Building a Better Family
by Julie Peterson
Some dads believe they need to work long hours so that they can purchase better things and go on fancier vacations, but research shows that, outside of escaping poverty, money doesn’t buy happiness. Even for children, it’s not about stuff or destinations; it’s about time spent together. Fortunately, there are men teaching men to embrace the fatherhood role and take action in ways that matter most.
“All men desire to be loved, valued, needed and respected, and to know they are leaving a mark on this world.\Many men look for this fulfillment in career and hobbies, but this can be found by embracing their role as fathers,” says Ned Schaut, the Hawaii-based author of The Adventure of Fatherhood. He notes that the way fathers choose to live and perform their parental roles can affect a family for generations.
Learning what fatherhood entails isn’t easy for men that grew up without involved dads, which may leave them doubting that they have what it takes to lead their families. “There are endless resources to help us in our businesses or careers, but our society doesn’t get behind the message that strong families matter, that present, engaged fathers matter,” says Chris Smith, founder of Campfire Effect, a coaching business for entrepreneurs in Arizona. “In business, we apply principles around values, culture, leadership and growth, and then we go home and don’t apply these same principles.”
The lack of fatherhood guidance led Smith to develop Family Brand, an eight-week program designed to strengthen familial bonds and create an intentional family culture. Part of the process involves parents and their kids understanding who they are and defining their values. The family joins together to come up with a series of statements to hang on the wall as a reminder of their identity and purpose.
Schaut offers a similar lesson plan called Family Core Values, which prompts families to decide where and how to spend their time and money, and to identify what they do and do not want. “It helps us make decisions or have conversations about who we are and how we want to treat others,” he says.
A mission statement hangs on the wall at the home of Ben Greenfield, the Washington-based author of Boundless Parenting: Tools, Tactics and Habits of Great Parents. “It’s a collection of the family values, what the family stands for and holds dear, and what the parents want to pass on to their children,” he explains.
These kinds of value statements help promote positive energy in the home. “If the language spoken at home is limiting and negative, those words become energy that create more of that. We need to use language that is about confidence, kindheartedness and teamwork,” says Smith.
According to Schaut, “There will not be an equal balance of time in all categories of life.” Fathers need to understand what matters most to them and then dedicate their time, money and energy in alignment with those priorities.
For Smith, his family comes first, and he makes sure that his business revolves around the home. “We always prioritize family, even if that comes at the price of career,” he says.
Greenfield stacks his priorities in this order: faith first, followed by his relationship with his spouse, family, health and business. His time is meticulously scheduled so that he can dedicate quality time to all of his priorities. He regularly involves his kids in his spiritual practice and exercise routines to set an example and instill positive habits.
Time dedicated to each child is a priority in strong families. Each of Greenfield’s kids has monthly one-on-one dates with Mom and with Dad, two-on-one quality time every Sunday and daily check-ins every morning and during family dinners. “We’ve noticed that our kids will open up and talk to us during a one-on-one,” Smith asserts.
Discipline With Love
Smith suggests reimagining the way dads approach discipline. “If you tell your kid, ‘What you did was bad,’ it’s hard for them to hear what you say next, because you are attacking them. If we talk about working or not working, you can say, ‘That really doesn’t work and here’s why.’ Kids are then more open to hearing and learning,” he explains.
Discipline needs to be thoughtfully appropriate for each child and each situation. “You have to know and be in tune with your kid,” says Schaut. “When you discipline them, it must come from love and you responding as a dad to the situation, not reacting.”
But talking will never overcome modeling. “What they see you doing is more important than the advice you give them,” says Greenfield. “At the end of the day, kids just want to be seen and loved and heard.”
Julie Peterson writes on health, wellness and environmental topics. Reach out at JuliePeterson2222@gmail.com.
Photo courtesy of Chris Smith