In working with fathers and families, it can be helpful to address some basics before trying to address the myriad of other challenges fathers may face.
Those “basics” include what it means to be a man and father. You see, the key to developing good fathers is to first develop good men. The most effective fatherhood programs seek to build the man before focusing on fathering skills, and your job is to help men understand that they must first work on themselves before, or at least at the same time, as they work on their fathering skills. I’ve included a short video at the end of this post to help you get the conversation started with the dads you serve. But before that let me expand.
Have you ever put together a model airplane? The idea was that if you followed the instructions, your model should have looked like the picture on the box. Unfortunately, your model might not have looked like the picture, because pieces were missing or you didn’t thoroughly read or follow the instructions.
Learning what it means to be a man and father works the same way. Men learn from their parents and culture a model for how a man and father should look and act. This model comes with instructions that help men grow into the “right kind” of man or father. As boys grow into an adult, this model becomes a part of who they are. It guides their decisions and actions from that point forward. It guides them in how to treat themselves (i.e. their physical, emotional, and spiritual health), their children, and women and wives/mothers of their children. Men in all cultures learn some very good things and, unfortunately, some not so good things about being a man and father.
If you already run our 24/7 Dad® A.M. program, then you know that one of the first two sessions is titled “What it means to be Man”. It helps facilitators discuss different views of masculinity and the character traits dads think best reflect today’s ideal of masculinity. Dads also discuss what it means to be a dad, the traits they most and least admire in men, and the traits of masculinity they would like model for their children.
Likewise, in our 17 Critical Issues to Discuss with Dads downloadable guide, the second topic covers fatherhood and masculinity.
The guide also provides you with questions to probe the dads on the subject like:
- How have I been affected by what my parents and culture taught me about being a man?
- What did I learn about character from my father (or father figure)? What did I learn that was good? What did I learn that was not so good?
- What are five character traits that I can begin working on right now to become a better dad?
- Which traits do I want to pass on to my children? Which traits do I not want to pass on?
As you can see, we think discussing what it means to be a man is a pretty important step in your work with fathers. And as you can imagine, the dads you serve will have many different opinions and definitions on the subject.
I decided to write this blog when I recently came across a short video clip from a gentleman in a health-focused Facebook group that I belong to. His name is William Francis, and he lives in Dallas, TX. In the clip, he shares his definition of what it means to be a man.
When I asked William if I could share his video, he was pleased and explained, “I feel like this clip pretty much says what I want to share with men about being a good man/father. I know from a son’s point of view that being a man is more than just being a leader – it’s also being a follower, giver, lover, and a person who shares struggles, successes, accomplishments, hurtles, and emotions. There are tons of things I could say to help, but you have to personally make the choice to be a ‘real man’.”
Feel free to use this video with the fathers you serve to help get the conversation started on this topic!
Wishing you much success in your work engaging fathers, and thank you for all that you do.