Over the years, I have had the privilege of making several trips to Poland to speak to dads there during the annual fatherhood conference held by our friend Darek Cupial and his team at tato.net.

The key insight for this blog comes from one of the other speakers there from a few years back. I believe this could have a powerful influence on your fathering.

The speakers challenged fathers to be guardians of joy. Isn’t that an incredible thought? It gives us a clear and exciting vision: “I am a dad. I am a guardian of joy.” All we need now are tights and a cape, right?

So how can we be guardians of joy? I believe joy is an inner condition that isn’t based on our circumstances. It comes from a positive overall attitude, and for some it springs from a deep faith.

In more practical terms, it’s merriment and gladness. Children bring out something unique in a dad, and dads bring out something unique in their children. Joy is being thrilled the minute your daughter walks in the room. It’s being eager to go out and shoot hoops with your son in the driveway. It drives us to listen attentively when our kids have something to say. It motivates us to find fun and interesting activities to do with them.

Here at NCF we’ve seen thousands of essays kids have written about their dads, and you’d be amazed at what dads do under the inspiration of children—from water balloon battles to late-night impulsive road trips. I hope you know what I’m talking about. Because those joy-filled moments create memories and build unique and irreplaceable connections between fathers and children.

Gut check time. If the most recent series of emotions you’ve displayed with your children are anger, disappointment, frustration or indifference, then you’re missing out. Sure, it’s important for dads to model responsibility and discipline wisely. But without relationship we’re turning our backs on the greatest rewards of fatherhood and family.

Being a dad should be a source of great satisfaction. And not just for us. As guardians of joy, we should be promoting and inspiring it in our families. Joy should be a conscious daily pursuit as we seek to bring levity and laughter to our sons and daughters.

A guardian protects something important, and makes sure it stays safe and healthy. That needs to be our approach, because joy is important in our families. Guard it at all costs. Once we get in that habit, joy can be contagious and take off in ways that would make a superhero stand tall and proud.

Be that guardian of joy, dad.

What’s the greatest source of joy in your fathering, and how are you a “guardian of joy” for your children? Share your thoughts and experiences on our Facebook page.