With the approach of what is thought to be the 100th celebration of Father's Day this Sunday, June 20, Professor Geoffrey Greif, DSW, MSW, of the University of Maryland School of Social Work and a nationally known author on topics of fatherhood, men's friendships, divorce, and family issues, offers 10 Tips for being better fathers.
Father's Day, according to a number of sources, was first celebrated on June 19, 1910. Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Wash., inspired by a Mother's Day sermon, wished to honor her father, a veteran of the Civil War, who raised her and her siblings after her mother's death. It did not become a national holiday until 1972.
Greif first offered his 10 tips for being a good father earlier this month at the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center, during a program planned and implemented by members of the VA Maryland Health Care System's Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) program's Father's Group. The ACT program is aimed at calling attention to the importance of family in the recovery process. Greif said some of his ideas came from men in his audience.
1. Children need STRUCTURE. Structure includes consistency, reliability, and meeting expectations. Children need to know what time dinner will be, what time bedtime will be, what the rules are for homework, and the rules for playing outside. We can be flexible occasionally, but children need parents to set the structure and stick to it.
2. The way we treat women and our daughters teaches them what they can expect from men in their lives, and it teaches sons how to treat women. Treating the mother of our child with respect, even if we disagree with her behavior or her lifestyle, is a way of treating our child with respect.
3. We fathers must role model taking care of ourselves and making healthy choices. If we get to a good place ourselves with all we do, we can get to a good place with our children and set expectations for them. We have to walk the walk before we talk the talk.
4. Role model for children that life is not all black and white, there is a lot of gray in it and room for improvement. No man is perfect; no father is perfect. If we try too hard to be perfect we end up teaching our children that it is not okay to struggle and sometimes fail. We also need to role model that relationships between adults are not always smooth but often can be worked out.
5. If we are spiritual, we need to share that. Spirituality is not related to any one religion. It is related to a belief that something unique lives within us that can spark others and live on for generations. It is a belief that there is something bigger than us that can be harnessed for healing. By being spiritual, we are helping to grow the next generation.
6. Being a good parent does not always mean trying to toughen up our child and being a strict disciplinarian. It does not always mean putting on a tough face inside the house when a tough face is needed outside the house. We can teach our children to be warm and loving to others. That is part of what it means to be a man.
7. Err on the side of love in raising children. If you are ever unsure about which path to take with your children, choose the side that involves love and generosity. We should make the mistake of being too easy rather than too harsh with our children. Assume the best and not the worst about ourselves and others.
8. Find good friends. People with friends live longer, healthier, happier lives. Find good men who are taking care of themselves and keeping their commitments. Being a friend means being understanding, loyal, dependable, and trustworthy - these are also good attributes for fathers.
9. Even as we teach our children the value of working on long-term goals like education, career advancement, and relationships, make sure to focus on one day at a time. Few things come to people without working for them, but we also need to make each day meaningful when we are with our children.
10. No matter where we are and what our situation is, our children need to hear from us and know that we care. If we feel ashamed of our situation or ashamed of something we have said or done, avoiding our children will not make it better. Being a man and a parent means being able to deal with what comes our way.