Every day it seems we hear a litany of stories over the news media about single-dads mired in conflict with the mother of their children. All too often these conflicts end up in assaults and arrests. Such negative outcomes strain the father-child relationship beyond repair and impair our ability to become better men. When we focus on becoming better men, we will become better fathers. As a certified holistic life coach, I have discovered a myriad of wrong-thinking attitudes that single-dads hold and that leave them powerless and purposeless as fathers.
Here are five mistaken attitudes that we as single-dads too often adopt that prevent us from becoming the positive, strong and motivating force in the lives of our children.
We Try to Control Instead of Influencing Results
Control is the futile attempt to determine absolute results. We may be tempted to determine the outcome of every aspect of our child’s life – from school to home to social development. This does nothing but lead to co-parenting conflict, which isn’t good for the child. A co-parenting relationship can become a nightmare when both parties attempt to determine bottom-line results.
Focus on influencing results rather than controlling them. Influence means we understand our limitations but give our very best in promoting the positive outcomes we desire. Be the bigger person. Be willing to compromise where and when it’s needed. It will save you a lot of frustration and anxiety as a dad. Remember the words of Maya Angelou: You may not control all of the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.
We Hide Our Emotions
We often lose out on invaluable opportunities to bond with our children because we choose to mask our pain and hurt that stem from feelings of inadequacy. In our deepest anxieties as fathers, we do not wish our children to regard us as weak. In those cases where we are dealing with hostile mothers, the tendency to mask can especially be strong.
Open up. Do not punish yourself for feelings of weakness. Your children can learn more from you in your authentic weakness than in your masked bravado. Designate a friend or family member as a person with whom you can confide your deepest anxieties. Join a social group or church-based men’s ministry either online or in-person where you can develop some type of solidarity. Allow the words of Dawn Markova to sink into your spirit: I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise. Most of all, understand that you are not alone.
We React Rather Than Respond
This is the bane of single-fatherhood: dads who have reacted out of anger and found themselves on the wrong side of the law. It could happen in seconds; you lose your temper, emotions flair and you say or do something that you later come to regret. This is made all the worse when done in the presence of the child.
Respond rather react. Take a deep breath. Calculate your emotional state. Get yourself out of the immediate situation. You are most likely experiencing “flight or fight” emotions. Flight is always better – remove yourself from the situation at all costs. In those cases where you may be facing harm from a third-party (boyfriend or husband of child’s mother), create distance immediately. A sage from long ago said: Life is 10 percent what happens and 90 percent how you respond.
We Underestimate Our Power
We do not believe in ourselves when the chips are down. We are short on faith and long on unbelief. We feel powerless to make change happen. This often leads to an impaired sense of self-esteem.
See yourself as a channel of Divine activity in the work you do in your child’s life. Reconnect to a Power Higher than you. In the end, fatherhood is bigger than us. You are a positive life force simply for being in your child’s life and endeavoring to do the right thing. When you begin to see your life from the child’s perspective, you will never be the same. Adopt the attitude of these words from Seth M. McQuealy: When a man stands at the edge of a precipice or abyss he thinks one of two things: “I can’t or how can I”.
We Leave Things to Fate – We Don’t Show Up!
This is the worst outcome of the five. We conjure every excuse to explain our lack of courage to do the right thing, to show up. We miss birthdays, we miss sporting events, and we even miss court appearances all because we lack the intestinal fortitude to show up. “I can’t get off work to get to court” is my favorite. If it’s important enough to you, you will make a way to do it.
Stop the excuses and determine that you will show up – whatever it takes! Brian Tracy writes: Winners make a habit of manufacturing their own positive expectations in advance of the event.
Be the winner! When you don’t show up, nobody loses but you. Each day you do not show up for a significant event, each day you choose to remain absent, a piece of you – and a piece of that child – dies.
We must focus on becoming better men. Then we will become better fathers.