by Ken Canfield, Ph.D.
There’s one factor that’s far and away the most important indicator that a man will succeed with his children: his commitment to them.
The most effective fathers have a driving passion and an unfailing motivation to do their best for their kids.
Commitment is the #1 “secret” uncovered in my research into what sets highly effective fathers apart from other dads. And you can get the benefit of that research by using our new 7 Secrets Profile and Master Class, free to access right here.
Why is fathering commitment so important? Many reasons, and one big one is that it helps you overcome hurdles in your relationships with your children. There are no perfect dads; we all have challenges. Some of us struggle with anger. Some of us have crazy work schedules. Some of us don’t get to see our kids as often as we’d like. Some of us grew up without a positive male role model and started this journey feeling lost … even more than other new dads do. Actually, many of the most vigorously committed dads are “overcomers”—they have risen to the challenge after facing huge setbacks related to their family situation or their past.
More than anything else, an unwavering commitment will help you persevere through difficulties and find ways to be there for your kids. But let’s dig deeper …
Committed dads make their kids a top priority.
If it’s important for you to succeed at something, then that should be an ongoing, daily pursuit. Any accomplished athlete had to be dedicated to his or her craft, devote lots of time, energy and resources, and have a long-term commitment. Does that describe you as a father? I hope you’re passionate about staying connected with family members and helping your children reach their full potential.
If you feel like you’ve lost some of your passion for being a dad, take some time to reflect on where you are in life. Your time with your kids and your opportunities to bond with them are limited and decreasing every day. And yet, don’t you want to do your best to prepare them to thrive as adults someday? And isn’t that more important than many other things that are on your mind or your calendar? Think about what’s truly significant, and then commit to fatherhood with passion.
Committed dads take action.
Ordering priorities is a great step, but it won’t mean anything if you don’t follow through. You might decide to make changes in your routine or try something new. Maybe you’ll commit to be home for dinner with the whole family four nights a week or step up and coach your daughter’s soccer team. Maybe you’ll add weekly one-on-one times with each of your kids to your calendar.
This isn’t about simply adding more activities; these are actions driven by priorities. And be flexible if something new needs to be adjusted or changed once you’ve started. But find ways to be a committed, involved dad. When the complexity of your role grows, find ways to match it with your motivation. Work to overcome whatever obstacles stand in your way, even if it means learning new skills, risking failure, and getting out of your comfort zone emotionally.
Dad, if you’re really devoted to your kids, people should be able to tell by watching your actions. (Your kids especially.)
Committed dads do whatever it takes.
The essay contests we have conducted through the years provide some incredible examples of fathering commitment, and I hope this one inspires you like it has for us.
A man named Louie served two tours with the Marines, received numerous commendations, and was discharged as a disabled veteran. After returning, he struggled to adjust, made some bad decisions, and was incarcerated for two years. Not long after he got out of prison, Louie fathered a child out of wedlock—a daughter named Sara. He will tell you that fatherhood changed his life. When Sara was three, Louie got sole custody and faithfully cared for her to adulthood.
Some years ago, when Sara was an 8th grader, here’s what she wrote:
When people think about single-parent families, they tend to think about a mother doing it on her own. Very few times do you hear about a man raising his daughter. Well, my daddy is one of those daddies. I’m now fourteen, and for the past eleven years he’s been both a father and a mother to me. Until recently, every hairstyle I’ve had, he’s done. Every day he cooks a home-cooked meal.
Daddy has sacrificed everything all my life for me. Last year, our only car broke down. Since then he’s been walking up the hill to get groceries and carrying them home in my pink book bag. As he always does, he’s found the good in it. He says, “It’s good exercise.”
So what does my daddy mean to me? He loves me enough to do everything for me, even the embarrassing things.
So often, single fathers and other dads facing unusual challenges blow away the rest of us when it comes to their commitment.
Does Louie’s story raise some questions about your own commitment to your children? I encourage you to demonstrate your dedication and devotion to your kids in some act of service to them or a new regular activity together.
Look at your own commitment.
Here are some pointed questions to ask yourself:
- Do you verbalize your commitment to your children?
- Do you consciously monitor your motivation level, so you’d know if your commitment is slipping?
- Do you seek out resources to help you maintain your motivation, such as getting together with other fathers?
- Do you try to conceive of your fathering in task-oriented terms, and apply the same standards of excellence in the home that you do at work?
- How involved are you in your children’s education?
- Do you draw confidence from your title and position as a father?
- Does your commitment and motivation rise when you encounter fathering challenges?
Get feedback on your commitment and 6 other areas of your fathering using our free online Profile and Master Class.
How do you maintain a high level of commitment? What motivates you as a father? Share your insights and learn from other dads on our Facebook page.
Action Points & Questions for Reflection and Discussion:
- What’s an area of life in which you have worked hard to hone your skills or become an expert?
- Are you motivated as a dad when you think about your own father? How do you want to be like him and unlike him?
- One way to help you maintain high motivation as a father: spend time with other guys who are highly committed to their kids.
- Look for or create more opportunities to just have fun with your kids. It’s one of the best ways to renew your commitment and motivation as a father.
- Imagine your life 20 or 30 years from now. What habits can you start now that will benefit and bless your kids when they’re adults and have their own kids?