From boyhood, competitiveness is nurtured as young men are taught not to ‘be walked over by other people’. This process continues as the child grows into manhood with entrenched values of independence and autonomy. For many men, a suggestion that they need to change what they are thinking or doing is met by a high degree of resistance. Accompanied with this, most do not fully recognise the significant impact they play in their family relationships. They are more conscious of what others think they should be doing differently, like ‘men should show more of their feelings’.
This assumption is that something needs to be fixed; the father has to learn to act differently. Due to this, professionals need to work harder at the pre-engagement stage when working with men, to find an alternative way to deal with any suspicion and defensiveness.
9 important things fathers can do….
1. Remember you can make a difference. Even the small things the fathers do can have a significant impact.
2. Slow down… Most of the important things that happen in family relationships and with children require plenty of time and attention. In the tremendous speed of life, many of these important opportunities can travel right past you.
3. Valuing the ordinary things of life. Children delight and talk most while you are doing simple tasks like cooking together or travelling in a car.
4. Remember you’re on show… Children look strongly towards their parents for a role model. It is in our own actions that children are learning the most about how friendships are made and how conflict is resolved.
5. Watch your anger…. Under pressure, it is easy to think that the use of anger will solve family problems. Anger is a feeling that can damage relationships for good.
6. Remember the big picture… All relationships have close and distant times. When things get hard, it is important not to give up.
7. Today separated fathers play a significant role in their children’s lives.
8. What’s important…? Make a list of the 10 most important things in your life. Think about what you are doing with each of these issues over the coming week.
Is there anything you want to change? It is very easy for men to put all their energy into work situations, which leaves them with little energy to offer their family.
9. Take up the challenge… Often fathers only think about relationship issues when the crisis has happened. It is important to start now so that you are prepared.
What is the take home message?
As we know well, the quality of the father’s relationship with his children is paramount. It is important to support men to talk about experiences that build a sense of closeness with their children i.e. birth stories, special times and how they spend time together with their children. For men these are pivotal moments in their life that support periods of reflection, softness and the development of empathy.
I often refer to this as a relationship tide, when the tide goes out, we don’t walk away from the ocean and say “that’s it, I’m never going to see the water again”! No, we wait for the tide to turn (return) and have faith that our relationship will float again.
(excerpt from an article written by Andrew.)
See Groupwork Solutions – Working with Men for many other important articles from Andrew.
Andrew King (consultant trainer and program developer in group work)