The following is an excerpt from Ray Arata’s book ‘Wake Up, Man Up, Step Up’ that was syndicated for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at TheForum@Fatherly.com.
Ask 10 people what they think a good father is, and you will probably get 10 different answers with some similarities. Ask those same people what they desired most from their father, and you may see a strong connection between what they desired and how they now define a good father.
You base parenting on what you desired the most. For example, if your father avoided affection with words and/or touch, and you wanted more affection, chances are you “know exactly what to do” to show affection to your kids because it is what you desired the most. This is true in many areas of parenting; I know this is true for my kids and me.
There is no right or wrong way to be a father; however, there are pillars of good, conscious fathering. How you put these elements together is up to you. I offer what I learned on my path of becoming a better father and a better man, and you might use the ideas here to design your own style of conscious fathering. The emphasis is on the word “conscious,” meaning that you will have the opportunity to put together your own plan for developing yourself as a father.
In my book I present The Good Father Growth Plan, which gives you the opportunity to craft a plan in areas on which you wish to concentrate and put action into improving. This is the shift from integration to manifestation. Once you have integrated these new concepts into your way of thinking and awareness, you may then set out to manifest these concepts into your own reality by your design. You might use it as a written “game plan” that you may decide to execute.
Being in the moment with your children is the greatest gift you may give them.
As you put this plan together, you have an important duty. Being a man in the twenty-first century is a great responsibility with respect to teaching your sons and daughters about men.
You might focus on:
- Your financial freedom
- Principles of accountability and responsibility
- Improving your emotional literacy
- Adopting a mission of service in which to improve the world
Why do we men desire to do these things? Because kids are watching, communities need it, and the world might be a better place as a result.
Here are some pillars of good, conscious fathering that you may discover useful to design your own style of fathering and to go to the next level.
What is relational presence? “Presence” is the notion of “being here” and “relational” is the notion of “being with,” so “relational presence” is the idea that, when you are with your kids, you are consciously awake and consciously present with them. Being in the moment with your children is the greatest gift you may give them. You might consider the gift of time as your present to them. Put another way, relational presence can be thought of as “Be here now … with the person in front of you.”
As a father, I hope you understand and appreciate the impact of your physical and emotional presence on your children. Kids often say, “He spends time with me,” when asked what they appreciate the most about their dad. Being with kids is central and valuable to them. You may simply look at your kids with your powerful “father eyes,” and see them with love and approval.
If or when you are a father, you have an opportunity and a responsibility to relate to your sons and daughters mindfully. Your ability to create a safe container, your ability to listen, and your willingness to look at them with eyes that say, “I love you. I am proud of you. You can do anything you put your mind to doing,” might go a long way in forming your child’s positive self-image — an image they carry with them for the rest of their lives. Their self-images begin with you … so treat them right!
Relational presence requires you to listen for and see your children’s positive qualities, which makes you a magnet for their best and naturally evokes your best.
Your role as a father includes being aware of the influence you have on your children when you interact with your partner, spouse, or ex-spouse — in other words, how you treat women. It means being responsible for your interactions as well as being accountable for them. Your daily interactions with the woman in your life show your kids, “This is how you treat a woman. This is how you talk to a woman. This is how you relate to a woman.”
Your new responsibility is to evolve past your father’s shortcomings and develop new strengths to pass down to your son.
Living and relating from your masculine core values are important. It’s important to be aware of masculine core male values (vitality, authenticity, honor, integrity, and accountability) and other core values by which you live.
Whatever values you live by, demonstrating them daily becomes a nonverbal “how to” model for your sons and daughters to emulate. Your modeling includes how you listen, communicate, care for the woman in your life, and respect and honor her. It also includes communicating your truth to her, even though she might disagree.
Male Role Modeling
Your father and other influential men in your life shaped your understanding of what it means to be a man, a leader, a friend, and a father. They provided you with a model for how to “be with men.” You have the same influence on your boys. Your new responsibility is to evolve past your father’s shortcomings (or that of another influential male figure in your life) and develop new strengths to pass down to your son.
The best way to do this is to live and embody your masculine core values in all you do by being aware of how your behavior shapes your son’s definition of what a man is. Your sons are watching you, and they naturally want to emulate you.
Ray Arata is the founder of aratacode.com, where his system for emotional maturity and accountability empowers men to resolve conflict in their families, workplaces and communities.