What prompted me to write this column on fathers was a very insightful pamphlet called “10 Ways to Be a Better Father”  by Crawford W. Loritts.

The first point Loritts makes is the importance of how the husband treats his wife.  The most important area of life for which you prepare your children is marriage and family living and their best preparation is to live wit a dad who loves and respects their mum.

The next point is the importance of being a man of integrity.  The author stresses the importance of being substantially the same person outside your home as inside it.  He says that if you sing in the choir on Sundays and yell at your wife on weekdays, whatever you may say about caring and kindness will mean nothing to your children.  “Who you are behind closed doors is the real you.”

The third point is the amount of time a father spends with his children.  The writer stresses the vital importance of a father being present at his children’s activities, whether it be hockey, baseball or his daughters’ Irish dancing lessons.  Loritts’ advice echoes that of Pope John Paul II who wrote, “The first condition of fatherhood is presence.  A presence that reflects the Fatherhood of God.”

Loritts further stresses the importance of giving kids encouragement.  He says that a father makes a lasting mark on his children’s lives when he gives the appropriate praise.  Even when children have to be corrected, they should never be called demeaning names which might suggest they are inferior.  While they may not mind these insults coming from their friends, coming from their dad they are like arrows which inflict deep wounds.

On the question of discipline, Loritts rightly warns against the danger of punishing a child – especially physical punishment when the father is angry.  While discipline may involve pain, its purpose is correction and development.  The word “disciple” comes from the Latin word for “disciple” which means a “learner.”  The object of punishment should be to teach not to hurt.

Another point is the importance of family communication.  The writer says, “ A united family makes the children feel secure.”  The family should share at least one meal together each day at which they discuss the issues and happenings of the day.  And they should spend at least one night a week together as a family – not watching TV.  He believes that the toughest thing for dads is to listen – “We love to give advice but only by listening will we learn what their hearts need.”

The question of “overprotecting” children is also tackled.  Loritts says that when children make bad decisions it is sometimes best to allow them to “feel the heat.”  For example, when he bought his son a baseball cap he warned him not to wear it to school as these hats were being stolen.  The boy disobeyed and the hat was stolen.  His father ha a fairly good idea who had stolen the hat and his first inclination was to follow it up and have the hat returned.  But he then decided to let his son see the consequences of making a bad decision.  He says that unless children suffer the consequences of their wrong decisions, they will never be able to make informed and reasoned decisions of their own.

Loritts stresses the importance of letting your children know that you love them.  He says that studies show that when children don’t experience affection at home they will search for it in self-destructive ways.  I have read that one reason why teenage girls throw themselves at teenage boys is not that they are looking for sex, but they are searching for male affection which they may not have received from their fathers.  Loritts believes that a dad should let no day pass without in some way either by words or a hug letting his children know that he loves them.

I would also like to mention the importance of the whole family attending church on Sundays and also of family prayer in the home.  When children see their father praying, it speaks far louder than words in convincing them of the greatness of that other Father from Whom their earthly father receives his love and authority.

The writer concludes his leaflet with these beautiful words: “It takes a lot of energy to shape the lives God has entrusted to us as fathers.  We need to make the most of our time with our children, so that we may never look back and wish, ‘if only I had spent more time or given more praise or told them that I loved them’  I want to give my best to being a father.”