Family – The School Where Dads are Formed

By Chris D’Souza –

In your mind’s eye, take a step aside and observe the way you function as a dad.  Notice your patterns, mannerisms, responses and reactions you exhibit in your relationship with your child….  See anything familiar?  Now bring up the image of your own dad into the scene.  See some resemblance with your own behaviour patterns?

Most of us would agree that no man is born with an elaborate understanding of how to parent.  Even after the child has grown up to be a man and the time is right for him to become a dad, chances are he is not going to be fully equipped or even knowledgeable about his parenting role. Moreover, it is unlikely that he would be handed a parenting rule book to help him out. Parents with foresight or concern would probably dole out some well-meaning advice to their sons – scripted mainly from their own learning experiences. Apart from it, that leaves a dad with very meagre resources from a parenting angle. At the time of marriage, not even the best marriage preparation course would deal extensively with the challenges a freshly baked dad might face.  So where does he actually obtain the ‘know-how’ of parenting from?  Instinctively, he might reach and draw from memories of how he himself had been parentedThe ‘family of origin’ is invariably where fathering skills are picked up from.

We often tend to believe that the way own dads lived out their role a father is the normal or even ideal way a father should act. That probably explains why we see so many dads acting out their roles from scripts that have been written in their childhood while observing their own dads. But what if the script is faulty? It takes insight, faith, determination and courage to break faulty scripts and write fresh ones.

If you had a great relationship with your dad, with positive memories and good lessons learned, you are blessed!  You have good foundation to rely on and are probably living out the truth and blessing of the scriptural command, ‘Honour your father and mother’ (Exodus 20:12).  However, if all that comes to your mind are painful thoughts and memories, it might be time to set things right. Would you need reconciliation with your own dad?  You may need to visit a counsellor if the hurts are deeply etched in your psyche. Or if the issues are not so serious, you might just need to pick up the phone and ask for a meeting with your dad.  Irrespective of who is at fault, the blessings of reconciliation will flow into your own life and even into your relationship with your child. But what if your dad is no more?  A counselling session, a time of prayer and inner healing, will go a long way in bringing closure to any nagging hurt.

As we contend with our own parenting challenges, we begin to appreciate the fact that none of our dads could have been perfect. As we look back at the lives of our dads, we realize that our mandate is to pick up the best and forget the rest. And we can transfer the lessons learned into our relationship with our own children.

It is heartening to know that God has had your child and mine in mind even before we did…

For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; that I know very well…
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.  (Ps 139: 13-14, 16)

This calls for you and I as dads, to partner with God in nurturing the little ones that God Himself has gifted to us. As we partner with God, we will discover that our role is to be enablers. Ultimately our children need to find and develop their own relationship with God.

It is not by chance that the Church, when referring to the role of the family, introduced the term ‘domestic church’ (Gaudium et Spes, Vatican II).   Pope Francis, in his recent encyclical, Lumen Fidei, relates faith and an atmosphere of love and trust as key elements in the upbringing of children.  ‘In the family, faith accompanies every age of life, beginning with childhood: children learn to trust in the love of their parents.’ (Lumen Fidei, para 52)

Faith is indeed nurtured in the soil of love and the climate of trust. 

Reflect:

  • How powerful and enduring has been the influence of my dad on me? What were the gaps in our relationship?
  • How can I draw from my relationship with my Heavenly Father to bridge those gaps?

The book ‘Good Fathers to Great Dads’ by Chris D’Souza and Adrian Stevens was released by Bangalore Archbishop Bernard Moras on June 16th, 2016  in Bangalore.  To order copies contact: goodfatherstogreatdads@gmail.com

ICM brings you excerpts from a chapter each month to encourage you on your own fatherhood journey!


Chris D’Souza is Director at Lead Strategic Development and he specializes in Talent Consulting, Leadership Training, Executive and Life Coaching.  He lives in Bangalore with his wife Jennifer and son David.  He can be contacted at chriscoaches@gmail.com

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