Being a good man and a good dad are not entirely mutually exclusive. The days of "Do as I say and not as I do" are over. Today's kids who are always-on, tech-savvy, and have 24/7 Internet access to information which they can use to dispute you. The following is a short list of essential "rules" for authentic and strong fatherhood that I've learned through my own trials and many errors. Some of what is listed here may seem obvious or even simple. But sometimes life's simplest rules are the hardest to learn.
1. Chivalry Isn't Dead
Any man who doesn't believe he needs to respect and honor women as he does himself, is a fool. This includes but isn't limited to giving your seat to a pregnant woman on the train or bus, helping an elderly woman (if she wants it) across the street or down the hall, holding doors open for a woman walking in front of you or behind you as you enter a building, opening car doors, pulling out her seat at dinner, bending down to pick something up that a woman dropped so she doesn't have to stoop down in her heels or be concerned at who might be looking at her while she is bent over. Saying "Please" and "Thank you" when making a request or receiving something from a woman. As with any rule there are exceptions, and with this rule there should only be a few exceptions.
Believe what you want, but women are our mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, cousins, aunts, teachers, nurses, pastors, etc. For the man out there not giving a flying you-know-what about women I pose the question: how would you feel if someone was disrespecting any of the previously mentioned women in your life, just because?
As my little daughter says, "Girls rock!" Damn what a rapper says over a nice beat or what some high pitched young'n sings on today's hot R&B singles. Chivalry isn't dead, just the thinking of those who believe otherwise.
2. Apologize Quickly
Any man worth his salt knows he will never always be right. In fact a real man knows that in this great big world of ours, he knows very little. This in turn has the positive effect of making him a sponge for knowledge and wisdom at every turn.
Additionally, the man who recognizes he is wrong should and must apologize quickly. Why not? Real men don't play games. They don't allow situations that are within their control to get worse. They don't allow emotional wounds to fester to the point of wreaking havoc on their lives or the lives of others. If they are focused on succeeding, then they won't have time to navigate self-made chaos. When apologizing for an offense, a person opts to not forgive you or tries to seek retribution then that's their problem, not yours.
3. Ask "How Can I?" Before Deciding That You Can't
Borrowing from the Rich Dad, Poor Dad psychology, the question should be: "How can I...?" when faced with something you want to do or would like to have. For example, "How can I accomplish/afford/complete this is?" versus "How can I..." In other words, what is it going to take/what do I need to do to accomplish this goal? It is smart and actually healthy to acknowledge your limitations. But if these limitations are not permanent, and most are not, then set a goal to overcome them. Please, don't quit in the land of "I can't." Remember, your kids are watching you, especially when it comes to the words you speak. Are you a man of your word or just a man of words?
4. Be About More Than Yourself
In today's times with the economy being what it is the natural inclination is do for self and no one else. However at the most basic level this is one of the main reasons why we are currently suffering.
Personally, I am a HUGE advocate of volunteerism. Volunteerism expands your horizons. The experience of serving the needs of others with your time, talents and abilities is a great reminder that this life is about more than just you. Volunteerism isn't about writing a check once a month to the charity of your choosing. It's about seeking out a cause that means something to you and getting involved. It's a principle you can instill in your kids -- the up and coming generation of adults and leaders.
You can be a mentor, a tutor, a food bank warehouse worker, an usher at your church, a volunteer gardener, a youth worker, a coach, a worker for a political campaign. If you see a need in your community not being met, maybe it is on you to take the initiative to meet that need. The possibilities are endless. You'll be surprised at how many different ways your skills, talents and strengths are appreciated by others. You may even discover a new or latent passion in the process. Volunteerism benefits both the recipient and the donor. Your life will be enriched and so will those persons closest to you, particularly your family.
Although not mutually exclusive, a good dad might not always be a good man and vice versa. The above list provides some food for thought to help keep you on both tracks. Please note: this list isn't only for the grown folks. Everything mentioned here can be instilled in a child. What do you want your children to remember about you and their childhoods? What happens while they are still under your roof will shape and mold them as they age into adulthood. It will guide them as they are faced with beginning families of their own. There's no time like the present to make a lasting impression on those who look up to you most. Make it worthwhile.