Dads Hold Father Power
Each generation stands on the shoulders of the one before. As a dad, you have the power to shape and influence future generations through making steady investments in your child’s life, using your everyday interactions.
It is an invaluable legacy you can leave behind.
In his book, The Heart of a Father, Dr Ken Canfield, founder of National Center for Fathering, writes: “Father Power is about loving, knowing, and influencing our children to the good. In a real sense, that is what the heart of every father desires.”
Dr Canfield also describes the unique position that a man with children holds: he is simultaneously a son to his father and a father to his own children. Playing these two roles, he becomes a conduit through which family values are passed on from one generation to the next. He is also a contributor, adding something unique to his family tree because of his distinctive blend of beliefs, interests, occupation and experiences.
For example, a young boy who listens to his father talking about how he left China to find work in Singapore, grows up to tell his own children how determined and courageous their forefathers were. Subsequently, his stories will include those of his own childhood in the new towns of Singapore. And, instead of telling his story verbally, he might blog his stories, adding to their power to reach across generations.
Build an Invaluable Legacy
As a son of your father, take stock of your father’s legacy to you. Develop an awareness of all you have received from him and list down the values you have learnt and which now guide you through life. Thereafter, build on those core values, nurture them, expand on them, and pass them on to your children.
Here are three ways to do so:
1. Celebrate your child’s life. Every father has a dream for his child when he or she is born. And at the heart of that dream is for the child to grow well and live meaningfully, whether it is physically, emotionally, academically or materially.
Remember this dream and communicate it as your child grows. For example, tell him, “Do you know the meaning of your name? It’s: Wisdom.”
Name-giving practices differ across societies, but a dad’s best intentions for his child as expressed through the giving, are universal. In some Middle Eastern communities, an infant hears his name for the first time when the father whispers it into his or her ear. This act takes place in a joyous ceremony attended by family and friends.
2. Have meals together regularly. There is a reason why we call it “comfort food” –it is nurturance that transports us to a time when we were growing up, where we gathered round the dining table with the significant adults in our lives who reinforced our grounding in the world.
If you make time to eat with your children, you not only give them food; you give them a strong sense of home and identity. At the 2011 Dads for Life Conference, Singapore Hip Hop Artiste Sheikh Haikel suggested that there should always be food at home so that a child knows that he or she can return to a safe haven no matter what happens outside.
Consider also your cultural heritage and what you want to pass on to your children. There is no denying that part of it is found in simply sharing a meal. For that is where our living heritage is.
3. Mark anniversaries. There is a man who, on his marriage anniversary each year, brings his wife back to where they got married to take a photograph. When the couple had children, they were included in the photographs.
This is a brilliant way to celebrate; the children get a “sense of where it all began”. Of course it helps if the building where you said your vows has been part of your family life for generations, or if it even still stands. Nonetheless, what is more important is that you mark milestones as a family and reinforce the richness of relationships.
In his book, The Connected Father, Dr Carl Pickhardt says that all fathers give children two parental models, not one: how to be and how not to be.
Regardless of one’s own fathering background, all dads can make positive fathering choices to be appreciative, and not dissatisfied; encouraging, and not critical; interested, and not dismissive; accessible, and not too busy; to listen in disagreement, but not shut communication down; to remain safe and reasonable in conflict, and not become threateningly explosive.
All fathers can take heart in Dr Pickhardt’s encouragement that they are not destined to repeat past unhappiness and mistakes but rather, are designed to be dads with father power to positively impact the future generations in the family tree.
1. Canfield, Ken, R., (2006) The Heart of a Father: how you can become a dad of destiny, Northfield, Chicago, United States
2. Pickhardt, Carl, E., (2007) The Connect Father, Palgrave, Macmillan, New York, United States
About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.
First published on 01-02-2012