A member of our Denison Forum board recently gave me Gregory Slayton’s Be A Better Dad Today! 10 tools every father needs (Regal, 2012). I hadn’t read a book on fatherhood for a while (our sons are 26 and 23 and have been out of our home for years), but I’m glad I spent time with this one. It’s relevant for Father’s Day and is the most holistic and practical guide to fathering I’ve ever seen.
Gregory Slayton’s story is truly remarkable. He graduated magna cum laude from Dartmouth with an economics degree, then became a Fulbright Scholar and earned an MBA from Harvard. A Silicon Valley success story, he appeared on Time magazine’s cover and served as U.S. Consul General to Bermuda before teaching at Dartmouth, Harvard and Stanford. But he would say that his most significant job is to be the father of four.
His handbook begins with the importance of fatherhood—it’s the only role in life for which a man is truly indispensable. Children who grow up without fathers are two to three times more likely to spend time in jail, drop out of school, fail to hold a long-term job, or become addicted to drugs and alcohol
How does a father lead his family well? Slayton begins with a “Noble Family Vision,” a document that a family writes together describing what they will look like in 5 years, 10 years, and 20 years. It defines their values and guides their decisions.
Now a father is ready to use the “ten tools of FATHERHOOD” (note the acrostic):
- Family first/family fun: Slayton offers practical tips for making time for your family, no matter how busy you are. Take one of your kids on business trips or errands; get involved in their activities as a coach; find three things on your schedule you can reduce to spend more time with your family; schedule mealtimes together; make a special time with your wife at least once a week; touch the hearts of your children every day.
- All-in marriage: get rid of any competitors to your wife, deciding that divorce is not an option. Discover your wife’s likes and love language, and commit to doing life together.
- True moral compass and true humility: discipline appropriately and humbly, following the 10/1 rule (10 parts love for every part discipline).
- Heartfelt love: act always with commitment, fidelity, grace and tenderness.
- Empowering servant leadership: put your family’s needs ahead of your own, following the example of Jesus.
- Relationship tools that work: learn to listen, relate, and care.
- Heaven’s help: depend on your Father to make you the best father you can be.
- Other good dads: don’t try to parent without help.
- Optimistic, never-surrender attitude: never, ever quit on your family.
- Dynamic, whole-person support: give your family emotional, physical, mental and spiritual support. Finances are not enough.
Here’s the bottom line: to be a good father, follow the example of your Father.
This article originally appeared in the Reading the Culture column in The Baptist Standard