Dads and Mentors, Part VI: A Word for Real Men
A final word to dads...
Prisons are full of men who did not feel affirmed by their fathers.
Houses of prostitution are filled with men and women who had the same problem.
Porn sites are easily accessible to our teenage sons and daughters who are curious about sexuality.
Dads—for their sake, be MORE accessible. Approachable. Willing to answer and talk. Fight FOR your kids!
You know what you were hungry for, where you went seeking fulfillment and why you “went there” in the past. Maybe you can save your son from choking down some of the rotten food you ate.
An ancient quote goes like this: “What man is there among you, who, when his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?”
Our sons and daughters are crying out for bread, the kind only a father can give.
If your Dad gave you a stone, maybe it was because he, too, was hungry but no one handed him a loaf. Ever.
Feel for him. Grieve with him. And resolve to give your children real food.
Talk to your sons when they are young and adorable. When they are tweens and sometimes annoy you. When they are teens with a rebellious streak. When they are young adults and seeking their place in the world.
Build them up in their masculinity. Notice their strength and make a big deal of times when they use it for a good purpose. Wrestle. Encourage (and require) your sons to come alongside you in physical labor. Show them how a man becomes physically strong.
Help them see that men are also tender and vulnerable and that it’s o.k. to show love and affection.
Lead by example in how you treat women so that your sons will automatically open doors for women and help little old ladies fill their soda cups at a restaurant (I’ve seen my son do these things without prompting, and I’ve seen how the women around him respond. We girls, no matter how old or young, love being honored.)
More than mere acts of kindness, foster a genuine sense of value about who women are: that they are equals in every sense, yet meant to be honored, protected and treasured. Show your son that the women in your life are your intellectual counterpart--that though they may think differently from men, their ideas, perspectives and opinions, and ways of doing things are equally valid.
Say: “I’m glad you are my son. I’m proud of you for ______. I know you can ______. You are growing to be such a fine young man. I love you.”
Talk to your daughters. Cuddle and affirm them. When they are little, it’s easy, but do it when they are older, too (even when our daughters get breasts and look so womanly that it scares you, she’s still your little girl—no need to feel intimidated!) See beauty in the “awkward stages” and help your daughter to see it too. Compliment her on her new outfit, but also on the features of her you adore: her eyes, her smile, her spirit.
Dads-- foster creativity in your daughters (who, like Eve, are designed to bring forth life, to be creative!) Prod them to ask questions and to never lose the sense of curiosity and wonder that many pre-teen girls lose as they move further into womanhood. Be silly with them. Encourage them to be strong, both physically and mentally and to live a healthy lifestyle. Affirm them with your words.
Say: “You are beautiful—so captivating! You are so good at _______ and I know you will _______. You are an amazing young woman. I love you.”
Speak words of blessing on a daily basis.
If it doesn’t feel natural because your father didn’t encourage you, do it anyway. It will become more natural as you practice. Spend time with your kids. Help them discover their unique gifts and talents (not the ones you want for them, but what they have a bent for!)
When you feel as if it’s too hard and you want to retreat, press in. Speak firm and loving words. It’s more important than ever.
Likewise, a real Dad is a Dad who’s real.
A real mentor is a mentor who's real.
While you're going about the business of loving your own kids, look around. Your kids' friends need positive role models too.
You can build good things into these kids' lives without taking a single thing away from your own children. In fact, their lives may be richer from your example of sharing and your encouragement to their friends (the kind of encouragement they feel from you.)
You may also find yourself mentoring the parents of your child's friends. A good mentor leads a kid toward his parents, not away from them, even if in extreme cases that "movement" must be toward forgiveness and/or reconciliation that includes boundaries.
Oh, and Dad? Don’t try to walk this path alone. You have friends who are just as worried about this fatherhood thing as you are. Share your concern. Get real. They need your support and you need theirs. Develop a community of Dads who are there for each other.
Dads aren't perfect...that's what our heavenly Father is for (have I convinced you yet that you do have one?)
With a band of brothers by your side, you can work through your father wound and stop the generational cycle of emotional abandonment, if that is something that happened to you.
Our sons and daughters deserve the very best you can give them. And that is the very best you.
Your son is likely to turn out like you. Your daughter is searching for someone just like her dad.
Whether they understand that or not, it happens. Whether you acknowledge it or not, they are watching—and waiting for your love.
Note: I am indebted to the teachings of John and Stasi Eldredge, Kevin Leman and most of all, my beloved mentor Gordon Dalbey. Reading the work of these individuals (over a period of 15+ years) formed a solid base/appreciation of what REAL MEN have to offer this world (especially their children) and prepared me to write this series on "Dads and Mentors". I encourage you to read their books!