An entirely underappreciated but crucial role a father plays in a household is that of the example. Children ages 3 to 7 learn primarily by what they see and mimic the behavior of their environment. This includes processing feelings like happiness, sadness, frustration and anger as well as conflict resolution. Countless studies agree that parental involvement is one of the key factors that contributes to habits later in life such as substance abuse, domestic abuse, depression, or criminal activity.
But think about it this way, if they see you explode every time you get angry, then they learn that this is the appropriate response to anger. Likewise, if they see you keep your cool when your wife is trying to push your buttons, then they see what self-control and patience looks like. As a normal man, I also sometimes want to let out my stress and yell back to my wife and get loud. But then I look at my kids eyes, and realize that they are always watching me. Here are some other examples of ways you can be a positive example in your household:
How to be a great Example:
Practice your religious faith, and invite your children to join you
Make a plan for charitable deeds on the weekend
Get help from a professional for anger problems and learn to control it and defuse it
Drink alcohol in moderation or only at social events
Don't abuse illegal substances
Decide what values and morals you find important and then display them, like honesty
Tell the truth all the time (without being mean)
Don't EVER hit your spouse or physically hurt them except in self-defense
3 Key Areas of being the Example:
Your children will look to you to understand right from wrong starting at their earliest age. Regardless of the law, rules at school or any other input, they will look to you as their role model. Take this seriously. It is a pedestal they put you on, and only you can knock yourself off. Decide what kind of man you are, what kind of men you want your sons to be. And then walk the walk. Prove it in your actions every single day. This is called being a man of integrity.
I find one of the most important values to me in my life is honesty. Any mistakes I've made in my past all started from being dishonest and I have fixed that in myself. I want my sons to be better and always talk them about the importance of honesty. But to prove it, I answer any and all questions with direct honest answers. I talk to their mom with honesty and humility in every conversation. And when she may not like the answer, I just repeat that it's the truth, regardless of our feelings.
Another very important value to me is that of charity. I feel it is part of my very purpose on this planet to help others. And more than just articulating that, I want to show my family that I mean it. My wife and I will find families in need and put together a trunk full of important household items or a weeks worth of groceries. Then we will deliver it with our children. Not asking anything in return, but making sure the kids help deliver the bags from the trunk to their door.
The father of a household is often looked at as the moral compass of his household and no matter what religion you follow, it is important you draw upon your faith to help give you that compass. I want to stress how important it is that you have some sort of faith in your life to give you strength and resilience through hard times. But also to show your children where you get it from. The resilience they learn through faith, will undoubtedly carry them through hard times in their lives as well. And that is a common goal of all parents, to see their children carry-on successfully and with inner-strength.
What ever holy book you follow, the Torah, the Bible or the Quran, read it with them and take them to your house of worship. Do fellowship with them as you integrate into a community. They will be watching you to see how you interact with other men in your community and what values you all embody. They will know your higher power as you know Him. Show them what a good example of your faith looks like, not with preaching or words, but with your actions.
As discussed in the previous posts on The 5 Roles of a Father, it absolutely critical that you show your kids how to spend money. This is 100% a key role of a being a Father and it is up to you make time for conversations and small lessons on money. Some ways you can show good money habits is by helping them earn some money and then showing them how YOU would save or spend that money.
One example of something I did with my son was helping him buy and sell something online and earn a profit. He earned about $100 from doing odd tasks and birthdays and wanted to spend it. I told him that I would spend it on two things I could find locally and that I could sell online for more. Effectively turning the $100 into $150. So he said let's do it. And we did. When the $150 came in to paypal, I told him that I had a rule. It was mandatory that I cash out the 150 and hand it to him, and then he would decide what to do next. The feeling of the cash in hand made it tempting to go spend, but then he decided to flip it again. Turning the $150 into $225. Again putting the cash in his hand. At the end of the story, we were able to flip the money all the way up to $700 and I had to stop that business due to moving. I suggested that he buy something that increases in value and not hold the cash. By that time we built a great deal of trust and he heeded my advice. He invested in a couple collectibles that are accruing value as you read this.
Your example and actions are being watched every second of every day: how you carry yourself, how you spend money, how you talk, how you love their mother, how you argue, how you do everything. What you do, they will do. It's that simple. To flip it, what you want your kids to do, you must do. Monkey see, monkey do. To be a great father means making your actions live up to the values you preach.
If you enjoyed that, here is a link to Dad Role 4: The Law.