I was talking with my son in law recently and the subject came up;" I don't know if I am doing everything I can to be a good dad.. "
It got me thinking about my own journey through fatherhood I sometimes wonder: however did I make it to this place? I have 4 incredibly wonderful children who have all grown up into amazing adults who in their own rights are making a real difference in this world and in the lives of others. I really am blessed.
Over the years, my wifeTambrey and I have on numerous occasions been complimented on our children and what a great family we are. While that is a great head-swelling statement, the reality is that we have never really known any different. What you see is who we are. We have
nothing to hide, we aren't any different at home to what you see at church or out in public. And, to us, we are far from perfect.
We have our fights and arguments, our differences of opinion. In our eyes we are just an ordinary family. So it's kind of funny when so many people tell us we are different. This leads us as a couple to think; what could it be that makes us different to other families? How can we through our own experience of life encourage others to be different, and that what we have is not freakish or unattainable?
My heart has always been about family. In my life, family comes first and foremost. I purpose in my heart to make them the number one priority in my life. This is a decision, it is not something that
comes natural or even easy. The nature of a man is very much self-focused. I want what I want, and I know what I want, and all too often it doesn't include my wife or kids. The selfish me wants to go out and hang with my mates when it suits me. The selfish me doesn't want to be tidy, wash up the dishes because they are there to be done. The selfish me can justify coming home after a long day at work and sitting down in the lounge chair, watch the tv and waiting for dinner while my wife is trying to keep it all together with little ones making demands of her, others wanting help with homework, still others looking for clothes to go out in, and dinner on the go all at the same time.
If I want a great family, it requires investment on my part. Just in the same way that if I want to succeed in my business I have to be prepared to put in the hard yards.
So what is it that I want to say to my sons in law and my own son about how to succeed in life and have a great family? How can I cram 30 years of experience into a short article? I probably can't, but I can share with you some keys that I have learnt along the journey.
I took a call from an overseas friend the other day who told me he was having some challenges with his 10 year old being a bit obstinate and unreasonable. He was giving his parents a hard time and most likely
his siblings as well. I suggested to him that maybe his boy was trying to attract his attention. There may be something going on in his world that he was having trouble coping with.
I gave him the following pointers that might help him help his son overcome the challenges that are facing him.
1) If you want to show your child you love them, love their mother
Nothing gives a child stability in life like knowing that their parents love each other. I have even found in business that the most stable bosses I have worked for are those that have a great marriage.
I have to put her first in my list of priorities. The old saying goes: Happy wife, happy life. For me, that means that as part of the marriage relationship I have to pull my weight. In my home, I make the bed, make breakfast, empty the dishwasher, and clean up my mess in the bedroom. I learnt a long time ago that my wife is neither my slave nor my mother, and I should not expect her to clean up after me or do everything for me.
I also help with the cooking and cleaning in the kitchen. We are a partnership and my wife does enough around the house. The least I can do is help her and be an example to my children of how to be a good husband. I tell my wife every day that I love her. I tell her often, and I tell her meaningfully. I tell her for 2 reasons: I tell her to remind her, and I tell her to remind myself. Do I have to remind myself every day? Well, I have to eat every day...
Moreover, I tell my children I love them as well, every day, or at every opportunity.
2) Be prepared to do your bit.
I mentioned before, marriage is a partnership, and it takes both partners to work hard to make the partnership a success. I don't expect her to mow the lawn or take out the rubbish. There are things
my wife does better than me. She knows better how to do the washing and hanging out. That doesn't mean I can't do it, and it's not unusual for me to iron my clothes or hang out or bring in a load of washing.
People think that marriage is a 2 way street, a 50/50 relationship with 50% give and 50% take. That is not God's way. He is about 100% giving, expecting nothing in return. That is God's way of loving, and
when both partners in the marriage relationship adopt this motto, your marriage is headed for a lifetime of great adventure and success.
3) Be consistent.
When it comes to discipline it is important that both parents agree. My wife always made it a point to never disagree on matters of discipline or decision in front of the kids. I would hear about it in the bathroom though! There is this saying that goes: "If mum says no, ask dad". That doesn't work in my family. If I disagree about a
decision, we will talk about it in private, and if we then agree on a common decision, we would go to the child. Also worth a mention here is: Don't say no just because you can. It is important to communicate with your child why you have made the decision you made. They may not like it or even like you, but they will know the reason why. And "because I said" is not a valid reason.
4) Princes and princesses.
I treat my wife like a princess. (Or at least I'd like to think I do). My wife is royalty, and I expect my children to treat her the same way. I have never allowed my children to get away with speaking down to my wife or treating her rudely. In telling them my expectation of having them treat her like a princess, I am teaching my daughters that their prospective husbands must also treat them like royalty. I am telling my son that the woman he marries he must treat like royalty. I like to think that I treat my daughters like royalty. The way a man treats her wife, and the way a woman treats her husband sets the framework for how their children will treat their spouse in years to come. We do not have to be the result of our upbringing, we can change
what we came out of. If my daughter marries a man from a dysfunctional background that does not mean she is doomed to a bad marriage. It is my privilege to be a positive influence on him and allow him to see
that there is a better way.
5) Quality Time.
I have a wife, 3 daughters, 1 son. Each of them have different likes, needs, desires and dreams. I found especially when the kids were younger every now and then it was important to take them out on a date. The girls loved the Papa dates. We would go somewhere to eat, buy some clothes, and hang together. As they got older my wife would take them for coffee on a Saturday morning, somewhere nice. Recognising their individuality and acknowledging it is very important to a person. My son and I love doing life together. When he was about 14 he came to me and asked me if I could teach him how to be a man. We do man stuff together, and I can honestly say that I couldn't be more proud of how he has turned out. Quality time is when we can be driving 1000km to somewhere and spending time talking, sharing, laughing together with the opportunity to speak into his life. I love those times. And, by the way, I love doing the same with my sons-in-law, who I refer to as my boys.
My beautiful wife also needs quality time. Infact this is her number one love language. There is nothing she loves better than just being together, whether it is in front of the tv, holding hands, cuddling or going on a road trip together to anywhere. For her it's not about how much money I can spend on her, it's about how much time we can have together.
I am blessed. I started out with 3 daughters and one son. I now have 3 daughters, 3 sons, and 2 grand children. God is good!
6) Words of affirmation and celebrate success.
Everyone wants and needs to be acknowledged for a job well done. I love being paid for the work I do, but I glow when the boss says "Well done!"
Peter and Lachlan are my amazing sons in law. When Peter got his first appointment after finishing his Uni degree, I piled my wife and daughter and son in the car after work and drove one and a half hours to the town they are living and took the whole family out for dinner to celebrate. Then we drove home again. Some months later when Lachlan got his job after finishing his degree we did the same thing again.
They were both stoked that we would go to such an extent to help them celebrate their achievement. To me, I was stoked at what they achieved and wanted them to know how proud I am of them. I often tell my wife and kids I'm proud of them. I want them to know that I value the effort they put into life. The result? It builds
them, and encourages them to do even better.
7) Be honest.
It's important to be honest with other, to have an open book policy in the home. In our family we really don't have any secrets from each other. Not the important stuff, anyway. If my children got into trouble at school, (on the rare occasion ) they would usually blurt it out to their mother as soon as they opened the door. My kids have always shared every thing with us, but we also have been honest with them it has saved us from a lot of heart ache and trouble. My wife is always an especially good listener, and very slow to judge. The result
was that the kids had not trouble in sharing their feelings or problems because they knew they would find the support they needed to get them through the crisis, whatever it was.
I titled this article better husband, better dad. I want to be both, and I want every husband and father to aspire to both. A past Australian Prime minister once said "Life wasn't meant to be easy". He may have been right, but life was meant to be lived and enjoyed. Jesus said:" I have come to give you life and life to the full."
God wants us to enjoy the fullness of what we have been given. If you want to be a better Husband and a better Father, love, be consistent, be prepared to share the load; Treat your family like royalty, and expect nothing less from them; spend quality time with your loved ones and give praise when it is due, celebrating every success. Most of all, be honest with each other.
I guess when it's all said and done, the key to being a better husband and a better dad lies in the relationship to have with your loved ones. It's not about a formula or technique, it's about unconditional love and trust.
Do I have all the answers? No! But I do have a relationship with the One who does, and I am constantly in communication with Him, and I am always open to learning how to be a better husband and a better dad.
Have a great week!
Oh, and Happy Father's Day.