Being a dad is arguably the most important role in a child’s life after the age of five or six. This is particularly true if you have boys. Both boys and girls look to their dads for insight into what it means to be a man and what to look for in a man. In a psychological sense the father becomes the internal policeman. If you are a kind, sensitive, yet self-disciplined father, this will reflect in their eventual behaviour. If you are a cruel, selfish and stupid fuckwit you are sure to see self-destructive behaviour not too far down the track.
What follows is a personal reflection on what a good father should strive for. Notice I said “strive”. None of us are perfect, especially not me. I am prone to breaking almost all these guidelines, particularly when I am tired or hungry. However I am getting much better as I strive harder, and it reflects in my boys’ behaviour. When I try harder to be more consistent, more patient and more aware, they too behave better.
I want my kids to have awesome opportunities available to them. But my boys need the skill to see and take advantage of them. Everyone gets opportunies. But some of us are too fearful to jump at these chances. Some of us become our own worst enemy, and self-criticise into paralysis. I’ve been offered many amazing things that I have turned down through fear. I wouldn’t now, of course. And I find it hard not to regret it, though I know I was somewhat a victim of my own programs.
It took me at least 10 years of work to get out of my own way, to nullify and replace almost two decades of childhood and adolescent programming. There was the christian program, the beta-male program, the sexual program. All were faulty or incomplete for functioning as a happy and satisfied adult male. All restricted my desire to take opportunity.
As a father I want to show my sons the skills to take life by the throat, rather than live in the shadows.
It’s our job to create an environment for our children’s growth. A growth environment is varied in its stimulus, and stable in its foundation. Timothy Leary’s Info-Psychology influenced me greatly here. To grow beyond simple attack/retreat programs, an organism must first feel safe and secure. A child must be able to go out and explore the world, and then come home to its nest without fear. I believe this is why we have so many paranoid teenage psychedelic users. They don’t feel safe after psychonautic exploration; they are scared of parental judgement.
Stability at home means:
- Consistency – You, as a parent, act in a similar way in similar circumstances. There are not many surprises in terms of discipline, punishment or rewards.
- Non-judgemental – Regardless of what your child does, you show that you still love them. You teach that it is their behaviour that is the issue, and that behaviour can be changed.
- A sense of structure – The child knows where they belong in the family unit, and have clearly defined responsibilities.
- Clear boundaries – the child knows what is permitted and what is not, and the boudaries are consistently policed.
My personal guidelines are based on one question: What do I want my kids to be like when they grow up? In other words, what character traits do I want them to have? From these end results I have worked backwards to decide on the principles I use.
I know I want them to be
Independent in nature: I don’t want my kids living with me in their twenties. I want my boys to be paying their own rent, paying their dues, paying their way. I want them to have a job, no matter how menial, and earn cash for themselves, or to be starting their own business. I know too many boys in their late twenties living at home, rent-free, not cooking for themselves, not paying their bills. The use of the word “boy” is deliberate. They are not men, despite their age. Sure, they might save for a house earlier. But they are not learning the fundamental skills of being a man. This home environment stunts development. Everything is so easy at home. We want to make things more difficult, so we can better handle the REALLY difficult stuff that will arrive soon enough.
Independent in thought: Being able to go against the crowd is an important trait. It enables one to find what is really important to them, and explore different areas of thought and action. It allows one to discern when a group is wrong and move to work against them. GroupThink is insidious, and is becoming more prevalent through FaceBook. Think you have diverse information coming through that channel? Think again. Facebook is a mirror of yourself. It shows you only what you want to see, again and again, through your use of the “Like” function. True uniqueness is now incredibly difficult to cultivate.
Considerate of others, but not at the expense of their own well-being. Compassion, sympathy and empathy are all important emotions. However, some people transform them through personal experience into guilt, and experience them to their own detriment.
I know one girl who was brainwashed at university and felt guilty constantly because of what white people had done to other races. She loathed the fact she was white, female, and human. Her consideration for other races and species eventually outbid her means after she gave away all she had, and worked for charities for no money. Her family is still suffering.
Look after yourself and your own tribe first. Spend energy on yourself to get where you need to be emotionally and physically. Only then will you have the power to help others.
Respectful to those who deserve respect. Respect is defined as:
1. a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements; and,
2. due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others.
Respect in the first definition is for those who earn it through their actions. Those who inspire us earn our respect.
In the second definition we treat everyone nicely unless our feelings, wishes or rights are impinged upon, or aggression is warranted. Due regard for feelings and wishes is not for those who are assholes, special snowflakes, or those who have done nothing in their lives and still feel entitled to special treatment.
Self-honesty at all times, and honesty to others when required. Self-honesty is the only appropriate way through this mess we call life. Looking at our own lives without vaseline-fogged lenses tells us where we are fucking up, and where we are really succeeding. True insight is a Castanedian Death-on-our-shoulder, ready to show us reality, the real, horrifying, but honest reality.
Too many people blame others for their position in life. True men take responsibility for where they are, and take steps to learn and create the life they really want.
In my case I was a true fuck-up. I did blame my parents for a long time, but in the end I had to be honest and see the one who had to change. Taking a blazingly hard look at myself, I saw that almost everything had to be remade. If I wanted to be happy and satisfied I would have to start from the bottom on every scale: charisma, strength, intelligence, wisdom, knowledge, confidence, and all the rest of those awesome words. Self-honesty showed me this.
Honesty toward others is a tricky one. We all tell white (and cream, tan and downright shit-brown) lies from time to time. True honesty at all times is the most energy efficient method, because keeping track of lies is difficult. But if you want to make it in the world, you HAVE to lie.
Perhaps a better way of putting it is: be discreet. Put everybody on a need to know basis. Discretion is one of my core principles. I would prefer to omit than to lie.
Next week is The Dos and Don’ts of being a Dad – Part 2. I’ll cover the principles I strive to abide by while raising my kids.