by Randell D. Turner, Ph.D.
Part of the How to Be a Better Dad series
“You were never supposed to learn how to be a man and a father all by yourself,” I said to the fourteen men sitting around the room.
It’s a common message I repeat time and again whenever I’m talking to a group of men because so many don’t get it—and they really need to.
One of the strengths of every family should be a legacy of responsible manhood and fatherhood that is taught to and lived out for each generation. In an ideal situation, each of us had a grandfather who mentored our father, who then mentored us. Along the way, we should have had a close relationship with both, so we could watch how they lived out the lessons they taught us.
Unfortunately, for most guys in any room—and undoubtedly many reading this—that never happened. Many of us grew up without a father, or we had one who didn’t stay very long. Or, for those who did have a grandfather and father in their lives, very often, they were emotionally distant, and a close relationship wasn’t there.
We can change this by developing what I call a “Fellowship of Fathers.”
It’s fathers from all walks of life getting together to encourage, learn from, and develop relationships with each other. For some men, this will be the first time they have ever had this kind of discussion or relationship with another man. This fellowship embodies a powerful principle often referred to as “iron sharpens iron,” and it’s happening all across the country, in virtual or live small groups. Hopefully, along the way, significant relationships are developed, some that will last a lifetime.
You see, this isn’t just guys getting together to talk about sports or cars or home improvement projects. As they share life and learn to trust each other, they can rekindle their own fatherhood legacy. They can restore in their own lives some of what they never received from their fathers or grandfathers.
That’s part of why it’s so powerful to get together regularly in a small group with other fathers, but there’s more.
I believe what is missing in our fast-paced society is men growing in healthy relationship with other men. The myth of the “self-made man” has led too many of us to lives of solitude when we are dying to have someone we can talk to. That’s why fatherhood groups or fellowships are growing so much. For far too long, men have yearned for a safe place to talk about their hopes, fears, frustrations, and dreams as men and fathers.
So what do dads talk about in these small groups?
Here a just a few of the topics:
- Ways to encourage your children.
- Life lessons learned from mistakes.
- Developing healthy intimate relationships.
- Expressing anger in a healthy manner.
- Learning how to forgive and move past failures.
- Managing the “media monster” in your child’s life.
- How to become more approachable to your children.
- Leaving a legacy to the next generations through family stories.
There are hundreds of topics that will help men grow and deepen their friendships, but the key here is having a small group of fathers determined to learn from each other. No one dominates the group—not even the leader who guides the group’s discussions. If anyone tries to dominate the group, they may be asked to leave. No one knows that much!
It’s a process, and it takes time. Anything worthwhile usually does, and raising children is a lifetime job.
So, if you want to take your fathering skills to a whole new level, I encourage you to start a small group or fellowship of fathers on your block or in your community, your workplace, or your church. If you’re looking for good resources to discuss, contact the National Center for Fathering. They have some of the best, such as Dr. Ken Canfield’s 7 Secrets of Effective Fathers (for men’s groups in a faith setting) and The Heart of a Father.
Most of all, do it for your children; after all, if it weren’t for them, you wouldn’t even care about Father’s Day. But you do care because you are a FATHER!
Randell Turner, Ph.D., is an author, counselor, and a pioneer in the men’s & fatherhood movement. Specializing in healthy masculine intimacy, he has dedicated over 20 years to working with men who feel broken, rejected, isolated, and lonely because they struggle with “intimacy ignorance.” His personal and professional experience inspired the creation of “Rescuing the Rogue,” designed to equip men in forging intimate relationships to last a lifetime. His latest resource is Relationship Foundations: A Young Adults Guide to Healthy Intimacy. He lives in Wisconsin and has two daughters and seven grandchildren. For more information, check out his website: TransformingFamilies.org.
Action Points & Discussion/Reflection Questions
- How did you learn to be a man? A father? Did you watch your dad or someone else? Did you learn to be a father by trial and error after you had kids?
- What’s the “legacy” you’ve been handed by your father and grandfather? Identify a few positives and negatives—things you want to repeat and things you want to improve.
- What legacy do you want to leave for your children and grandchildren? How do you want to be remembered—as a man and as a family? Write down or talk through the values and characteristics that are important to you.
- Do you have close friends—other dads you can talk to about hopes, fears, frustrations, and dreams? If not, what would it take to build those friendships?
- Using the list of topics above, identify at least one that you’d like to discuss with another dad. Find a way to bring it up with him in the next week.
- Think of three or four other guys you would enjoy meeting with regularly. Take a bold step and ask one or more of them if they’d be interested in getting together to talk about fathering.