What is The Role of A Father? | Fatherhood Series

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The moment we decide to play an active part in our child's life, it doesn't take long before we begin to understand the need to be involved in a variety of ways, over the course of our child's development.  

However for some, this realisation can feel daunting, unrealistic and overwhelming, which can often cloud the immense reward of taking on the full role of a father.  

So where do we start? What boxes are there to tick? (I hear you say). 

Well, I think the most genuine place to start would be the heart. We know that love is a doing word, so by choosing to do nothing you immediately begin to communicate a clear message of apathy for your child. If a father operates out of love, it would be fair to say that any true expression of that love would be revealed in our actions.  

Let's look at how a father can play an intentional role in the lives of his children. 

 

Love 

Love with your time 

In the words of Richard Branson "Time is how you spend your love". 

We spend our time on the things or people we value the most. Some may argue out of guilt that the statement is untrue and to that I'd ask you to consider this, if we were to spend more time with people or things we value least are we not just wasting our time (often with selfish justification)? 

'Spending your love' on your children may not always come with ease and that's usually because it costs us. It costs us our time, our energy and our self! You see, our love will cause us to allocate the time for our children, create availability, but we often take the final task of filling that space for granted. 

So many of us get to the first hurdle of making time, but begin to wilt and wither when it comes to filling that time sufficiently. This often results in you being in the same room sleeping, whilst the kids are watching the tv or using your time with the children to take them to see someone else (why do we do this)!? 

The most sufficient way to fill a space you've purchased with love, is to fill it with your presence. Spending time with your children without being on auto pilot is worth more to them than you can imagine and no material gift will ever substitute that. 

Children are influenced the most by those who invest the most time into them, so make the time you share with your children count for you and for them. Why not play games you can both engage in or teach them something new, you can even share with them old stories that reveal more about you. Each golden nugget in your moments together let your children know just how important they are to you. 

Love with Commitment 

As we know, a child's life is not a play. We don't get to pick the scenes we want to make an appearance in, so that we can see our name in the credits. If we chose to adopt this approach towards the life of our child, we'd be deluding ourselves into thinking that loving your child is a matter of convenience, which is simply not true. 

The uncomfortable truth is that a selfless commitment to loving your child, will often inconvenience many of the luxury engagements that may have existed before fatherhood. 

In the transition of becoming a father many of us find ourselves trying to compare our wants with the needs of the child, when to be honest there is no comparison as they are in two completely different categories. Feel free to compare your wants and prioritise them accordingly, just be aware that a need (a necessity) will surpass them all, especially the needs of a dependant child (0-18year old).  

Acknowledging that children are dependent and need us in a variety of ways to help them develop into independent individuals, leaves us with a critical choice. Are we going to be the ones to supply those needs throughout the course of their life or will we deprive them, steering them on a vulnerable pursuit to appoint anybody willing to remotely meet those paternal needs (at their own risk). 

It's about asking ourselves the right questions, like... What is my significance to my child? What will that require of me?  

We soon find that it has less to do with being santa clause and becomes more about the consistent level of dedication, being there for our children in the many different forms that relates to, as a true labor of love over the course of their life. 

Love with patience 

One of the hardest things to deal with when giving your absolute best to someone is reciprocation. It can get frustrating when you've shown your child something twenty times and they wake up the next day as if they have no recollection of the time you have spent together, making the same mistake all over again. It can also be hard when trying to repair a relationship with your child (as they get older) whilst all they recognise you for is your financial benefits. 

But remember, as a mature adult and father you'll have the insightful gift of foresight. You'll know exactly how beneficial the character traits you're trying to develop will be in helping your child reach their full potential and you will know the value of having a two way unconditional relationship with your child as they move into adulthood. So with this knowledge in mind, it's important that we remain persistent as it expresses the importance of not only our actions but the need for the child to respond accordingly. 

In reality, the process of loving with patience will probably be more of a challenge for us than anyone else. It will challenge our emotions, our ability to remain disciplined and well tempered in our perseverance, as we keep the end goal in mind. 

The purpose of our endeavours is not to prove an insecure need to be heard, but rather to ensure that the child grasps the true value of what you have taken the time to communicate, with the intention of engrafting the skills, characteristics and words of wisdom you have given them into the fabric of who they are. 

Outside of the father-child bubble, you know that each day there is someone who has been patient with your short comings and this very fact should give you the ability to extend grace to your child through their learning process. 

Love with transparency 

Every father wants to be their child's hero, but what does it mean to be a hero? The common image that father's often portray and subsequently ascribe to, often ends up sounding a lot like a magician! 

Let's briefly look at a few of the characteristics of a magician: 

Methodical, introvert, creative, intelligent, studious, self disciplined, spiritual and specialised. 

Most importantly a magician is empowered by the mastery of secret knowledge. Ever notice that as a child you'd start off with the question "Dad... How did you do that?" and as you get older the question slightly changes to "Dad... How do you know that?", then you end up asking yourself later in life "Why can't I do that?". Dad's tend to keep a lot of mystery around their knowledge, as if to imply that "dad is knowledge". 

My brother once said to me "Dad is my google" and with that said I can safely say that my dad succeeded in his mastery of secret knowledge. 

You also may notice that when watching a magician at work you'll only tend see one person giving out the orders, and that will be the magician himself. He has a handy assistant who moves to his every command and you'll rarely see him challenged by another man during his shows (similar to a father in his house). 

Am I saying all fathers are magicians? Of course not, but I have observed that many fathers are more aligned to the mystery and entertainment value of a magician than revealing the more courageous, adventurous and selfless attributes of a hero.  

We only know the strength of a hero by the size of the challenges and obstacles he overcomes. They wow us because whether they've had to face their kryptonite or been left for dead, dripping with blood, they're still willing to persevere for a greater cause. What is the moral to your story? Whilst children are busy learning about everything else, what can they directly learn from your life? 

Love your children enough to show them your scars, your failures as well as your successes because despite what has happened to you, you're still here to tell the tale. The great thing is that you can help your children use your transparency to navigate around your stumbling blocks. In order for our children to exceed us we need to love them enough to present ourselves to them in a balanced proportion, because without transparency we can appear either very self righteous or like a mystical, magical character that has lost touch with reality. 

Serve 

As soon as your baby is born an instinctual duty to serve your child comes over you, which would make perfect sense as the baby can't do a thing for it's self (so somebody's got to volunteer!). Whether you have absolutely no clue what to do or you're fairly confident because you've changed a few nappies, after becoming a father there is an instant memo we receive (don't ask me how) that reads "Your baby needs you!". 

If you receive this memo unexpectedly, it will hit you like a tone of bricks! Questions begin to occur such as; can I even look after myself yet? Am I really ready for this? If you've found yourself asking these questions you can rest assure. You may have more in common with your baby than you think, as I'm sure many babies have asked themselves these questions at some point (well probably not, but they're about as ready as you are). 

The only (huge) difference is, it turns out that we can all look after ourselves pretty well when compared to a helpless baby, which means we're more prepared naturally than we care to think. 

The truth is, your baby does need you and if you choose not to run from that call and embrace fatherhood, you'll begin to journey on a self development process geared around trying to serve and enable your child to the best of your ability. 

Teach 

We're always teaching, in every response we make we affirm exactly how we wish to be treated and this is no different with parenting. 

If we choose to take on the sole role of the fun weekend dad or the "great jester", we often miss out on building a unique mentor and mentee relationship where you can enable your child to tackle each stage of life's challenges within the supportive environment of a father-child bond. 

Am I saying all dads should be boring? No way! What I am saying is, having fun with your child becomes a lot more rewarding once we begin to adopt a more intentional approach when engaging with them. Deciding to play games with your five month old baby that strengthens their legs and increases their balance can still be fun, but I can guarantee that the moment that child walks you'll feel strongly connected to your child's sense of achievement. You'll remember all the events leading up to that walk, because you were a part of that development process. Over the course of you teaching your child to walk you will have built trust, taught your child the value in persistence and communicated the safety that is found in your presence. Teaching our child with a mentoring approach sets the foundation for one of the most powerful relationships we can ever build with our child for effective influence.  

In serving your child you want to encourage a thirst for learning. We can achieve this by removing their blanket of complacency as there is always something new to learn. Once your child reaches a mile stone, you can teach them to value their newly acquired knowledge by showing them how to use their new skills to overcome their next challenge. Another way of removing complacency is to let your child know what's next. For instance you may say to your child "once you get confident with your greeting and a strong hand shake, you'll be able to introduce yourself to anyone!" this helps to build more attention and interest for the task at hand whilst they eagerly anticipate putting what you have taught them into practice. 

We are our child's number one life teacher and in being dedicated to serving them in this way, we enrich their character, teach them how to be great learners, problem solvers and leaders. When we choose to be absent from this process we almost teach them the exact opposite; learning is boring, answers are not found within the home and fulfilment will be found in their pursuit for acceptance. 

Whether you are teaching your child to look people in the eye when speaking to them, how to respond to instruction or what a loving husband looks like, continue to take the time to feed them with those essential lessons of life. As the saying goes "one good father is worth more that a hundred teachers". 

Coach 

The opportunity to be your child's first teacher gave you the chance to see their potential first hand and this is key information for the relationship between you both. Why? Well, because not everyone may understand your child or recognise their ability. It can also be very damaging for a child to be pigeon holed or made to feel like they are incapable of achieving a task by people who only know them within a confined setting. 

This is where it becomes so important to have a supportive dad who can be their champion. You're child may not be an angel but through your time of being present in their life, loving and teaching them, you are now one of the very few people who know your child in their entirety. You know the difference between when they are being lazy and when they are sincerely trying. You know how they learn best and when they become disengaged. This type of information will allow you to not only express how capable your child is but it enables you to help provide information or solutions that may play an instrumental role in helping others encourage the best out of your child. 

Having a champion who flies your flag, believes you can achieve and stands as your representative with your well being at heart often prevents our children from being a vulnerable target of victimisation and can at times give you the opportunity to play a part of mediation, offering understanding and enlightenment to the questions at hand whilst committing to the further development of your child. 

Sometimes it helps to be a proactive champion. Something as simple as telling a teacher your child is a visual learner, may save both your child and the teach a term of trail and error. 

Funnily enough, being a good advocate for your child gives you a bit of a boost! It makes you feel like you're right at the frontline, rooting for your child whilst on your tip toes waiting to dive in if needed. But as a coach (another hat you wear as a father), being your child's champion is really only a slice of the pie.  

Coaching your child is primarily about helping to develop their ability to perform what they know or a talent they possess to the best of their capability. 

Often, fathers see their relationship with their child blossom as the child grows into adolescence and adulthood. Some fathers even see this as the time to get involved in preparing their children for the "real world." In truth, fathers don't need to wait until their children are becoming adults in order to teach them important life lessons. Fathers can provide moral guidance and practical lessons all the way through their child's life. This kind of involvement strengthens the father-child relationship. Involvement helps build an ongoing partnership between father and child. Most importantly, through our influence on many areas of our child's life, we can one day teach our child how to be a parent. 

 

Provide 

In summary, I believe our sole purpose as a father is to provide. 

Provide love, stability, guidance, sustenance, protection, mentorship and most importantly an example (along with many other things). In all these areas we should seek to provide them with care and consistency, as we commit to walking our children through the most essential years of their life (from birth to adulthood).  

I personally aim to build upon the template of fatherhood that my father laid out for me and I hope my children will do the same. 

Just one decision to commit your life to the betterment of your child can actually benefit your world as you know it! 

It sounds a little far fetched but just think about it for a moment. Being present and fulfilling our role as a father can keep children off the streets, protect children from being mislabeled, mistreated, misguided and keep our children focused on developing themselves and their talents. Our commitment also helps to build more positive contributors to society (reducing crime), our presence builds safer communities and our examples leave a template for future generations to build upon.  

This role is an invaluable role that cannot be merely defined by a biological connection.

 

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