Note To Self: Be A Better Dad – Part 2

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A few months ago, I wrote the first half of a long post about how I can be a better dad. There were several themes: Experiences, Insecurities, Being Present… But the biggest concept was “setting an example.” In Part 2, I’m going to take that concept a step further (and throw out a lot of quotes). I touched on self-improvement in Part 1. But, this second half is even more about setting an example to your children by improving yourself.

As I said in Part 1, raising children can be life’s greatest adventure! But, it’s important not to coast through it or be content just to survive. I was inspired by this article from All Pro Dad to write myself a stern reminder of a father’s responsibilities. The article suggests, “Maintaining daily focus on doing the right things makes raising daughters [and sons] healthy and strong all the more likely.” If we lose that daily focus, it’s easy for life to pass by without us realizing it.

This post is not meant to be instructional, nor a showcase of my parenting knowledge (or lack thereof). It’s just a journal entry of sorts; ways in which I often fail. It’s a set of guidelines for myself, that I can turn back to in a week, a month, or a year, and reference it when I feel myself losing focus.

CONTENTMENT AND JOY

“Thus we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always planning how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so.” – Blaise Pascal

A happy dad is a better dad. And, a happy dad can pass on a positive attitude to his kids. Don’t live for tomorrow, don’t imagine a future that’s significantly better than the present. This means not saying “I’ll be happy when” we go on that fun vacation or buy a bigger house. (I’m guilty of saying “life will be better when we’re not paying for daycare anymore.”) I love this centuries-old quote from Blaise Pascal  about planning how to be happy. Let it sink in… Habitually “planning how to be happy” will stand in the way of your current happiness, and you might just pass on that mindset to your children.

Speaking of being too focused on the future, a big adversary of contentment is worry. There’s nothing wrong with being prepared, but worry and excessive planning often go hand in hand. As parents, a big way that worry can “sap today of its joy” is in how fast the stages of our children’s lives pass by. Be a better dad by worrying less and enjoying the ups and downs of each life stage.

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” – Leo Buscaglia

Okay, enough about Father Time. One of the best ways to stay living in the present, is by being grateful. I won’t suggest that religious faith is a prerequisite for gratitude, but I need to be reminded of the following, as said by Richard E. Simmons III. “All you are and all you have is a gift from God and a result of other people contributing to your life.” To me, that sums up grateful living. Furthermore, if we crank up the volume on our gratitude, it will invariably drown out the trials we may be facing. It’s difficult to focus on both at the same time.

How can I teach my children contentment if I am not content? Aside from worry, one of the biggest thieves of contentment is the habit of comparison. Always comparing your life, your family and especially your possessions, to what others have will certainly prevent your own contentment. In his sermon What Makes You Happy, Andy Stanley argues that awareness leads to desire and to discontent. Are you constantly searching and making yourself aware of all the things you don’t have. Awareness is a potentially harmful cousin to comparison. 

STRENGTH IN HUMILITY

“True strength is found in humility.” – Richard E. Simmons III

It takes strength to be humble, because it takes restraint. Restraint of your power and authority. A better dad is humble and exercises authority sparingly. Getting impatient and losing your temper are interactions which require no restraint and no strength. I feel the weakest and most defeated after an incident where I’ve become impatient and angry.

Simmons goes on to point out that pride is insidious. Also, pride (the opposite of humility) creates in us a desire to be superior. Which again can lead to a lack of restraint. C.S. Lewis says that “pride leads to every other vice.” I become more convinced of this every day. I think being humble means stop treating their tantrums, sleeping troubles, etc. as inconveniences to a world that centers around you. These feelings of inconvenience can lead to impatience, then anger, and it all started with pride. To think that your work or your worldly responsibilities are more important than your children is pride rearing its ugly head. Of course, a better dad can’t just ignore their worldly responsibilities! A challenging paradox for sure. Good luck finding that balance!


PRAY

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” – Psalm 51:10-12

Pray for them. This ties back to the concept of pride. If we pray for our children regularly and in specific ways, we will be less consumed with our own agenda.

Pray with them. There’s no better way to reveal your priorities to your children than to involve them in your prayer life. Also, praying with an audience will help you keep your priorities straight. That’s what we call a two-fer! Praying with your kids, and seeing the world through their eyes, will remind you of what’s important and hopefully bring you closer together as a family.

Pray for yourself. To be a better dad, we need strength, focus, renewal and joy. Prayer can help renew these qualities required to be a good parent. (Or, if you’re not religious, find time for your own version of meditation or renewal.) I’ve included one of my favorite Bible verses (Psalm 51) that pertains to fatherhood and the necessary focus.

I hope you’ve enjoying reading this (as well as Part 1), and I hope you’ll join me in referring back to these “better dad” reminders from time to time. Good luck on the journey that is fatherhood!

SHARING IS CARING:

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