In the beginning pages of my book, “The Power of Dadhood: How to Become the Father Your Child Needs”, I wrote a list of nine things every father* should teach his children. These are deep lessons that cannot be taught until two prerequisites are met. First you must be available to your children. Second, you must be loving and involved. Not until then can you begin to teach these nine lessons. Any father that does so is truly a nurturing father, at the top of “The Pyramid of Dadhood” as described in my book. (see below)
I would like to repeat those nine things here and expand on them a bit. As you read them, think about if you have these qualities yourself. A great many of us do not. Why you may not is a question you have to ask yourself. The answer to that question can help you understand why, as a father, you are so important and help you teach these principles to your children. They are:
The joy of being involved in life.
“I think it’s such a lucky accident, having been born, that we’re almost obliged to pay attention.”
—Mark Strand, quoted in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s, Creativity
The gift of life is a precious one. Certainly it has it comedies and tragedies, happiness and sorrows, surprises and disappointments, and ups and downs, but you can find or create joy by being involved in life and living. Make things happen, don’t wait for things to come to you.
The ability to generate happiness from within.
Never expect others to make you happy. It is the fastest way to disappointment and a very self-centered way to live. Wanting is a path to unhappiness while giving is a path to happiness. Attitude and gratitude will bring your own happiness.
A deep, genuine kindness toward others.
“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
Some people naturally have the gift of kindness and gratitude. For those who don’t, you must challenge yourself to be kind, and over time, it will come back to you and you will have the gift to pass on to others.
Guiding principles that will lead them to a life of integrity.
Being described as someone with integrity may be the ultimate compliment. Having integrity requires high principles in which you believe and follow, principles like those listed here. Fathers are key in teaching and exemplifying guiding principles.
A strong desire to help others and serve without need for recognition.
Take care of yourself so you can then help others. Be sure your help is making those you are helping stronger, not weaker. Giving encouragement, advice, or a helping hand are perfect examples of helping others, especially those younger or without mentors.
Resilience, becoming even stronger in the face of challenge.
A proverb I’ve seen before goes something like this. “Get knocked down seven times, get up eight!” We all get knocked down and it hurts. Lick your wounds, go through the natural feelings of being upset, disappointed, etc. then learn what caused the failure and come back swinging with a new plan.
A love and appreciation for the simple things in life and the awareness to notice them.
The best things in life truly are free! A baby’s smile, puffy clouds, the smell of rain, your brain, air, the ability to love, and so much more. What we humans often do is take them for granted. It’s not too difficult to get into the habit of stopping to think about these gifts and soak them in. Always be thankful for what you have and especially what you don’t have.
The recognition that they alone choose how to react to any given situation.
“Believe in your strength and your youth. Learn to repeat endlessly to yourself, ‘It all depends on me.’”
You can choose to act or choose to hide. You can choose to be a problem or a solution. You can be positive about life or negative. To paraphrase Andre Gide, it all depends on you!
The talent to choose well.
Fathers, don't make decisions for your children, help your children learn to choose for themselves with the means to choose well.
When a child is introduced to these concepts by their mother or father, it doesn’t guarantee their success, but it does give them the greatest opportunity for a successful life! If a parent is not involved in these teaching these qualities, who will be? No one knows your child as well as you!
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* Of course, these lessons can also be taught by mothers.