Every once in a while, I hear a question that both inspires me and frightens me at the same time. I feel a sense of deep truth in the question, but often hide from my answer because I know it’s not the answer I would want it to be.
Here are 3 of these questions that all fathers should answer honestly. Just a warning though: if you’re not ready to own some of your failings as a father, this isn’t for you…
Question #1 is a 2-part question. They say “A father is a son's first hero and a daughters first love...” Cliché? Overused? It doesn’t matter. Here's a spoiler alert: If you care more about whether something is cliché than whether it has deep meaning for you, you've already lost the game.
For dads with sons: if you are your son's first hero, are you acting like his hero should?
Notice I didn't say, you are supposed to be his hero. You ARE his hero, whether you're acting like one or not. He WILL seek to emulate you, whether he should or not. Every boy starts off wanting to be like his dad.
For dads with daughters: Are you modeling a man worthy of your daughters love?
You are modeling what she'll seek, whether it's good or not. You can't opt out of this. A father can opt out of being present by disappearing, but his daughter will still use that model for the type of man she seeks. You are the entire blueprint for the type of man she will seek. What kind of blueprints are you giving her? Are they the ones you want her to build her life off?
Question #2: What would you do if you heard someone else talking to your kids the way you sometimes do?
Have you ever stopped to listen to the way you speak to your kids? If someone was recording you in daily interactions with your kids and played it back for you, would you be proud of it or disgusted?
I thought this through one day, and had a disturbing realization: that if I heard another grown man speaking to my kids the way that I sometimes did, I would knock him out. No questions asked. It would be totally unacceptable to me for anyone to speak to my kids like that. Why was it ok for me?
Nothing gives you the right to treat your kid like a piece of crap. You're here to build them up not tear them down. If you need to teach them a lesson or enforce a consequence, it’s on you to do it without dumping on them.
I am certainly not perfect. I still I slip into this (more often than I'd like to admit). But the question remains: How would you react if you heard someone else talking to your kids the way you sometimes do?
Question #3: Are you the Hero of your family’s story, or the villain?
Think of your family's life right now as a movie…. Imagine someone is watching it up on a screen in a movie theater. They don't know the plot or the characters, they just stumbled into the theater and sat down. In their outsider eyes, are you the Hero of your family's story or the Villain? Maybe you're somewhere in between?
I know you want to be the Hero.. I know you're trying to be the Hero. That's why you're here. But what does an impartial outsider see?
This is a tough one to ask... Full transparency: I was a complete villain in my family's story for a long time. If it was a movie, no one would have been rooting for me. So if you feel that way, you're not alone. There IS a way out. Unfortunately, to find the way out, we need to be honest about where we are. It's like how a GPS can only get you where you're going if it has 2 locations: where you want to be and where you currently are. Without knowing where you currently are, you can't get to where you want to be, so be honest with yourself when you answer these questions.
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