LASTING IMPRESSIONS: A FATHER’S MODEL
Occasionally we catch glimpses of our children imitating our behavior. It can be very cute, or it can be a staggering, frightening experience. A toddler tries to do push-ups on the living room floor, just like his dad. He grabs his plastic razor and strains to see the mirror as his dad is shaving. Then, they are in the car together, caught in a traffic jam, and the boy shouts, “Move it, people!”—or something worse.
Older children will be less obvious, and it may take longer before we see them copying us, but the imitation is just as real. Only now, the stakes are higher: they’re making moral choices, forming lasting relationships, perhaps dating, driving, and making decisions about what they want to pursue in life.
Modeling is where our true influence as fathers shows up, because important values are caught more than they are taught. Children learn more from watching our lives than from listening to what we say. Each day, in hundreds of ways, we communicate to our kids, “Follow me.”
This presents both a dilemma and an opportunity. It’s a dilemma because our children will use our lives as reference points, for better or worse, by design or by default. It’s also an opportunity to be intentional about demonstrating for our children what a responsible, calm, caring, self-sacrificing father is like.
MASCULINITY: KEY SOUTH AFRICAN ISSUES & DEBATES
A Soul City Review by William Elliott 2003
Until recently, South Africa was a ‘man’s country’ (Morrell, 2001). Power was clearly held by men in public and political spheres. In families, the situation was no different. In both black and white families men earned the money, held the power and made the decisions. Men were often paid more than women for equivalent work done, and both custom and modern law discriminated against women. Masculinity and the advancement of women remain sensitive and contentious issues on the African landscape. Each culture has found different ways to express, protect and project male power. Each culture’s men have often paid dearly for their membership of this oft privileged gender. Yet, as is shown below, beacons of hope are slowly emerging from the debates and struggles for gender change as men are included more and more directly in the change process.
MEN SHOWING UP
Adapted from an essay first published in Voice Male Magazine – Fall 2002
A growing interest in “men’s work” is blossoming around us. Social services organizations and health providers are recognizing boys and men as important constituencies with unmet needs. Women’s organizations are actively recruiting men as volunteers and staff. Corporations, sports clubs and government agencies are providing sexual harassment and violence prevention training to their (often mostly male) staff. Grassroots men’s groups are forming to address men’s isolation, men’s violence against women, men’s health, fathering, and mentoring.
As calls come in to Men’s Resources International from around the world, we are often asked how to create and sustain community-based men’s initiatives. While a thorough answer to that question is provided in our leadership training programs, the following lessons from the past 25 years seem particularly valuable to share at this time of great possibility and great challenge…