Video: Being a Dad is a Privilege … Not an Obligation

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What’s the secret ingredient of good fathering? And what can you do if you never saw that kind of father as you grew up?

Just a few weeks ago, I had the chance to sit down with Jeff, a good friend of mine and a committed dad. I want you to see just 2 minutes of Jeff’s comments, because he has a great perspective on his fathering—and I hope it’s a perspective that you share.

He talks pretty passionately about what’s behind his commitment to be a great dad to his two children. But before you watch him, here’s a little perspective on Jeff: he didn’t have a dad growing up.

His dad left when he was pretty young, so Jeff missed out on a lot of modeling about how to be a man, a husband and father. That’s still a huge gap, although he’s thankful that other men stepped in at various points to provide some of that manly guidance—and to his credit, Jeff has always been very teachable.

Check out what he says:


“I wanted to be the dad to my kids that I didn’t have growing up.”

Here at the Center, we say that dads like Jeff are “overcomers.” It’s a category of fathers that, according to our research, are among the most vigorously committed dads out there. They have a keen awareness of all the benefits that they didn’t receive from their dads, and they’re eager to do better.

That’s the “secret ingredient” I alluded to before: that passion and commitment to be a Championship Father.

how to be a dad privilege not an obligationMany dads must overcome a painful past—maybe that describes you today. But as Jeff demonstrates (and as our research has found), commitment and determination can often help you make up for what you didn’t get from your dad. Out of all the characteristics that can make you an effective father—no matter what your past was like, and no matter what your current challenges might be—your unwavering commitment is the most important factor to keep you motivated and on the right track with your kids.

And the thing about overcomers … once they do catch a vision for what a father should be, they often become the most devoted and passionate fathers of all. Sometimes that devotion comes naturally, like with Jeff’s burning desire. With other guys it may take more time and effort to really feel like they’re “all in” with their kids, where they “look at being a father as a privilege … not an obligation.”

So, briefly today, here are 6 ways to bump up or build on your commitment as a father. (Consider these this week’s Action Points):

  • Have a task orientation about being a better dad. Fix that goal in your mind and work unceasingly to reach it, even if it means learning new skills, risking failure, or getting out of your comfort zone emotionally. Be determined to overcome whatever obstacles stand in your way. Dive in and learn what it takes to meet your children’s needs.
  • Verbalize your commitment to your children. Tell them they’re important to you, and that just being a dad thrills you to pieces. Maybe write a letter—something they can read and re-read over the years—telling them what an honor it is to be a dad.
  • Let your kids know you’re there for them. Give them the permission and the means to reach you whenever they need you. Tell them, “It’s very important to me to be available for you any time.”
  • Help your kids in the things they enjoy. Think of times when your son or daughter has excelled, and then think of how you can demonstrate commitment in each of those areas. If she’s an aspiring actress, help her with her lines. If he likes to wrestle, let him practice his moves on you.
  • Notify others of your commitment. Tell your wife, your friends, co-workers, and the world about your fathering commitment. It will put you on record and make you accountable to follow through on your declared intentions.
  • Take advantage of occasions that affirm and motivate you as a dad. It could be a milestone, like your child’s birth, birthdays, vacations, Fathers’ Day, baptisms, first dates, or graduations. Or it could just be a sunny Saturday in the park, where you simply relish the chance to spend time with your child, and you take advantage of the opportunity to recommit yourself as a dad.

As a father, you can overcome a difficult past, and committing yourself to your kids is one great step. And if your father was present and you had a great relationship with him, be sure you don’t drop the baton he has passed on to you.

How have you maintained your commitment as a dad? Do you have a story similar to Jeff’s? Please help other guys by sharing either below or on our Facebook page.


Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers who to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who loves, coaches, mentors, and inspires my children.



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  1. I had a father but he was not always around or welcomed. But like Jeff, I wanted to be the type of dad I wish I had had when growing up. But too many men without caring fathers are not good dads themselves. I am looking for ways to reach these men, but they are not looking for the help we want to give them. How to we reach them?

    The men or boys that need mentoring the most will never seek help. They must be led there by concerned friends and relatives, and those friends/relatives need tools to hand them. NFI is one tool. My blog and others are there also, but someone has to make them aware to get out of the cycle lost fathering.

  2. Andrew G. Lethbridge says:

    My own father had an abusive father, and he made the committment many years ago that your friend Jeff has made… to be a wonderful father. I can testify that my father was and continues to be a wonderful example of what a father should be. I now have four children of my own, and it is a priviledge to be their dad. I am so excited to see each one of them grow toward adulthood and that I get to be part of that process. Each one of my children are a blessing that I love spending time with.

    Thank you for your emails, words of advice, and your passion for fathers!

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