Someone once said it is none of your business what people think of you. I think that is probably great advice. Certainly someone with this philosophy will not likely suffer from anxiety. However, I believe there is one very important exception to this rule. It is vitally important what your children think of you!
In the real world, I would guess many men are more concerned with what peers, bosses, and maybe their wives think of them than what their children think. After all, you don’t have to impress your kids. Children will overlook your faults if you let them. And they are always around, so you can get to them later. There is some truth to this thinking, but with serious caveats.
- You don’t have to impress your kids. They are pre-wired to be impressed by you. But you are also capable of becoming unimpressive. There a myriad of ways to do this. Not being there for them, not being reliable, not being sober, not looking past your nose to engage with them are just a few.
- Children will overlook your faults. And they will if you let them. But continuing to make the same errors, like those mentioned above, and your faults will define you–causing your star to fall.
- Your kids are always around. Yes, you may delay attention to your kids a day or two because you are overwhelmed with work, but ‘day to day’ will quickly become “month to month” and “year to year”. Suddenly, your kid is moving out and you only saw a couple of ballgames, you don’t know their friends, and you never went on that camping trip.
Very few fathers consciously decide to ignore their children. Not but a generation or two ago, in some parts of the US, it was common and accepted for men to be vaguely involved with raising their kids. But fortunately this is changing. It’s not the old culture that is the issue any longer, it’s the weakening of family values that is hurting fatherhood and vice versa. Many weak, ineffectual fathers had weak fathers themselves–if they had one around at all. If we fathers see only ourselves and not others, we will never learn to nurture, share, or love. When we don’t ‘see’ our children, we won’t be able to help them. If we’re not involved, we won’t have any claim for their joys, nor will we be able to ease their sorrows. Lastly, without interaction, we won’t be able to receive or feel their love.
While some fathers may not be closely watching their kids, our kids are always watching us. They can tell if you’re interested or not. They know if you are honorable, consistent, or trustworthy. If your children don’t see you as having these qualities, if you are an embarrassment to them, then their world is turned upside down! Kids need a hero in their home, not on a big screen, video game, or comic book.
If you find some uncomfortable truths in this article about your Dadhood, what can you do to reverse the trend? Here are a few ideas, simple but so very effective!
- Rediscover the joys and uniqueness of your children.
- Dedicate time to them, as a group if you have more than one child, and to each–one at a time.
- Be around for important events. By important, I mean important to them. That could be a tea party or a wrestling match.
- Leave notes asking them how they are doing or telling them you love them.
- Smile and wink at them.
- Take them on an adventure.
- Do a project together.
Change how you act and you’ll see changes in how you are treated and respected. It’s not difficult to make the change if you are aware of the need to do so and care enough to act.
No man is a failure who has helped a child, especially his own. The greatest single gift a man can give his children is his attention. It seems so simple, but somehow it is lost in its simplicity. There is no excuse for not trying your best to be a good father. There are reasons, obstacles, and hardships, but no excuses.
From the Introduction to, The Power of Dadhood: How to Become the Father Your Child Needs
Michael Byron Smith is a retired USAF officer and civilian engineer. His interest in fatherhood came about from watching the struggles of his mother raising six children alone and the resultant struggles of his siblings. He has a blog entitled Helping Fathers to be Dads and is the author of “The Power of Dadhood: Be the Father Your Children Need”, published by Familius.com
Michael lives in St. Louis. MO with his wife of 40 years. He has three wonderful children and four beautiful grandchildren.