A Father’s Unity of Life – Part 2

Posted: June 28, 2013 in Fatherhood
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Here is Part 2 of  James Stenson’s article.

Leadership at home

Having looked at leadership on the job, let’s turn to see how these same traits apply to a man’s role of leadership at home with his family. Here’s what we see…

  • He puts his wife first. In his priorities, her happiness and welfare are uppermost in importance, and his children know this. They know it because he leads them by his own example to love, honor, and obey their mother. If they ever fail to do this, they answer to him for it. (This is more than half the “secret” to effective fatherhood: striving to live as a devoted, supportive husband.)
  • He has a constant spirit of team collaboration with his wife. She is his partner in a collective team enterprise. Together they endeavor as much as possible to present a united front to the children. They check with each other about decisions, large and small, that affect the children’s welfare. They draw on each other’s strengths and, in different but complementary ways, they support each other.
  • He works with his wife to set and maintain a long-term vision (20 years ahead) about the children’s growth in character, no matter what they later do for a living. Both spouses think of their children as grown-up men and women, adults with virtue: conscience, competence, responsibility, self-mastery. This distant but clear ideal forms the basis for teaching, practice, and correction now.
  • He corrects his children’s faults, not them personally. He “hates the sin, loves the sinner.” He combines correction and punishment with affectionate forgiveness, understanding, and encouragement. He is neither weak nor harsh but rather affectionately assertive. He loves his children too much to let them grow up with their faults uncorrected.
  • When he must correct anyone in the family, he does this personally and privately whenever possible. He does not chew people out in public.
  • He’s not afraid of being temporarily “unpopular” with his children. Their long-term happiness is more important to him than their present bruised feelings from correction. He’s confident that their present resentment will soon pass, and that someday they will understand and thank him for his principled corrective efforts.
  • He encourages his children, showing and explaining how to do things right, and how to do the right thing. He directs rather than manages, and makes praise as specific as blame.
  • He’s conscious of his authority, which is as weighty as his responsibility. He does not permit electronic entertainment to undermine that authority or undo his lessons of right and wrong. He keeps the media under discriminating control, allowing only what serves to bring the family together.
  • He goes out of his way to listen to his children, and he pays close attention to their growth in character. He monitors and guides their performance in sports, chores, homework, good manners, and relations with siblings and friends. He knows what goes on in his home and inside the growing minds of his children.
  • He respects his children’s freedom and rights. He teaches them how to use their freedoms responsibly, and he exercises only as much control as they need. He sets limits to his children’s behavior, draws lines between right and wrong. Within those limits, the children may do what they think best; beyond the lines, they begin to infringe on the rights of others — and this he will not permit.
  • He wants his children to be active, and he knows that all active people make mistakes. He leads his children to learn from their blunders. He teaches them that life involves intelligent risk-taking, including the risk of error, and that there’s nothing wrong with mistakes if we learn from them.
  • He sets aside his fatigue, anxiety, and temptations to slack off — putting his fatherly duties ahead of self-interested pursuits. He sets aside the newspaper to help with homework. He goes without t.v. to set a good example. He lets his kids work with him around the house even when they mostly get in the way. Like a good boss, he’s always available to help and advise; consequently, his children sense he would drop anything if they really need him. He’s willing to put off a life of leisure until his children have grown and gone; now, while they’re still at home, their needs come first.
  • He shares conversation with his children until he and they know each other inside out.
  • Without being a bore about it, he uses certain terms from time to time in family life: integrity, personal honor, honesty, personal best effort, family honor.
  • He gives his children a sense of family history and continuity. He tells stories about grandparents and forebears — people of quiet courage and heroism.
  • He lets the children know his opinions and convictions about current events and their likely future drift, the future world his children will live in. He explains, as best he can, the past causes and future implications of present-day affairs.
  • He is open to his children’s suggestions, their “input” about family decisions. When matters are unimportant, he accedes to their preferences. But larger, more important matters are decided by the parents. He’ll let his children decide what dessert to have or what game to play, but he and his wife will decide which school the children attend and what t.v. programming is allowed in the house.
  • He takes his wife’s judgment seriously, especially in matters pertaining to the children. He sets aside his ego and acknowledges an evident fact of life — most of the time, she’s right. At the very least, she’s probably on to something. This includes his performance as a father. He does not let pride blind him to truth.
  • When he has caused offense, he apologizes. He puts justice ahead of his ego.
  • Habitually he punctuates his speech, especially toward his wife, with please, thank you, and excuse me.
  • He draws strength from his religious faith and love for his family.
  • He knows that time passes quickly and he hasn’t much of it. So he makes smart use of scant resources. He makes the time, even small slivers of it here and there, to live with his children.
  • His life as husband and father is, to him, one of noble, self-sacrificing adventure. As long as his children are in his care, he will not quit or slacken in his efforts to form their character. He will protect and provide for his family no matter what the cost, for they are the meaning of his life, the object of his manly powers, the center of his heart.

Children with a father like this, wholly supported by a great wife, have a fighting chance of becoming great men and women. They grow to honor Dad and Mom, live by lessons learned since childhood, and pass these on to their own children whole and intact.



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