A few weeks back, I was talking with a friend on the phone. At that time, the news and social media were dominated by a horrible tragedy that rocked a community and much of the nation.
My friend said, “Carey, you’re on the right message. If dads were doing their job, things like this wouldn’t happen.”
I believe he’s totally right, of course. We dads have the power and responsibility to shape our children’s character and future. It’s you, dad, who shows them how to carry themselves and stand up for what’s right. It’s you, dad, who coaches them about where they should and shouldn’t be. It’s you, dad, who models what character looks like.
Children need that direction and leadership from a father or father figure who will speak truth into them, and be the voice of authority in their heads as they deal with difficult situations and make decisions about how to act. It’s the voice that says, “Here’s how to act in this situation,” or, “No, that’s not how we roll.”
I was blessed that my Pop put plenty of his voice into my head. One of his favorite things to say was simply, “Watch.” He’d say, “Son, you must always watch.” That was his way of saying, Be careful; don’t take life lightly; think about what you’re doing.
Usually, we’d hear it when someone we knew got into trouble. He’d tell us, “Son, Watch. Don’t be in the wrong place at the wrong time and get your car shot at.” Or, “Don’t be at some party, where you don’t need to be. Watch!”
And honestly, it wasn’t always his voice; sometimes all it took was a look from him. We’d see something happen, and he’d give us that look that clearly said, “No, we don’t need to respond the way those people are responding.”
Clearly, too many kids don’t have that voice—or they aren’t prepared to understand it, or the voice isn’t as loud as other voices calling them down a different path. The result is a crisis rooted in fatherlessness.
When children grow up without the benefit of a father, they’re vulnerable. They don’t have the right voices in their heads, they aren’t prepared to handle adversity, and often they make destructive choices.
I recognize that, to a large degree, I’m preaching to the choir on this blog. And on this issue, I want to affirm you, dad, and encourage you to keep up the good work with your kids.
If you’re a committed dad, you are quite literally strengthening our communities and our country. Please keep being that voice of reason for your kids. And keep using “that look” with them, like my Pop did. Your guidance will come to mind at critical turning points in their life.
Also, remember that other kids out there need dads like you who are willing to speak into their lives. That makes a huge difference, too.
What positive messages are in your head from your father? Also, what words or sayings are you trying to impress upon your children?
Action Points for Dads on the Journey
- Do you regularly speak words of affirmation and encouragement to your children? Make sure you do—and make it personal to each child.
- Is there an important message that you want to stick with your child? Don’t hesitate to repeat yourself. Your dad did, right? There is power in repetition, and you can use it to affirm your children and speak truth into their lives.
- Keep talking to your children about what you believe is important. Remember, something you tell him today might not really make sense or make a difference to him until five or ten years from now—or longer. If he heard you say it, it may still be in his memory when he needs it.
- Before you speak, make sure you have listened and understood your child’s situation and perspective.
- Since so many young people today don’t have positive voices in their heads, I can’t say it too often: dad, please consider mentoring or just encouraging a child outside your home who doesn’t have a dad.
Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization seeking to improve the lives of children and establish a positive fathering and family legacy that will impact future generations by inspiring and equipping fathers and father figures to be actively engaged in the life of every child. We encourage you to help us change the culture of fathering in America by joining the Championship Fathering Team. You can also sign up for Carey’s weekly email tips by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.