Guest blog by Kevin Bailey
We all want to be a great example to our children. No new father ever sets out to deliberately lead their child astray but sometimes our weaknesses get in the way of our aspirations. If we are to be any use to our children we have to learn to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and begin again with a renewed purpose to be the ‘best version of ourselves’.
The greatest gift you can give your child is to love your spouse. Today’s culture often encourages us to put our children and not our spouse first and to live our lives for them. This is inherently unnatural and creates insecurity in children as well as leads them to believe that it is ‘all about them’ to the point where they become demanding self-absorbed pains in the backside.
Marriage itself is never just smooth sailing. There are struggles as well as times of great joy as you do life together with your spouse. You build a reservoir of shared memories, intimacy and experiences that get you through the tough times but life can throw us some ‘curve balls’. Part of our marriage journey is a ‘cross to bear’ and whenever adults lay down that cross, it is the children who inevitably have to pick it up. In some respects, our society has become more interested in championing the rights of adults than the obligations we adults have to our offspring.
Marriage breakdown and single parenting is always a tragedy for the child. There are many people who find themselves in this unfortunate situation and they live heroic lives to compensate for this with their children and they are true heroes but it is important to recognise that it is not the ideal for raising healthy well rounded children. Men and women parent differently and meet different needs in the development of children and it is best done as a team living in the same household.
Where there is a situation that a marriage has already failed then single dads need to respect their child’s mother and never speak disparagingly about her in the presence of her children. The job has become more difficult and emotionally fraught but the child will learn so much from the way you rise above the circumstances of your situation and you can model ways to be a great dad and man of integrity even if the environment is far from ideal.
Children look to their mother for nurture and their father for character. This may seem unfair to many mums because often they have so much more character than many of us men but still it is the character of the father that has disproportionate influence on the child’s life. From their earliest memories children often identify their mother as an extension of themselves and have nestled in the nurture that she provides. They almost see their dad as someone separate who has chosen to love them and be part of their life.
The fact that it is the character of the father that has such undue influence on the child’s development is a huge burden of responsibility on us men. In societies with increasing fatherlessness there is more violence and crime and a dearth of virtue and integrity in the next generation despite many people recognising the way mothers tried to compensate.
The secret to being a great dad is living a life of virtue in the presence of your child. It requires us to spend time together with our kids and to share our heart with them. We have to work on our own character traits and always ask ourselves how we can be the man we were created to be. Every day we are faced with decisions to be self-seeking or to be other centred. It takes great character to admit mistakes and sometimes ask for forgiveness. Our children are watching us and taking cues from the way we respond to life’s situations.
Unless we are actively involved in their lives our children can’t observe our interactions so it is important that we are spending time with them. This is important in the home but also making memories and having adventures with them. When we have several children we need to create space for ‘one on one’ interactions and conversations with each child individually. Children learn through play and as they get older the type of play changes. Even as adults we have to remember to have fun together.
In the midst of the play and the sharing of our heart it is also important to challenge our children to grow and to stretch their horizons. Sometimes we need to put boundaries on them and at times to reprimand and correct wrong behaviour. A trap some fathers fall into with adolescent children is that they try to be their child’s friend. They have friends their own age. They don’t need a friend, they need a father and we should never forget all that that entails.
This week’s Lovework challenge is to spend at least one hour each day (that you are home with them) being present with your family. Turn off the phone, the computer, the TV, anything that could be a distraction, and give your partner and children your attention. After all, when our time on this world is through, our families won’t care so much about the things that they had, but the time that we spent together.
Yours for family connections, Kevin Bailey
Kevin Bailey is a Board Member of Dads4Kids and former soldier in the SAS. Kevin’s background is in business but his true passion is his beautiful wife and seven children.