- the idiot,
- the man who is clueless, and
- the man who thinks or says he has no control of his circumstances.
The Idiot Dad
The idiot covers a lot of ground i.e. those whose values are suspect, narcissists, criminals, drug addicts, and more. Many, and maybe most of these “bad dads” are still loved by their children. That’s one thing clueless dads don’t know--how many mistakes you can make a still be loved by your children. Heaven help the children born to idiots.
When I am “helping fathers to be dads”, which is the name of my blog, I put my emphasis on those that just need encouragement, help or confidence to be a better father. First is the clueless dad.
The Clueless Dad
Dr. Frank Pittman, a noted psychiatrist and author, had this to say about fearful dads in his book, Man Enough,
“If fathers who fear fathering and run away from it could only see how little fathering is enough. Mostly, the father just needs to be there.”
Of course, not every clueless dad wants to run away from his duties as a father; he just doesn’t know how to be a good father. This usually happens with men who, as boys, didn’t have a father figure in their lives, or did not have good examples to follow. As Dr. Pittman suggests, you don’t have to do much more than be yourself to be a good dad, assuming you are not an idiot.
Little kids simply want someone to point to and be able to say, “That’s my dad!” And they say it proudly! As I write in my book, The Power of Dadhood:
“A Dad doesn’t need to be handsome, strong, athletic, macho, rich, eloquent, college educated, or even married to the child’s mother. Although many men want to be these things, they don’t make a man a Man or a father a Dad. A Dad does need to be loving, available, caring, interested, and involved, a nurturing teacher, disciplinarian, coach, cheerleader, and so much more.”
My capital ‘D’ Dad is shorthand for a good Dad. If you even attempt to do all the things in the last sentence of my quote, your teenagers and grown children will continue to say with pride, “That’s my Dad!”
The ‘No Control’ Dad
Here I must explain that the only “No Control” dad that is a bad dad is the one who doesn’t try very hard to be involved with his children, attempts to be involved in the wrong ways, or blames others for his failures. That being said, some men have mighty battles to fight to be the good dads they want to be.
In a response to a November 12, 2013 article from the National Fatherhood Initiative, The Father Absence Crisis in America [Infographic], a father named Martin Bryant asks simply, “How do i remain in my kids life if i am battling the system [sic]”
It’s a good question! We have to admit, and understand, that the courts will always favor the mother when all else is equal, sometimes even if the father has an edge. Then, if the father and mother don’t get along, which is often the case, then the mother can be very uncooperative, not allowing the father to see his children. If her anger towards the father is misplaced, she can even ignore the children’s needs to see their father. Examples of this situation are, unfortunately, way too numerous! What can a good man, a good father, do?
“You can do anything you set your mind to!” is a quote we often hear. This is an encouraging thing to say to a new father, or one fighting for custody. When you hear things like this, you want to believe them. But tell that to a man who has battled for months or years to see his children.
A quote by Gillian Anderson comes closer to the truth.
“Just remember, you can do anything you set your mind to, but it takes action, perseverance, and facing your fears.”
Action involves getting help, learning, trying, and wanting to be a good dad. Perseverance means getting more help when needed, continued learning, never giving up, and never backing down from the things that scare you, that being “facing your fears”. If this advice scares you away too easily, then you will complain “I have no control”, and give up. That's a bad dad.
In the end, here is some advice from a man who has fought the battle to be involved in his children’s lives.
“We great fathers, for the sake of peace of mind, must acknowledge that there are really compelling and valid reasons why the courts favor the mother. Instead of slowly committing emotional suicide, compromising our own happiness and — more importantly — that of our beautiful children, maybe it’s time, against all odds, to e-mail your ex and write this sentence: “For the sake of our child, let’s make peace.” Peter Ehrlich, Single Fathers' Rights
Further from The Power of Dadhood,
“Don’t ever talk yourself out of being there for your kids. Your involvement or your absence will have an enormous impact on your children. They want you there with them, and if you feel the same way, it will allow miracles to occur that could have been nightmares. Your greatest leverage and influence is when your children are young; you need to be there for them in body and spirit.”
While there are many bad dads in the world, their percentages are quite low. But the harm they do to their children and society is significant. We need to help the men who are or could become bad dads by talking to them, mentoring them, and just encouraging them. Everyone who reads this has the opportunity and potential of serving that need to some father they know. Do it!