Parenting Solutions; Being a Father Who Makes a Difference

An effective, involved father provides an important foundation for his children and their ongoing security, stability, and development.

Illustration by Joel SnyderRecently, Tom Bloch stunned the corporate world when he resigned as chief executive officer of H&R Block, the $1.7 billion tax-preparation and financial services firm, to become a teacher at St. Francis Xavier School in Kansas City, Mo. His annual salary suddenly dropped to $15,000 a year, about three percent of his former pay. The reason for that dramatic career change: Bloch knew his hectic schedule as CEO had been interfering with his top priority: his wife and their two sons.

“The hardest part was telling my father,” Bloch says of H&R Block cofounder Henry Bloch. “But I didn’t want to look back on my life and say, ‘You had an opportunity to play a bigger role in your children’s lives and didn’t take it.’”

Like all good fathers, Tom Bloch knows that being an effective parent means making children a top priority in one’s life. And he is willing to make the necessary changes and adjustments in order to be a father who makes a difference. Following are some other ways to be that kind of effective parent.

Fathers who make a difference know their role is unique and vital. A father’s presence in the family will determine a child’s success and happiness. An active father provides an important foundation for his children and their ongoing security, stability, and development.

Rich or poor, black or white, the children of divorce and those born outside marriage often struggle through life at a measurable and miserable disadvantage, say an increasing number of social thinkers.

“Fatherlessness is the most destructive trend of our generation,” declares David Blankenhorn, author of Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem.

Today, 38 percent of all children live without their biological fathers, up from just 17.5 percent in 1960. More than half of today’s children will spend part of childhood without a father.

The physical absence of fathers is increasingly linked to most social nightmares such as boys with guns and girls with babies. Forty-six percent of families with children headed by single mothers live below the poverty line, compared with 8 percent of those with two parents.

Indeed, fathers are unique and vital.

They are committed to parenting.

Fathers committed to parenting place children and their well-being above any personal interests, professional considerations, and careers. Their children are their No. 1 priority and their commitment to them is nonnegotiable.

They love their wives. Fathers who treat their wives with kindness, tenderness, respect, honor, and love create a more secure, more comfortable, and more emotionally strengthening environment for their children than do fathers who are distant and detached from their wives.

“When I get married, I can only hope that I will have found someone who loves me as much as Dad loves Mom,” said Rebecca Lobo, a former College Player of the Year and professional basketball player with the Women’s National Basketball Association’s team New York Liberty in an article inReader’s Digest by Jonathan D. Deckerd

“Because there was always so much love in the family, I grew up with an incredible security blanket…the most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother. My dad is a perfect example of that.”

They are supportive. Fathers who make a difference respond supportively when they see a child in need. They don’t point a finger; rather, they hold out a helping hand.

A powerful example of this occurred at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. After four years of grueling training, British runner Derek Redmond was almost halfway through the 400-meter run when he tore his hamstring and collapsed in agony. Despite the intense pain, Redmond was determined to continue.

Suddenly a man appeared next to the injured runner. Redmond’s father had been watching in disbelief from the grandstand and knew how important it was to his son to finish the race. “Derek, it’s me,” he said. “If you’re going to finish this race, we’ll finish it together.”

The father then provided a much-needed shoulder as his son hobbled in agony toward the finish line, producing one of the most glorious finishes in Olympic history.

They are encouragers. Effective fathers know that children blossom when they receive encouragement and praise, much like flowers which receive sun and water. Shirley Gould, a psychotherapist and author of How To Raise An Independent Child, wisely notes: “Children respond best to those acts and words that they perceive as encouraging, and worst to punishment and degrading comments, which inflict discouragement. Encouragement enables. Discouragement disables.”

They model and instill values. Children need clear and unambiguous role models. Indeed, their first and most important teachers are their parents.

Good fathers model the virtues (for example, honesty, integrity, compassion, kindness, loyalty, perseverance) they hope to instill in their children. They make certain that their deeds match their creeds and that their acts are consistent with their words.

They stay involved even when there is a divorce. Mature men and wise fathers know that a divorce signals the end of a marriage but not the end of their family. Consequently, they remain active and involved in every facet of their children’s lives.

Consider this glowing tribute written by an ex-wife on Father’s Day: “My children’s father has always been a strong, positive influence in their lives. He coached our son’s Little League team and bought season tickets to the symphony for our daughter when she was learning to play the violin.

“The kids have spent at least two nights a week with their dad ever since we parted … he was always available to help take care of them when they were sick or had doctor’s appointments. We all turned out to be winners, because my ex-husband met me more than halfway.”

The message: Effective, involved fathers—those who work at being the best possible parent—leave positive imprints on their children for the rest of their lives.


Five Tips for Fathers Who Parent From a Distance

Even though a father doesn’t have custody of his children, he can still have a close, supportive, and loving relationship with them. Here are five ways fathers can stay involved:

    1. Make a covenant with your children that you will communicate every day. Computers make this easy, as fathers can send e-mail daily. Or try to arrange a daily time when you can phone.
    2. Keep up with your child’s interests. If you are in close geographical range, attend their sports events, recitals, and other after-school activities. Try to remember the names of your children’s good friends as well as their favorite video games, TV programs, food, toys.
    3. Always pay your child-support. Be prompt and on time with child-support payments. This will keep your child’ life running smoothly and will prevent a major source of friction with your ex-spouse.
    4. Keep your promises. Never commit and then back out at the last moment. This is inexcusable and fractures the bond of trust with a child. Only make promises you can keep.
    5. Gladly accept routine child-care responsibilities. Offer to take your children to medical and dental checkups; help with back-to-school shopping; provide homework assistance.

—V.M.P.

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