Here in Kansas City, many of us are still shocked at what happened last Saturday, when Jovan Belcher of the Chiefs carried out a murder and then suicide, leaving behind a baby without both biological parents. You’ve probably seen or heard the details.
Although I have worked some with the Chiefs through the years, I never met this young man. And I was not surprised to learn that, as he stated in a recent interview, he “didn’t really have a father figure.”
Very quickly, football fans looking to get rid of a coach and general manager for leading a losing team began to view those same men very differently. If they had lost some respect for their football decisions, they gained much more respect as men and father figures who responded admirably during a crisis.
This tragedy took over the headlines for a few days, and our heads are still spinning with questions. And I know there are similar things happening every day in cities around our nation. What can we do?
I won’t pretend that the solutions are simple. Is the issue here about drugs and alcohol? Or domestic violence? Yes … and yes … and more. And I must add, fathers and father figures can be part of the solution.
It’s clear that too many young people—teens and young adults—face big life decisions without solid answers to some huge questions:
- How do I handle conflicts and disagreements?
- How do I choose a boyfriend / girlfriend?
- What things are best for me, and where do I get the strength to choose those things over other options?
- What does it mean to be a man or woman of character?
- How should I manage money responsibly?
I hope you’re preparing your children to answer those questions and many others they will have. These kinds of issues will literally shape the course of their future.
I’ll get more specific about just one of those areas: I’ve seen a lot of myths in the culture about how a man is supposed to treat a woman. There are guys who think it’s okay to put a woman in her place every now and then, even if it means getting physical. Some guys feel justified in taking their anger out on their wives, like that’s just what you do. Some think going out of your way to make her happy might be seen as a weakness.
This is on my mind a lot when I’m with my married sons—Marcellus and the two other “sons” who married my daughters. I’m trying to school them up all the time, and I’m talking to my teenage son about it too.
Likewise, I encouraged my daughters to be very choosy about the young men they dated and eventually married. I challenged them to expect a lot from themselves, also. If they became well-grounded and had integrity, then they were on the right track and would be much more likely to make good decisions about their relationships.
Be purposeful about preparing your children for life. Coach them on these issues.
Then, recognize the young people around you who are also missing that in their lives. I think back to three brothers who were neighbors of ours, whose parents were divorced. Over a period of time, I became like a dad to them, where I was asking them pointed questions about what they were into and who they were hanging with. During some of the various challenges they went through, I was able to provide some life coaching about some of those “basics” that they didn’t get from their dad—“Do this; don’t do that; here’s how you handle this ….”
As a father or just as a man, you can make a difference for children around you. They need a lot more than the right information; they need someone they can trust who will give them guidance, be a positive model, and encourage them along the way.
Take action, dad. Help prepare your children for the challenges of life.
ACTION POINTS for Dads on the Journey
- Dad, adopt a healthy attitude toward crises. Be ready for difficult things to happen and remember that with your leadership, your family can often gain strength from the crisis that will far outweigh the harm that has been suffered.
- How does your family handle conflict? What can you do to handle it more effectively and be a better model for your children?
- Feel free to use my pop’s line with your kids: “It would break my heart if you guys ever used drugs.”
- Teach your son to value a young woman for her character and personality; and talk with your daughter about how to spot that kind of young man—and how to spot one who’s giving insincere flattery.
- Talk with your children’s mother. What skills, attitudes, or values do your children need to help them prepare for life? Choose at least one and talk about ways you can teach or demonstrate it to them.
We want to hear from you. What life skills or truths are you teaching your children that will make the most difference with regard to their future? Please leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.
Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers who to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who loves, coaches, mentors, and inspires my children.