In this new year, I’m thinking about the best piece of advice I can give you—the one best thing I can tell you to do that will have a huge positive impact on your fathering.
I guess that “one thing” would be debatable. But for me, given what I’ve seen and heard from fathers, it would be this: Meet with other dads for support.
One clear message we get from some recent research is that the men gaining the most ground in their families are the dads in groups, gathering for mutual support, wisdom and encouragement.
From this new data (N=1456), when fathers meet with other dads regularly in a small-group setting, the participants have significantly higher scores in these other areas of their lives:
1) They are more mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually healthy.
2) They are more tuned in to their child’s spiritual growth.
3) They regularly express a deep appreciation for their child’s mother and are more likely to help or encourage one of their children’s friends.
Based on my experience, I would add more benefits of small groups that our research was not designed to assess:
- New ideas and perspectives on the problems or issues you face.
- Practicality, to help you think through many different factors in a decision you’re facing.
- Honesty. Other guys who know you well will force you to face the facts about your own family situation, and ways you may need to grow. And hearing the truth from another male friend will likely stick with you longer.
- A safe place to disclose personal issues and vent emotions. This isneeded, but missing in many men’s lives.
- Accountability. You might know how to be a good dad, but if you’re like many dads, you may need more accountability in how you’re living it out with your family. If you know you’ll be held accountable for your behavior, you’re likely to make better, wiser choices.
For all these reasons, I believe a supportive small group is one of the best assets any dad can have.
I can remember what happened in huddles when I played football: We gathered together, cheered our successes, spoke words of encouragement to each other, and strategized about how to succeed the next time. Then, we went and executed the plan and came back to the huddle … again and again and again. And throughout the game and the course of the season, we usually got better.
It’s very similar with small groups. It’s critical to our success that we meet with other men on a regular basis and openly discuss the issues we’re facing as fathers. None of us are perfect; we’re all learning and growing, and we can all use help. And when it comes to how we gain wisdom and insights and the support we need to keep going against whatever battles we face, those other dads on our team are valuable assets.
Dad, don’t be a Lone Ranger father.
If you aren’t in a small group, the great thing is, your prospective “teammates” are all around you: on your block, in your children’s school, in your church, and at work. They’re walking treasures of experiences and practical tips. Some of them have had kids who are hard to handle or gone through serious challenges. Some have kids who have made mostly good decisions and always made their dads proud. In both cases, sharing firsthand experiences makes you a stronger father.
ACTION POINTS for Dads on the Journey
- Reexamine your schedule, your goals and your priorities. Do one of the most important things you can do as a father: Join or start a small group of dads. Today!
- If you’ve found something especially useful in your fathering journey—a resource, a skill, or a truth—pass it along to another dad. Then follow up with genuine interest to see how he’s doing with his kids.
- If you’re hesitant to talk about a fathering issue with another dad, use the indirect approach: Ask another dad for help on a project at home, and talk while you work.
- Are you making other resolutions for the new year? Share those with your family members and with other dads you know. Ask them to hold you accountable.
We want to hear from you. Are you in a small group of dads? What other benefits have you experienced? Please leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.
During the month of January, we’re offering a special price on our most recent book, The 21-Day Dad’s Challenge. It would be a great “challenge” to take in your fathering this year, and it’s perfect for men’s groups—especially in churches—with specific action points and follow-up activities for you and the other guys in your group. (There’s also find a free discussion guide you can download.) Now only $9.99 for orders in quantities of 3 or more. Click here to find out more and place your order.
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.