When I was a boy growing up in Baltimore City, I often wondered what it would be like to be a father. I always felt somehow, that I would be a good father, but I wasn’t sure how I would get there. For most of my childhood, I grew up in a single-family home with my mother. Our life during my childhood was good, but we often struggled as my mom worked really hard to make ends meet. I watched my mother work full-time while putting herself through college and taking care of me. As she continued to excel in her career, our quality of life became better. I truly admired her for that, but I was still missing something.
My father was around while I was growing up, but not on a daily basis. In fact, there were some long spans of time when I didn’t see my dad. When I had the opportunity to spend time with him, he taught me things, but they were usually most useful to me on the streets. I mean, he taught me how to be tough and defend myself. Those kinds of things were very helpful to me, but I also needed to be around some other positive males that could collectively teach me what being a man, and ultimately a great father, was really all about. I needed and wanted to learn how to do that.
As I grew into adulthood, I learned that it takes more than just reaching a certain age, or having the ability to reproduce that makes someone a good father. When I became a father, I realized that I was automatically inducted into an elite fraternity of brothers that easily surpasses any other fraternity that anyone could be a part of in terms of the level of importance. I came to understand that God charged me with the obligation of being a teacher to my children.
Over the years, I have made plenty mistakes while dealing with my children. Everything has not always gone the way I wanted, as nothing rarely ever does. I have learned that it takes a combination of several attributes that has helped me to become a better father. There are several characteristics that every father must incorporate within himself that can help him to be the best possible father that he can be. I have compiled a list of some of those characteristics.
1. Every father should be a role model for his children. So many young people tend to look up to celebrities to pattern themselves after. Some of those celebrities accept that role and handle it pretty well. On the other hand, I can’t count how many times athletes have rejected the responsibility of being a role model to kids. They don’t want that responsibility. There are others who seem to want the role, but are not fit to lead a five-year old to a kindergarten classroom. Above any other group, it is the father’s job to live the kind of life that any child would desire to emulate.
2. Every father should be a teacher. A father should instruct his children on all matters of life. That is not to say that a father should know everything. No one knows everything. The point is that the father should be involved in every aspect of his children’s lives. He should be there to provide advice and guidance to assist his children as they develop and progress through life. Fathers should certainly be able to share the lessons that he has learned during his lifetime with his children that may have profound effects on them as well. In my opinion, besides a school teacher, no other person should pour into a child more than their father.
3. Every father should be a disciplinarian as all children need discipline in their life. Fathers should be the catalysts of discipline for their children so that the judicial system does not have to become that catalyst. Being a disciplinarian is about teaching children to obey laws and to follow rules that are enforced by consequences. Developing a reverence for leadership should start with the father. If done correctly, children will most often grow into law-abiding citizens with a healthy amount of respect for authority in all areas of their lives.
4. Fathers are supposed to be the primary provider for their children. Financial situations are different for everyone, but the effort to provide should not solely be financial in nature, although it is very important. It is still just one aspect of providing. Other aspects of providing for children may include, but are not limited to friendship, love, security, emotional support, guidance, and life skills. This list of things could go on forever, but the point is that being an active father can have a positive and powerful influence on the development of our children.
5. Fathers can be empathizers for their children. We are a fountain of knowledge and information for our children. The experiences that we have gone through can help us to pass along wisdom that will be invaluable to them. We are the ones that can relate to our children the most. While there may be some variances to the situations that young people face today, we can still have some level of understanding and even compassion for what they go through. Sometimes our children may not even need us to fix all their problems. Just being there to listen to them could do wonders for their esteem and give them a sense of support.
Being a father is not easy for many reasons. There are so many things to deal with when it comes to raising children. It’s even more difficult when the father and mother are not in the same household. However, being a father is a great privilege that should not be taken lightly. Any man who is lucky enough to have children, is automatically inducted into the fraternity of fatherhood and should purpose in himself to live by the code of the fraternity. It is our responsibility to raise our children. If we relegate that responsibility to others, we are delinquent in our obligation to God, negligent to our communities, and ultimately accountable for the outcome of any of our children who become wayward.
Fathers, let’s work really hard together to make a positive change in the lives of our children. We have to step up our game. There are so many of our children who are going down the wrong path, but we can turn that around by increasing the level of activity that we have in the lives of these children. Whether a man is or is not a biological father, he can be a member of the fraternity of fatherhood by being a mentor to a young person in need. Understanding that fatherhood is difficult, we can also seek advice from each other when we encounter unfamiliar territory. We don’t have to try to do everything on our own. We are a band of brothers. We are the fraternity of fatherhood!
L. Wayne Smalls, Author of Called To Be A Soldier and President of L. Wayne Smalls & Associates, LLC. is a retired Army Officer who is now a motivational speaker and writer. See more at http://www.lwaynesmalls.org.