Fathering Challenges Demand the Right Attitude


In life and in fathering, your attitude determines your altitude.

Perseverance in the face of challenges …

In a previous post I told you about Rob, a dad who considered it a privilege to have a special-needs child, and who described how that child has changed his entire family for the better.

Neil is a dad in a similar situation who contacted me recently, and he has a similar approach to life. And I was so inspired by what he shared that I want to pass it along to you. If you’re anything like me, this will challenge and motivate you as a dad.

Neil wrote about what happened during his wife’s pregnancy of their third child. A routine sonogram revealed an indicator for Down Syndrome, and after a few more tests, it was confirmed. It was a bit overwhelming to hear, especially since one of their older children has a different condition that requires special care.

But notice Neil’s attitude in what he wrote to friends and family about the situation (emphasis added):

A natural reaction from people (including our doctors) that we have talked to is that they are ‘sorry.’ Please don’t be. None of you did anything wrong. Neither did we. It’s called life.

My father taught me many great lessons in the 27 years I had with him and was a tremendous role model for me. He taught me to work hard for what I want in life. He taught me that he wasn’t perfect, and nor am I. He taught me to learn from my mistakes and not to repeat them. He taught me to step up to challenges, not run from them. He taught me to treat others the way that I would want them to treat me. He taught me to take care of those who need our help. But most importantly, he taught me to love unconditionally and to appreciate the blessings that surround us every day.

It is hard to describe what [we] have been through with our [other daughter]; there have been many trials and tribulations along the way, but the blessings that she has brought to our family, and all that know her, are immeasurable. She is a gift, a perfect gift. I trust that whatever God brings us … will be the same—perfect in its own unique way.

Neil goes on to describe a powerful speech he heard several years ago by Roy Spence, co-founder of GSD&M Advertising Agency in Austin, about the power of attitudes to change actions and how, on the road of life “you become what you look for”:

“If you look for enemies, you will find them. If you look for hate, it will live in your heart. If you look for gossip, it will consume you. If you look for fear, it will follow you. On another road, if you look for friends, you will be befriended. If you look for love, it will lift you up. If you look for truth, it will set you free. And if you look for hope, it will take you to higher ground.”

Pretty good stuff, don’t you think?

And as fathers, I know many of you are facing challenges right now...whether it’s a physical issue, a behavior concern, maybe not being able to see your kids, or something else. Life has thrown you some curve balls.

To encourage you, I can’t offer any thoughts more profound than what Neil sent us: look for love; look for hope; look for truth; lean on faithful friends. As I often say, your attitude determines your altitude, and that’s very much true when it comes to our fathering.

Action Points for Dads on the Journey:

  • Talk about the virtue of perseverance with your children, using an example from history, such as the early American leaders.
  • Dad, you can set the tone for how your family copes with challenges. Try to always be positive, interjecting hope and humor into your family life.
  • Your children will reflect the personal values you consistently live. How can you do a better job of modeling the virtues you believe in? Talk with your children’s mother and make appropriate adjustments.
  • For whatever challenges you’re facing as a dad, make sure you have a support system in place—especially other dads who experience similar things, who will let you bounce ideas and keep encouraging you.
  • In all families, communication is vitally important. Trials and tension points are going to be there; learn how to bring them out in the open and address them in a healthy way.

Written by Carey Casey

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