I grew up with the understanding that a father had to be very firm, be in charge, and his children had to dive for cover whenever he arrived. I observed, while growing up, that fathers yelled at their children to get things done when it seemed delayed or considered not being taken seriously. I also saw that children, who discussed freely without any perceived sense of reverence, were seen as being disrespectful. And one had to show from his/her posture or poise that he had a high regard for his/her parents, especially the father. I held on to this notion of the father-child relationship for over two decades until I met the love of my life.
I began to change my orientation of the father-child relationship when I began to visit her (my fiancée) at home especially when I saw how they related with their own father. On one of those visits, I witnessed her youngest sibling sitting on their father’s lap and debating a point with him. At first, I thought to myself, “this is rude, totally uncalled for”, not in my wildest dream would I or any of my siblings would have dared to “try” that with my father, we were just not brought up that way. This was a paradigm shift for me, and somehow, I felt this was a parent-child relationship at its best. My further visits to her house revealed the love and the bond in her family. All these and many more endeared me to her family, and before long, I proposed. It’s thirteen years now.
My upbringing would have formed the way with which I relate with my own children, if I had not made deliberate efforts to unlearn certain things and relearned sound parenting principles. I realised that what took over three decades to be entrenched in my life would not easily be taken off, even with deliberate efforts. The guarantee however, was that I would never be who I used to be, and it was only a matter of time before I became the person I was meant to be. History has a funny way of pressing the repeat button in our lives throughout generations with cycles being repeated, and the trend continues. It, therefore, becomes essential to look critically at the parenting trend in your family and ask; “is my understanding of my role in my children’s life influenced by my upbringing or is this the way it ought to be?”
I have a favourite quote that I used in guiding my decisions as it relates to my family
“Fathers, don’t be outwardly focused to the detriment of your family. Do not allow someone else raise your family for you while you are still alive.”
Spending time with your family doesn’t imply spending all your time with them, the emphasis is – balance. We must realise that if it is not done, we might be laying a foundation for future regrets and pain. Am I saying this will be easy? Absolutely not! It is a huge responsibility that requires lots of sacrifices. The relevance of a man goes beyond sexual relationship and having children, it requires a good understanding of the purpose of marriage in the first instance and the role of a father. The purpose of marriage stems from the intention of God when he instituted it. Therefore, it takes God’s guiding principles to make it succeed. Secondly, parents are only stewards and not owners, and the person with an ownership mind-set has the tendencies to take some decisions without reckoning with God’s position on the subject.
The roles of a father include providing spiritual covering and mentoring for his children. He is the one that should teach them about values and guide their decisions right from their formative years into adulthood. This protects the children from negative external influences from their environments. He should understand their uniqueness, and help them maximize it. It is about the future of the children and not that of the father. Providing sound leadership will help them make vital decisions concerning their lives and the future; and this is the most critical part of fatherhood. Fatherhood should go beyond a ‘daddy figure’ to becoming a Role Model to the children.
Someone once said that one of the best gifts you could give your children is to love your wife, their mother. What they see you do with your wife is registered in their heart as the right thing, whether good or bad. Remember, “things are more caught than taught” when it comes to children, meaning that they do what they see, not what they are told. When loving and respecting their mother is entrenched in them, loving and respecting their own spouses is a given. Seeing it from this perspective changes your configuration and makes you see to it that work doesn’t take you away from your role in the lives of your children.
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