Here at the Center, we’re very much aware that many men are uncomfortable with the idea of honoring their dads. As we hear from dads, it’s clear that just about all men have things they would change about their childhood if they could — some small things, possibly some really big and painful things.
That’s the legacy your father left for you. There are some of his qualities that you may want to emulate, some ways you want to be the exact opposite of him, and probably some things about him you don’t want to copy, but they’ve become a part of your life anyway. So what can you do?
It’s an important step to recognize that your dad was a less-than-perfect model for your fathering, but that isn’t the whole journey. If you say, “I don’t want to be like my dad in this way,” that’s a good insight, but not a goal or objective. You have to move forward in the process by replacing the negative with a positive. That’s often how people address bad habits, and it’s similar with poor fathering models. It isn’t enough to turn away from a bad example; you need to turn toward a good one. Whatever is wrong or unacceptable needs to be replaced with what’s good and right.
As a father, you may need to do the hard work of identifying the garbage and the pain in your life, but then go one more step and ask, What do I want to be like? One great step is to find a dad who demonstrates traits you want to develop, and watch him. Hang out with him. Maybe he has gentleness or patience; maybe he does a great job of training his kids to be kind and respectful. Maybe he has a way of bringing times of fun and laughter to his kids’ lives. Take mental notes and then look for ways you can incorporate some of those qualities into your fathering.
No matter what your dad was like, keep your eyes open for other positive fathering models. Like every other dad, there are still a lot of ways you can learn and grow as a dad.
- Start planning ways to honor your father this year. Here are some ideas to help you.
- To help you better understand your father’s influence on you, list 5 ways you are like him, and 5 ways you are different from him — both positives and negatives.
- Think of two or three other dads whom you admire, and try to arrange more opportunities to be around them (and their families, if possible).
- Recognize that your children need role models in addition to you. Steer them toward other coaches and mentors who can help shape their lives.
- If you’re reading this, you’re probably a committed dad. Intentionally be a fathering model by spending time with a dad who appears to be struggling.