In my years of teaching, coaching basketball, and being involved in the lives of teens I learned one thing that dwarfs everything else I learned. Boys and young men need dads. Most importantly, they need to know that their dad is “there.”
Being “there” doesn’t mean you have to be at every game, every practice, every up and down, every event. However, being “there” means that they can depend on you. That they know you care. That you love spending time with them. That, when the time comes, you are willing to drop everything just to see or be with them.
First, some staggering and sobering statistics. Most of these statistics pertain to single-parent households where the dad is not present in the child’s life.
The statistics are staggering but perhaps not all that surprising. As teachers, we have all learned from day one that students thrive under structure and discipline. While not impossible to achieve under a single-parent household, it does become increasingly more challenging.
Over the years, when I would bring this issue up with struggling fathers, I would inevitably hear the same excuse, “I just don’t have the time.” Remember, being “there” doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be there for every little aspect of your child’s life. In fact, it is healthy to be absent at times and let them grow into independent, young men.
I have read countless books over the years on this topic. I have been blessed with teaching a large percentage of boys over the years who are missing a father-figure in their life, or worse yet, their father is there but not really “there.” Two of the best books on this subject are Bringing Up Boys by Dobson and the Five Love Languages for Teenagers.
So what are some easy, simple ways to be “there” for the child in your life? A lot depends on the age, but allow me to give you a small sampling.
Have a piece of your child’s artwork on your desk at work.
Leave him a sticky note on his pillow or bathroom mirror before you leave in the morning giving him an encouragement for the day.
Most importantly, remember the title of this post, kids don’t want superdad. They just want dad. Be “there.”