them, love them. There’s no one answer, but if you do these things, I think you’ll succeed.
6. What are the best activities you do with your kids as a father?
Reading. It’s quality time that we both enjoy, and I’m giving them the gift of reading. It’s one of the best things you can teach your kids that will help them in school and life.
7. What’s your biggest parenting mistake and what did you do to rectify it?
I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I think the spanking and patience issues are the hardest for me, especially as I haven’t completely solved it yet. Again, still working on it. I think the important thing is that I’ve identified it as something I need to work on, and that it’s important to me, and that I’m working to change it. It will happen, over time, and I have to accept my imperfection.
8. What makes a good father or mother?
Really, just making your kids a priority, and showing them that you love them in everything you do. They are your life, and you should let them know that. Not just in your words, but in all your actions. Make them come first. If you do that, they will know it, and they will appreciate it over time.
9. Your advice to new parents…
It can be frustrating when you have a newborn baby, as you don’t get much sleep, and you’re learning to deal with all kinds of things — changing diapers, feeding, cleaning, safety, development, sicknesses, etc. Most parents have a difficult time at this stage, even if they’ve already had a few babies.
But you’ll get through it, and you’ll be a stronger and better parent for having gone through it. Just be strong, be patient, and realize that all the difficulty is more than worth it, because you are the new parent of a beautiful baby. There is nothing more wonderful.
And things get easier. Trust me. Feeding, sleeping, all of that, it gets easier. And then they start doing amazing and beautiful things, like rolling over, and grasping things, and crawling, and walking and talking. And soon they’re this little person that amazes you and makes you laugh and overwhelms you with everything they do.
It’s going to change your life. And you will love this change.
Hang on and enjoy the ride. Love your child, be kind and patient and gentle with your child. Teach them to read, read with them, spend as much time as possible, never let work or anything else come before your child, be there for them, praise rather than criticize, teach rather than scold. And learn from them, as they will open up new worlds for you.
Also by Leo Babauta:
Dad the Quitter – How a dad quit smoking. Smoking parents, read this!