Fatherhood has changed a lot in the last few generations. In some ways that’s good, and we could surely find some changes that are not so positive. But if we went back 50 years and asked an average person about what a father’s role is, there’s a good chance the answer would include the words protect and provide.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. Life was far different then. Today’s dads are expected to be engaged in many aspects of their kids’ lives, share childcare responsibilities, give physical and verbal affirmation, and on and on. And yes …
Protecting and providing are still very important for dads.
As we continue our journey through the 7 Secrets of Effective Fathers, this fourth one is actually two grouped together: Protecting and Providing. These are among the research-based insights into what sets highly effective dads apart from the rest, and you can assess your fathering in those areas using our new tool, a profile and master class that you can find right here. For now, here’s a brief dive into the first one, protecting our children, with some key thoughts for today’s dads.
Dads took on this identity as protectors centuries ago, when threats to a family’s physical well-being were much more of a day-to-day concern. And there are situations today where we are called to step up and physically protect our children from dangers. But our best efforts should go toward these three ways to protect them:
We might wish we could always be there to protect our children from everything, but we quickly realize that we can’t be everywhere and we can’t completely shelter them. Life has a way of bringing challenges and tough situations into everyone’s life, and often the best way to protect our kids is to prepare them.
For example, you probably won’t be on the school playground when one of your kids is taunted by a cruel classmate, but you can help them think through positive responses. Talk about what to do if they are approached by an aggressive dog or a stranger—in person or online. Teach steps to take if the car breaks down, if there’s a fire, or if someone touches them inappropriately.
Preparing our kids for challenges is also part of the next big idea:
Protect Their Minds & Hearts
Often, some of our biggest concerns for our children are about the messages they will hear, the images they will see, peers they will encounter, and other influences that are not in their best interest. The best way to protect them is by equipping them morally and spiritually, so they can distinguish right from wrong and lies from truth.
It can be unsettling to think about the many different philosophies and personalities that are influencing children and teens today. But there’s also nothing quite like the confidence of having a child who is well-grounded, who knows what he or she believes and why, and who won’t be swayed by the next popular idea. As dads, we should be involved in this kind of moral education, preparing our kids to handle whatever they will encounter. And if we have done it well, they will know they can call us anytime to talk through their questions or concerns.
We should also realize that there are times when we need to step in to protect them.
If we are maintaining a healthy awareness of our children’s interests, influences, and areas where they might be vulnerable (which is another of the 7 Secrets), then sometimes we’ll need to take action. It might mean not letting a child go to a certain movie, play a certain game, or go to a sleepover with his friends. Maybe it will mean talking with a daughter’s older boyfriend about their relationship, even though she’s sure knows what she’s doing.
Kids are growing up faster these days, but that isn’t always a good thing. They’re not always ready to handle adult issues and information. As fathers, we have the right and responsibility to set boundaries and be aware of what goes into our children’s minds—and protect them when necessary. Yes, this will likely be very unpopular. They will throw tantrums and call us unfair and out-of-touch, but that’s okay! We can focus on the bigger, longer-term goals of keeping them safe and building their character.
Some dads wish they could shield their children from every possibility of harm. So they never go camping because there could be spiders and snakes. They never take the kids to a big city because of the higher crime rate. They may pull their kids out of school because of the violent acts in some places. They may refuse to let their kids board an airplane or visit the Grand Canyon because, well, you just never know what could happen.
That may sound extreme, but a father’s deep love for his children can lead him to those kinds of precautions.
Raising children is full of risks. It’s a messy and sometimes dangerous world where people do senseless things and tragedies happen. And the best option for our kids in the long run is if we allow them to learn about life by making some mistakes, taking some risks, and healing from some hurts. Sometimes we do our best protecting for our children when something difficult has happened, and we give comfort and do what we can to restore a sense of normalcy.
You’ve probably heard that, in Chinese, the character that we translate into the English word crisis is a combination of two characters—one meaning danger, and the other meaning opportunity. Can a crisis really be an opportunity? How does that work with dads and kids?
First, it’s a chance to model healthy leadership. Your child will learn from seeing you take action—whether you’re addressing the issue directly or simply maintaining your composure and making necessary decisions.
And second, a crisis tests us and our relationships. Maybe it’s an eye-opener about misplaced priorities. Maybe it’s a time to express emotions that you haven’t shared with your child in a long time. Maybe it’s your chance to demonstrate your comforting, healing side, where you simply hold your child in your arms and say, “It’s going to be all right.”
Dad, how do you provide protection for your kids in today’s world? Get some ideas from other dads on our Facebook page.
Then rate yourself in 7 areas of your fathering using our free online Profile and Master Class.
Action Points & Questions for Reflection and Discussion:
- Did you view your father or another father figure as a strong protector for you? How did that change as you grew up and became an adult?
- Make a list of emergency situations and talk through each one as a family (but only two or three at a time).
- If you aren’t already, get involved in your child’s favorite hobby, game or other pastime. Ask lots of questions about what happens, why they enjoy it, and so on.
- Take note of a media personality or trend in culture right now and ask your child what he/she knows about it and what he/she thinks about it.
- When you have said “no” to your child and he’s upset with you, consider saying something like, “I love you too much to let you do things that aren’t good for you.”.