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
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
“We are too prone to engrave our trials in marble and write our blessings in sand.”
— Good Dad Daily (@GoodDadDaily) February 26, 2016
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
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!
“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 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!