How to Be a Good Father Even If You Never Had One
Nick Firchau is the host and producer of the Paternal podcast , which explores the definitions of masculinity and fatherhood in frank conversations with a wide variety of fathers . He is also the youngest of three sons and an often bewildered and annoyed father of two young children.
I have spent the last year interviewing men about their parenting experiences, and one question invariably becomes important to almost every father. How can a person learn the good lessons that his father taught him and also improve those areas in which his father could not? What if his father hasn’t recovered , leaving little or no patterns of how to be a good person, stay emotionally involved, and raise children who feel loved by their mother and father? This is not always an easy task.
Here are three candid tips from men facing this problem that provide clues on how to be a good father, even if you may never have had one.
Deal with your father’s drama
Seattle radio DJ John Richards had a long and difficult relationship with his father over the years, and he ended up seeing his father pass away after battling cancer several times. His father was an alcoholic and was sometimes emotionally or physically abused, and he once played with Richards in a father-and-son tournament after a series of sips from a can of vodka in a parking lot.
It is often difficult for a son to think about his father’s flaws and how they could ruin the relationship, but Richards says the process was necessary for him to develop a healthy relationship with his two sons.
“We need to see these shortcomings and learn from them,” says Richards . “Talking openly about it, I hope, will allow other fathers to face what happened to them, or to face relationships that were or were not. It is important. Otherwise, you can take it off your kids. And you may have some guilt that you do not want to use in your relationship with your children. I certainly don’t know.
Complete What Your Father Couldn’t
Massachusetts psychoanalyst Jason Smith devoted his professional career to the teachings of the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, who wrote and regularly spoke about the relationship between children and their parents.
One of Jung’s concepts sounds simple enough, but it is not an easy task even for Jungian experts like Smith. Jung once said that the task of every person’s life is to complete work that his or her ancestors could not do. It is often a challenge and a goal for every man to take what his father did well and improve it with the help of his own children, gradually, generation after generation, pushing the ball down the field.
“I appreciate the distance my father was able to get away from his alcoholic father. He pulled out of it, which gave me the opportunity to go a little further for myself, ” says Smith . “And if I made a different choice and could not return to full-fledged existence in my marriage or as a father, it would be like a repetition of this cycle. And that would leave this task to my children. “
Learn How To Get Love
Leading psychologist and bestselling author Michael G. Thompson grew up with a successful but emotionally elusive dad in New York City, leaving him with little clue of how to show affection for his children. And it’s not uncommon for men who learn to contain emotion and affection at an early age, in part because their fathers never knew what to do with the love offered to them in their lives.
“It’s not enough just to be the most active father in the world who trains your kids,” says Thompson . “You should also be able to get the tender feelings that your children offer you, which you sometimes never had. It’s not just that men cannot love their children. Very often they don’t know how to get it. And love is a two-way street. “