Ways to Fight Fathering Commitment Erosion

How do you maintain your motivation and commitment as a dad? According to our own research on fatherhood, high commitment is the number-one sign or predictor of an effective father. And if you’re reading this, then there’s a good chance that describes you—you’re a devoted dad. But there’s a problem …

Our commitment level erodes over time.

According to Chris Dorris, an author and motivation coach, “The nature of commitment is that it goes away.” As he describes it, our commitment to something has a “shelf life”:

It’s fleeting. It goes away really really fast…. People make the mistake in thinking that because I committed once, intently, then I’m good to go for the duration. It doesn’t work that way.

Many of us make this “mistake in thinking,” although it really shouldn’t be a new idea. Just ask anyone who’s made a New Year’s resolution, experienced challenges in a marriage, felt a lack of satisfaction in a job, or … been a father. In these areas and many others, we often start off with purpose and enthusiasm. We have a strong sense that we’ll do our best every day; we’ll eat right and exercise, do thoughtful things for our wives, bring our A game to work, and so on.

Remember how motivated you were the first time you held your child? You probably felt all the awe of the moment and the responsibility of leading and loving that son or daughter for the rest of your life.

Then, you know what happens. Time passes, life happens, your own selfishness and shortcomings enter the picture, and sometimes it’s all you can do to keep going. “Doing your best” as a dad and in other roles can seem like a long-lost dream. 

So how can we fight against this erosion in our fathering?

It will probably be a little bit different for every dad, but here are three great places to start:

First, be aware of this overall truth about commitment. 

It’s nearly impossible to stay motivated for long periods of time with anything. So when you feel your commitment level eroding, remember that 1) it happens to everyone, and 2) it doesn’t mean making this commitment was misguided. It’s part of the human experience to procrastinate, forget, have lazy spells, and think about yourself first.

As a father, be aware that this happens and don’t be surprised. You know that it isn’t always a thrill to drive your child to practice. It’s no fun setting aside something you enjoy so you can help a child with homework. It won’t seem fair if you only get to see your child this week via Facetime. Many such challenges will be easier to deal with if you start viewing them as parts of the bigger fathering role that you’re committed to. Maybe you can even learn to expect these challenges and times of low motivation in your fathering, so you can …

Regularly recommit.

Here’s more from Chris Dorris:

So the significance of [commitment going away] is simple. We need to recommit, or get all in, again and again and again, every day as if for the first time.

We all need to build into our lives nearly constant reminders and recommitments. Many people have morning routines that help them stay on course with their top priorities every day, and they might include reading, exercise, prayer, or some other positive activity. There are also important events that happen weekly, such as work staff meetings, church services, support groups, and so on. If those reminders are handled well, they help us reinforce what we’ve committed ourselves to—and why.

What reminds you that your kids are important and worth all the effort and sacrifice? It’s probably different for many of us, but it might mean putting pictures of your kids in prominent places, setting phone reminders, or reading positive fathering material every day or receiving our weekly email. Many dads are humbled and inspired by going into their kids’ rooms at night to watch them sleep. Or you could start the daily habit of listing three reasons why you’re thankful for each of your kids. You probably know what will help feed your fathering motivation. Make sure it happens regularly and often.

Meet with other dads.

This might be the best way to recommit, so it deserves a separate mention. Find other guys who are like-minded and willing to get together so you can help each other stay motivated as fathers. Like all dads, you need that ongoing encouragement. When you get off track, you need someone who will notice, call you out, and help you make course corrections. And being that source of support and accountability for other men also helps you take more ownership of your own commitment to your kids.

High commitment is the most important quality of an effective father, and meeting regularly with other dads is one of the best ways to stay committed. They go hand in hand.

What keeps you committed as a father, and how do you keep feeding and renewing that commitment? Share a tip and check in with other dads on our Facebook page.

Watch the replay of the Fathering Breakthrough Event

Join Dr. Ken Canfield and a handful of friends and partners as we give an update about our efforts to inspire and equip fathers all over the world.

There may be no more important work than turning the hearts of fathers to their children, and that’s what this is all about. We’re seeking to repair, rebuild and restore effective fathering for the benefit of children and families everywhere.

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