How we behave towards the mother of our children will shape our kids expectations of what a good man looks like
Being a great dad isn’t just about how I am when I’m directly spending time with my two girls. Being a great dad is also connected to how I treat their mother. If I love my wife, Rachel, by treating with respect, dignity, and affection, this will influence the expectations they’ll grow up with about men in general.
I want to be a strong role model for what it means to be a man—especially in relation to how a man should treat women. It’s very likely that my girls, for better or worse, will gravitate towards men who are like me. Their expectations of how men should treat them will be built around how I behave towards their mother. And I want that to be a good thing.
This touches on so many areas. How do I behave towards Rachel when I’m tired? What about when I’m angry? When we disagree, how do I help patch things up? What do I do around the house to help? How do I practically express love on a daily basis?
I’m aware that this all heaps the pressure on. Many of us are already fearful of the ways in which we might not be helping give our kids the best start in life. But this gets to the heart of it. Being a great dad is not separate from being a great husband.
Whether you are a father to boys or, like me, girls, we have an opportunity to positively influence our children’s expectations about what it means to be a man. We can shape the kind of men our boys will become; we can raise girls who’ll have high standards about the kind of men they’ll give their time to. We won’t be the only influence in their lives, of course; but we will be the most formative. What we do can set the tone. And it can help inform the kind of influences our children choose to embrace.
Inevitably, they’ll be some dads reading this who are divorced or separated and don’t share the same home any more with your former partner and kids. But this still applies. You still need your kids to see you behave with respect and dignity in how you treat their mother. There is still the opportunity to shape a healthy view of what a strong, responsible, caring man looks like.
Whatever our particular circumstances, we as dads need to never use them as an excuse to set a bad example to our kids. We need to always demonstrate love. And this goes so far beyond material provision. Our words and our actions will always speak louder than anything we can buy for our kids.
I don’t write this from the perspective of someone who has always got this right. In many ways, as with much of my writing, this is a reminder to myself. But getting it wrong is also an influencing opportunity. Humbling as it is, I want my two daughters to see me apologise when I don’t live up to expectations in how I treat Rachel. If I’m lazy or I get angry, they should see me acknowledge that I messed up.
Do I want my daughters to be drawn to men who can’t admit to doing anything wrong? Absolutely not. Humility is one of the strongest qualities any man can possess. But if I want them to be drawn to men who embody humility, then I need to be that kind of man now. I need to be able to humbly admit when I’m wrong and when I fail to treat Rachel as I should.
Let’s make sure we set the right example in how we behave towards the mother of our children. If we do that right, we’ll be sowing seeds that bear fruit for their whole lifetime.