Rev. Dr. Ernest Adu-Gyamfi writes: Becoming an effective father (feature article in Glitz Africa Magazine)
Fatherhood can simply be defined as the state of being a father but it’s also a state of being a mentor to other people. Mentorship basically means showing others not only how to be a man but how to be a real father. The key things to look for in a father include:
- The love that a man shows to his wife and the children;
- The ability to provide;
- The ability to be a role model;
- Caring for the children in the area of discipline.
It’s not only a matter of talking about it but how you model it for them to see. Of late, most people look at it more from the angle of what you say than what you do. To be a real father depends on how you exhibit the qualities expected of you to your children and the people around you to see what it means to be a true role model. If it is just a matter of bringing forth children, any man can do that. Bringing up children that you can properly take care of, being available to spend time with them, being responsible in taking care of their education, feeding, clothing and healthcare needs are the real and basic qualities expected of a man who calls himself a father.
How to be an effective father in this era
- People learn more from what they see than what they hear. A lot of young men learn how to be fathers from watching their own fathers. They observe the way of life of their parents and practise it; that is why it is important for us to model the best so that they can imitate that.
- It is important to read. There are many useful resource materials on the effective ways of handling the enterprise of fatherhood.
- One must have the ability to be taught. There are lots of principles in Scripture that one can learn from.
- By practice. There are certain things you do that after you think through them, you realise they are not helpful. You have to ask yourself what you can do to adjust and improve upon to become better and this comes by practice. It is important to know what works and what doesn’t.
It is important to note that fatherhood is a lifelong learning process. Most people don’t see it that way. With time, you notice that, the way you raised your first child may not be the same way you have to raise your second child because they may be different. As a father, you should find out what works and what doesn’t. Even as they grow, your methods should change.
When they are kids, you may treat them in a way you deem fit but when they reach their teenage years, the style would have to change. If you don’t, there might be some clashes. This is why it’s important to learn. You can learn from other people’s experiences and consider what you can do to put the best of them into practice. By doing these things, it gets easier knowing that you don’t have to stick to one approach when there are other alternatives.
For some children, when you spank them, it straightens them instantly; for others, it means more trouble. Along the line, you would have to sit and reason with them instead of using threats and spanking.
The changing times as well as the personality trait of the child affect the parenting style. For instance, you have an introverted child and you keep insisting that you go out together. You will find yourself always clashing with the child because his personality doesn’t fit with yours. You will have to understand that though you can step out with him sometimes, you would have to leave him to withdraw just so to regain some of his personal energy and be himself again. On the other hand, when you have an extroverted child who wants to go out and play every day and you keep confining him indoors, it would only create problems. Thus, one has to study the child and consider the best way of handling him/her.
Challenges that hinder some fathers from being effective and how to curb them
- Some people are stuck to their old ways; with the notion that, ‘This is what my father did so I’ll do the same thing.’ What we used to do in the ‘50s and ‘60s will not apply today. When I was young, the first thing I did after making my bed and brushing my teeth was to sweep the house. Of late, that doesn’t work; the sweeping is someone else’s business. The key thing isn’t about sweeping but it’s teaching the child to be hardworking and how to manage a home so we have to find another approach to achieve that aim instead of getting stuck to the old ways.
- People are working longer hours now than they used to before. Thus, parents don’t have enough time to spend with their children. That’s a challenge because as a parent, you have to be a role model but you’re not there. You may be providing the necessities as a caregiver and provider but not be doing other things that are expected of you.
Now we have parents when driving their kids to school, want to listen to the news on radio and so tell their kids to be quiet. This way, although you are with the children, you’re not actually communicating with them or exhibiting the leadership qualities expected of you. It’s all part of the dynamics of the current situation. It is important to make time to be a father. If you’re the type who works from Monday to Friday, how do you plan your weekends to spend time with family? These things require a very conscious effort.
When my children were growing up during my time at the pastorate, I set aside Thursday evenings for family time. I left the office earlier than usual so we can all have dinner together and talk. During weekends when I’m home, we all eat together and talk. These are conscious things that one can do.
- There’s competition with modern technology. You may have provided every gadget you can think of for the children. You may be tempted to think that because they are confined at home with something to occupy their time, they are safe. However, in reality, you’re not talking to them. If you really want to be their role model, you need to be part of their lives and find out how they are faring and what they are having challenges with. If you don’t engage with them, you won’t know these things. Sometimes, we have to break through modern technology to connect with our children. The reality is, social media is teaching young people all sorts of things. If one doesn’t make time to be with them, mentor and lead them, social media will teach them. Peer pressure is still a significant and competing force out there. If you don’t make a conscious effort, before you realise, you’ve lost them. They may live with you but they may have strayed away.
We have family devotions in my home with the aim of bringing everyone together. On the 1st of January every year, we used to sit together and each person was supposed to say two things about everybody that they liked and disliked about them. Creating such a forum made way for everyone to talk freely without fearing that one would be offended by what the other said. These are minor things that can be done to shape the lives of our children. We should always be conscious of the fact that there are external influences competing for our wards’ attention and therefore we should think of ways of countering those forces. The best ways will be to make time and talk to them. It might seem minor but it’s a major breakthrough for siblings to sit together and point out each other’s flaws and for everyone to take it in good faith and work on themselves.
Advice for aspiring fathers
- Look out for the positives in the lives of those you interact with and adapt them.An activity like family time is rare for a lot of families. For most people, their issue is, “My children have grown and move out. Why should they come back?” This is something my family has done over the years and they have all seen its significance in their lives. When I tell our friends that my family meets monthly for communion, prayer and Bible study, they are surprised. Even my colleague pastors react the same way because they think it’s done at church services so why share communion again at home?
- No family is perfect. In spite of the good things you may see in others, we all have our weaknesses. As much as we see the good sides of people, let’s look out for their flaws as well and adjust accordingly. Gradually, you should be able to perfect your shortcomings.
- People should read good material. We have a lot of resources floating in the system now. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up copying habits which you might find unhelpful later.
- Churches should include family life into their programmes. It is important as family life discussions will help throw more light on issues that people are experiencing. Couples’ fellowship is also another initiative that churches can adopt for couples who may be struggling in their marriages to receive some counsel. A lot of men believe that to be seen as macho, they are not supposed to show their weaknesses. When they attend these programmes, they will get to learn what to do and not to do in order to raise good families.
By: Rev. Dr. Ernest Adu-Gyamfi
Executive President, Ghana Baptist Convention
Source: Glitz Africa Magazine Issue 21