For quite a few years, our staff at NCF had the privilege of interviewing dads as part of essay contests and Father’s Day celebrations around the country. Those interviews brought out the unique and often inspiring ways each man expressed his commitment to his children.
Typically, the fathers would mention habits and objectives that lined up pretty closely with the fathering fundamentals identified by our research, like: Involvement, Consistency, Awareness and Nurturance—what we call the I-CANs of fatherhood.
But quite often another theme kept surfacing, and at first it seemed obvious or basic. It’s something some dads probably think about only occasionally, but it’s worth mentioning and looking at more deeply, because …
It’s vitally important to our kids.
What is it? When we asked the dads what’s important about their fathering, they would often say things like:
“Providing a safe, supportive, nurturing environment.”
“Giving my kids a place where they can know they’ll be loved and accepted, no matter what.”
“Someone who will always be there for them, whom they can come to and talk about anything, any time.”
There might not be one perfect word that captures it, but it’s in the neighborhood of:
Security … Stability … Belonging … Acceptance
It’s a combination of positive fathering habits: being a consistent presence while providing a sense of protection, and surely it includes connecting with our kids in ways that build trust and confidence.
Maybe this is a benefit that many of us take for granted. And for some dads, it’s something you wish you could provide more often.
Sometimes we talk to men who are stepdads or in a father figure situation, where the children have been through something very difficult or traumatic. Or maybe the father has a special-needs child and none of the typical rules and expectations apply. For some of these guys, it’s back to basics; their main goal is to provide that foundation of love and support because those kids have experienced very little of it.
This may not be a groundbreaking principle of fatherhood. Several generations ago, people would have labeled this “protecting and providing,” which was often all that was expected from a dad. And although today we recognize that a father’s role can and should be much bigger, this is still a foundational part of what we do.
We must not underestimate what a difference it makes when kids feel safe, loved, valued, and heard.
With all the issues and uncertainties kids are dealing with and worrying about in today’s world, it’s huge if we can put them at ease by meeting these important, basic needs.
How can a father provide this stability? There are many ways, but it should include:
- Listening attentively when your child is talking and being ready to help or encourage them anytime.
- Kids also feel secure when they know what to expect day-to-day and throughout the year. Things like family dinner, bedtime prayers, regular one-on-one time together, and family traditions.
- For married dads, kissing Mom in the kitchen and other outward signs of a strong marriage will also give kids a sense of security.
- For divorced dads, checking in with them regularly and being a consistently positive influence despite the situation.
- What would you add …?
Dad, the world out there is often unstable. We can’t anticipate every challenge our children will face, but we can offer them a stable and secure foundation—and a strong sense of belonging—as they go out to explore and learn and find their place.
Do you think about providing security and stability as a big part of your role? How do you provide that for your kids? Leave a comment with your insights (and find wisdom from other dads) on our Facebook page.
Action Points & Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- If you were being interviewed about what being a dad means to you, what would you say? What are your top insights or secrets? Share one or two with another dad you know.
- How would you describe the home environment where your kids are growing up? In what ways could it be improved? If possible, work with your kids’ mom to make those changes.
- Ask your kids, “What one or two things are you most worried about in day-to-day life?”
- Find ways to be present in one more area of each of your kids’ lives—whether that’s attending more of their events or games, handling more of the bedtime routine, starting regular father-child dates, simply checking in with each one at the end of the day, or something else.
- No matter what your children’s gifts, abilities, and weaknesses may be, cherish them for who they are. Do all you can to make them feel special and important every day.