It’s barely a week into the new year and already so many of the heartfelt resolutions that sounded so good on 1st January are starting to feel a little onerous. And if we’re really honest with ourselves we know many of them won’t last. Why does this happen every year? We promise ourselves “a new year, a new me!” But it seldom happens. Life happens instead and we carry the same habits and struggles into another year.
The reason is really very simple: we don’t want it enough. Want power is far greater than will power. If you want something badly enough you’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen. If you don’t then sooner or later your resolve will run out and you will default back to what you were before. This is the principle at play; external discipline not matched by internal desire is never sustainable. There is only one real driver of change and growth and that is desire.
This is deeply relevant to fatherhood. A good father’s greatest desire is to raise his children well and give them his absolute best as their dad. This doesn’t just happen by default, it takes a conscious, intentional commitment driven by the desire to be a great dad. Dads are the most important men in their children’s lives and if a man doesn’t father his children the world will. And the father substitutes the world provides more often than not are destructive to their lives. Not actively fathering your children is like holding a winning lottery ticket on their behalf and failing to cash it in.
Here are five game changing resolutions for Dads to make this year:
- Be present and engaged. The words “be there” are the two most important words in a father’s lexicon. Be there emotionally, physically and spiritually. Be there in their daily lives; be there for important milestones; be there when they are happy, sad, mad and scared. Make memories with your children. Make sure they can always say, “hey dad remember the time we …..”. A father’s absence always causes pain, no matter what the reason. Investing in our children’s lives is the most important investment we will ever make. It’s a tough truth that what a man spends his time doing shows what he values. If we truly value our children we will do whatever it takes to be present and engaged.
- Model the way. Probably the biggest challenge of being a father is to make our lives an attractive example of what we want our children to become. Our children learn way more from how we live than what we say. Are you the man you want your son to become? Are you the kind of man you would like your daughter to marry? If not some personal transformation is needed, which will take courage and a good look in the mirror. But the benefit to both you and your children will be huge. Fatherhood is a parallel journey; being and becoming a whole man as we raise our sons to become men and our daughters to become women.
- Impart life principles. As parents we outsource the academic education of our children to schools, colleges and universities but what we cannot and must not outsource is teaching them principles. Some of the more important ones are; self-discipline, taking responsibility for their actions, respecting and valuing others, good manners, keeping their word. Teach them verbally and by example. Don’t leave this to the media and their peers. You may not like what they teach.
- Let them know they matter. Perhaps the greatest epidemic of our time is un-validated men and women. Almost all the destructive behaviour in the world can be traced back to men and women desperately seeking validation. By your words and your actions show your children that they matter, that their lives count and that who they are is good. Four very important ways of showing your children that they are valuable are; plenty of physical affection, genuine words of affirmation, spending quality time with them and truly seeing the essence of who they are.
- Set boundaries. Too many fathers make the mistake of putting friendship with their children above parenting. Affirming children without disciplining them can lead to an unhealthy and delusional sense of self. Children of all ages need boundaries and as their father you are the primary boundary setter. Set boundaries that are fair, age appropriate, consistent, agreed by you and their mom and clearly communicated. Then keep to them.
Every father has it in him to be a great dad. Use your desire to father your children well to drive these five resolutions and set your children’s life on a trajectory to success and happiness. The rewards for both you and them will be magnificent.