Some time ago, a young man approached me to see if I would mentor him and his wife on how to raise a great family. I have known this man and his wife for about ten years. He is a very successful businessman who is also active in his local church.
In my estimation, he is a great father and a devoted husband. As a matter of fact, I would give him 9 out of 10, on both counts, as a husband and father.
I expressed my surprise to my wife Alison that, in my estimation, he did not need mentoring. She quickly pointed out that everyone needs a mentor.
We invited this couple across to share dinner with us one night during the week. We had a good discussion in which they expressed their admiration for our family, and we in turn endeavoured to outline some family insights that have worked for us.
When this young couple approached me, they had just seen our four sons play music at the Sydney Easter Parade in their band ‘CarryOn’. They had observed the vitality of our children while they were young and as they have grown up. They had observed our family and the way we all interact and love one another.
After a period of reflection, the man and his wife decided they would like to see this type of relationship develop in the future of their own family. As they are a close and loving family, whose children had not yet reached their teens, we had a lot to talk about.
Indeed, we all need mentoring, and the good can only get better with wise advice and, more importantly, a living example. As the greatest man who ever walked the planet said, “But wisdom is shown to be right by those who accept it.”
Our friends are happy for us to share some of our insights — that we talked about with them — with you. Here is my fatherly advice, from my own personal experiences: let’s call it the Eight Point Plan for young fathers.
1. The success of your children and your family have more to do with you as a father than anything else. You must become the change you seek! As James Dobson from Focus on the Family said,
“While I don’t minimise the vital role played by a mother, I believe a successful family begins with her husband.”
2. The greatest thing a father can do for his children is to love his children’s mother passionately and extravagantly. The question had to be asked of my friend, “When did you last take your wife away for a romantic weekend?” He sheepishly replied, “Many years ago!” This then became his first assignment and he had to do it ASAP; at least once a year and then work up to once a quarter. I even offered to look after his children, but he had some close friends who could help. The practicalities are important!
3. One of our friend’s children was close to puberty and the other only a few years behind, so I recommended reading up on Rites of Passage URGENTLY. Two practical books by Brian Molitor are ‘Boys Passage – Man’s Journey’ and ‘Girl’s Passage – Father’s Duty’. Other great authors who have written on this subject include: Robert Lewis, Rick Johnson, Steve Farrar and Jim McBride.
4. Take your child on a Fathering Adventure with Darren Lewis, Queensland’s ‘Father of the Year’ in 2011. Darren has a passion to provide meaningful adventures for dads and their children based around the rites of passage model. There are very few things I would advocate going into debt for, but this would rank above a home. This sort of experience is usually something money can never buy. Folks fly in from all over the world to do Fathering Adventures with their children, but Darren is doing this in our own Australian backyard and for minimal cost, considering.
6. Begin the practice of ‘Daddy Dates’ with your children. Our friend was already doing this. Together as a family, or individually with each of your children, begin to go out with your child, doing something that they want to do, and giving them your undivided attention.
7. Discipline your children: It is important to set clearly defined boundaries for your children, with consequences when those boundaries are overstepped. These need to be set with a great deal of love and care, always respecting the individual child and their dignity at the same time. It is better to start this process early, as it will pay off when they are older. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
8. Actively schedule in holidays, family outings, adventures, music and sporting activities with your children. Time with your children is precious. Enjoy it while you still have the opportunity.
If you can’t apply something from the above eight points to your family, I will eat my hat — after all, I do need a new one!
As the man said, “Just do it!”
Yours for some fatherly advice,
PS: Remember, we all need mentoring. Find someone you look up to, someone you can emulate and boldly ask the question: if they would mentor you as a father. After all, what have you got to lose?