Complete Without Kids

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A Tribute to Great Fathers

Give thanks this week.

Father’s Day is the time to say thanks to any men who have filled a fatherly role in our lives. It’s easy to become a father, but it takes a life-long commitment to parent in the way that every child deserves. It gives me pleasure to see fathers taking their roles seriously. Here are four qualities that make a great dad stand out from the rest.

1. He takes time to really listen. Becoming an adult is a challenging process and having a father who is able to patiently listen is more valuable than gold. In many ways, a father can do the job of a counselor, using skills of reflective listening, asking about options, and supporting healthy decisions. A great dad knows how to actively listen to his child while going through the day, during dinner preparation, the drive to school, or an outing for ice cream.

2. He is a consistent and reasonable disciplinarian, even when his child is unhappy about his decisions. I recall a time back in high school when an older boy asked me out on a “date” to a party. My father put his foot down and refused to allow me to go. At first, I cried. But as that evening wore on I experienced a sense of relief because I knew that I wasn’t strong enough to stand up to whatever social pressures might have confronted me that night (alcohol, drugs, sex, riding in a car with someone who was under the influence).

3. He enjoys spending time with his child. A great dad is willing to get down on the floor to play Legos and go out in the yard to toss a ball. He’s not afraid of being silly or getting dirty. The ability to shift smoothly between roles of disciplinarian and playmate takes practice, but it’s essential to excellent parenting. And once the child is grown, the relationship can shift to more of a peer relationship. At our favorite Italian restaurant, father and daughter share in the management. I enjoy watching them interact with one another and observing the mutual respect that they seem to have for each other.

4. He’s a good role model. A great father is willing to show emotion and to be affectionate in his child’s presence. He demonstrates love and respect for his partner, good work ethic, and healthy, disciplined life style choices. Our town has an all-comers track meet every Monday night during the summer, and the events are open to citizens of all ages. Last year when we attended, most of the parents spent the evening standing around on the field watching, but a few actually participated in the track events. The dads who ran were showing through example that physical fitness is a lifelong process.

This week, take time to thank the men in your life who have done an excellent job of "fathering" you. 

Ellen Walker, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and the author of Complete Without Kids: An Insider's Guide to Childfree Living By Choice Or By Chance.

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