I have often said to my husband, and to other dads I know, they don't realize how important they are; they don't understand their value transcends the paycheck they bring home. That being said, how can we help dads (present and future) realize the asset they are to their family? One of the most important roles a dad plays is building his child's confidence and self-esteem. He does this best by investing time and energy into his relationship with the child. Not only when they are cute, easy babies, but when they hit those awkward preteen and teenage years as well. The way a father speaks to his child says volumes about what he feels his child is worth.
When dad's are stressed, as many are (the same can be said for todays moms as well), they often have a short fuse and say things to their child without thinking about how their words and tone of voice impact the child they are speaking to. As a result of these interactions, a child internalizes that voice and it becomes a part of who they are.
There are times when I have literally seen my sons cringe at the way their dad has attempted to correct them. I don't mean they flinch because he physically puts his hands on them, what I mean is the verbal attack that gets placed on a child because dad is stressed out, over worked, trying to stay in control of everything and trying to make ends meet in a crappy economy. The fact of the matter is, dad isn't feeling that great about himself and he transfers his negativity onto the child. He does this often without thought or malice of intent, but it occurs nonetheless.
Dads of the world, although some days are easier than others, I know you are aware it is an incredibly tough job to be a parent. In my opinion, success as a dad is not defined by providing your kid with the latest sporting equipment, trendy clothing, new car or electronic gadget. It is not defined by being your kids best friend and allowing them to do things you know aren't in their best interest in order to appear "cool", and it isn't pushing them so hard in an activity they lose all interest because you are running your own agenda, or reliving your life through that of your child.
Success as a dad means spending time with your child, learning who your child is rather than trying to make him/her into what you want them to be. Talking to your child with respect. If you want respect from them, you must give it first. Afterall, you are the adult in the situation.
I believe the most important thing you can do as a dad is to love your child unconditionally. When they produce great grades, when they fail a test, when they score the winning point, when they get benched because they made a mistake, when they get invited to prom, when they have a fight with their best friend. A kid needs a dad who will let them know often and how much they are loved. Kids need dads that will step up to the plate for them when necessary, but also to be a closed mouth and open ears when called for. To let them take the consequences for a bad decision. Through their guidance, dads help their children unwrap the journey God provided to them in bringing them into the world.
Sherwood Pictures recently released a film entitled, "Courageous" which, I believe, is the best example dad's have, in this day and age, to learn what it takes to be a great dad. Tom and I went to see it on opening night last fall, and it is now available on DVD/Blue Ray from stores like LifeWay, Family Christian Bookstore and even online through Barnes and Noble and Amazon. While a respectible amount of people saw the movie for being low a budget production with minimal marketing funds compared to the blockbuster films, it should have been one of the highest grossing because of the valuable message it sends. We bought it last week and watched it again, this time with Allen-Michael (18) and Brigham (14). Both of my boys thought the movie was very worth their time and had a great message. It opened some good conversations between us. I know that this movie has had a real impact on Tom and how he sees himself as a dad.
If you are reading this post and you are a mom, going to be a mom, or have grown children who now have children of their own, please go get this movie. If you are a dad, or a grandfather, go get this movie. If you know someone that could use a strong, positive message, go pick up this movie. We need more Courageous men in the world...I dare you to be one of them. It is never to late to start....