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Seven habits of highly effective fatherscomment (0)

June 12, 2008

By Victor M. Parachin

Al Roker, an Emmy Award winner and well-known television personality, tells of his first TV job. He was hired to be the weekend weatherman for a television station in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1974. The station had business cards printed for him. When he went home for a visit, he showed them to his dad, a bus driver with the New York City Transit Authority. Inadvertently Roker left the cards on his dad’s dresser and returned to Syracuse.

A few months later, Roker received a phone call from a man who lived in Brooklyn, N.Y. "He’s passing through Syracuse and wanted to say hi," Roker recalled. Then, a day later, the same thing happened again: a stranger from the Brooklyn area called to say "hello" and "tells me to keep up the good work." For several weeks, Roker continued receiving one or two calls from complete strangers. "Finally, I asked a caller how she got my number. The woman answered, ‘I ride on your father’s bus. He’s been handing our your business cards to all us riders, telling us to call you for support.’"

That story is just one reason why Roker’s father was the most important influence in his life. Through their love and care, fathers leave a permanent imprint on their children’s lives. The best of fathers try hard to provide the kind of guidance their children need in order to make their own way in the world. Here are seven habits of highly effective fathers:

- Highly effective fathers instill faith. Good dads take seriously their roles as spiritual teachers and mentors for their children. They take the Bible seriously where it states, "The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command … you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up" (Deut. 6:4–7). Good fathers not only promote the faith but also promote the spiritual life by their own example. They attend church regularly with the family and participate in church activities. Guided by these words from the prophet Isaiah, fathers also give of their time by offering service to those less fortunate in the community: "Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow" (Isa. 1:17).

Children who see a father engaged in spiritual growth activities are far more likely to follow in his steps. Good fathers know that promoting faith in their children gives them an invaluable resource for dealing with life’s many challenges. Author and physician Herbert Benson notes, "Going to church can actually make you healthier. Study after study has shown that the contentment engendered by faith is an extraordinary contributor to overall health. Worship services are full of potentially therapeutic elements — music, aesthetic surroundings, familiar rituals, prayer and contemplation, distraction from everyday tensions, the opportunity for socializing and friendship and education. Religious people consistently report greater life satisfaction, marital satisfaction, well-being, altruism and self-esteem than do nonreligious people."

- Highly effective fathers show their love. They are not ashamed to say, "I love you," nor do they hesitate to shower their children with physical expressions of love. Actor Jack Klugman recalls being devastated at age 12 when his father died. Struggling for decades with depression over that loss, Klugman finally sought counseling. "It was then that I remembered that my father was the only one in my family that ever hugged me. The rest of my family stayed away from touching or hugging — especially my mother. Only my father was unashamed to show affection. My father taught me that showing your affection was not a sign of weakness but instead a sign of love."

- Highly effective fathers make children their priority. Howard Schultz became chairman and chief executive officer of Starbucks, taking the company from its original three stores and expanding it to more than 3,000. Schultz was raised in a working-class family in Brooklyn. His father was a high school dropout who held a series of low-income jobs as a factory worker, trucker and cab driver. "We actually lived in federally subsidized housing," he said. To make ends meet, his father often worked long hours. In spite of having little discretionary time, the elder Schultz carved out space for his son. "There were many days when my dad came home from 14-hour days of very physical labor and the first thing he did was look for me. We would put our gloves on, go outside and have a catch. Those moments between a father and son are so special."

- Highly effective fathers nurture their child’s dreams. What they don’t do is establish rigid expectations of what they want their children to do. Rather they observe their children; sense their dreams, hopes and aspirations; and then encourage children to pursue those goals. They know that confidence is the companion to success, and so they do whatever they can do to instill confidence in their children. Professional golfer Phil Mickelson said, "The greatest compliment I could ever pay my dad — and the one thing I’m most appreciative about — is that he never pushed me in one direction. Instead, he gave me, as well as my brother and sister, every opportunity to succeed at whatever it was we chose." Mickelson recalled a day when he was 11 years old and had just won a tournament in junior golf. "Dad, I want to play golf for a living," he announced. "I think I could be a pro." His father responded, "You know, that would be great. If that’s what you want, I’ll try to give you every opportunity to play and practice."

- Highly effective fathers teach. The art of living can be highly complex. Rather than let children flounder for themselves, good dads offer lessons for living. Then, when the going gets tough, a child can tap into seeds of information previously planted by a father. George M. Steinbrenner is best known as owner of the New York Yankees. He says his father was an "incredible man" who taught him many things that he utilizes to this day in his life. Included in that list of lessons are these:

—Always surround yourself with people smarter than you are.

—Always look to those who would criticize you rather than praise you. It is from your critics that you will learn the most.

—The speed of the leader determines the rate of the pack.

—You can’t lead the cavalry if you can’t sit in the saddle.

—Assume nothing.

—Trying is a poor third to doing.

- Highly effective fathers apologize. One of the most important things a father can do for his child is to say, "I’m sorry," when he has been unkind, insensitive or acted poorly. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin is a well-known author and popular speaker. He often gives lectures on anger management issues and says he frequently asks audience members how many of them grew up in households where their parents never apologized to them, even when they did something wrong. "Thirty to 40 percent of those present routinely raise their hands," he said. In discussions that follow, "it quickly becomes apparent that the pain of never having been apologized to often is still fresh. People describe the humiliation of being forced by parents to say they were sorry when they had done something wrong, but knowing that no apology would ever be extended to them when they were the victims of their parents’ unfair anger." Telushkin rightly said parents who fail to apologize send this "awful message" to their children: "You don’t have to seek forgiveness when you mistreat someone weaker than yourself."

- Highly effective fathers can be counted on. They are consistently reliable, dependable, trustworthy. Matt Lauer, co-anchor of the "Today" show, said his father’s "greatest quality was reliability. He was a man of great character and you could count on his reasoning, on his moral compass. You could count on the fact that he was with you win, lose or tie."

The essence of a highly effective father can be summed up in four words: protector, teacher, role model, mentor. Children growing up with fathers who exhibit those qualities are the most fortunate in the world.

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