The last day of the Absent Get Fatherhood Back Tour was spent in the “State of Excitement” which of course is Western Australia. This was the tagline found on every WA number plate in years gone by and it still applies today especially in the area of fatherhood.
Justin Hunt, the Absent director, and I had two well attended Absent movie screenings, all on the same day, and then caught the ‘red eye special’ back to Sydney.
The first screening was attended by Nick Goiran MP, who has bravely called for a Ministry for Men’s Interests, along with the likes of Wes Carter, who has been a national leader in the Australian men’s movement for many years.
The second screening was organised by Trischa Botha, an enthusiastic woman from i60 Community Program that is running a volunteer men’s rite of passage for boys in the local high schools.
I could fill many pages listing the great things that are happening in Western Australia, but perhaps the most exciting is the wonderful work of Dr Bruce Robinson and The Fathering Project. Dr Bruce Robinson has written a number books on Fathering: “Fathering from the Fast Lane” in 2001 and “Daughters and Dads” in 2008 are both must-reads for Australian dads. Bruce is a long time friend of Dads4Kids and was named the West Australian of the Year at the beginning of June. Congratulations Dr Robinson from Dads4Kids!
In a recent article called the Powerful Role of Men in Children’s Lives, Bruce explained some of the background to his passion to help the children of Australia.
“People often think that the University of WA Fathering Project is only for dads. It is not. Many kids don’t have access to a father or have a father who is just not interested in learning how to do a good job of fathering. So we focus a lot on the concept of father-figures. Many people describe having had a father-figure who made a big difference in their lives, such as a grandfather, stepfather, uncle, older brother, father-in-law, schoolteacher, youth leader, sports coach, pastor or family friend.
Research has shown that children with an active father-figure are at less risk of psychological and behavioural problems. It is the case that if these father-figures show an interest in the children, help them to feel special, express unconditional love and can give safe, authentic love and respect to kids, it can inspire those kids for the rest of their lives.
Father-figures matter where dad is still around but they are especially important where there is no dad. And when dad is still “around” but not interested, or is even a negative influence on a child, then a father-figure can become a vital confidant, confidence builder and affirming influence.
Many men are, or can be, father-figures. In reality a father-figure is any man who has significant contact with young people. This role could be as seemingly trivial as being the school bus driver.
A father-figure’s role can be extraordinarily helpful, is usually minimal and is sometimes destructive. Not every child in Australia has a father around but they all have potentially helpful father-figures. Effective father-figures might be found within the family. Grandfathers are often able to spend more time with their grandchildren than they ever did with their own children.
I am now a grandfather of two beautiful and different little girls and I take that role seriously. I love them and want to spend time with them, but I also know how important I can be. I love taking them out one at a time for dates — ice-creams or lunch.”
Dr Bruce Robinson is a featured speaker in the Dads4Kids Good to Great Fathering Course. Here is his simple advice to fathers to get on the Fatherhood BUS (acrostic).
Let me paraphrase the good doctor’s advice for you to help you catch the BUS and be an effective father.
- B is for BEING THERE. Your children need you to Be There for them. To be there with them and live in the moment called the present. Perhaps one of the hardest things for us to do as fathers for our children, but we have to DO it none the less and devise ways to do it more.
- U is for UNCONDITIONAL LOVE and U being the middle letter holds the BUS together. Without Unconditional Love for your children you don’t have a BUS nor can you catch it.
- S is for making your children feel SPECIAL. If you don’t make your children feel special who will? When you tell your son “he has what it takes” or you tell your daughter “she is beautiful” they believe their Fathers words and begin to relax in who they are and then they are free to become who they are meant to be.
Of all of the above, the most important letter is the middle one which of course stands for UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. In many of Bruce’s speaking appointments on fatherhood, I have heard him emphasise the importance of us as fathers offering unconditional love to our children. In our merit-based society, this is perhaps the hardest thing to do. This does not mean that we should encourage our children to do the wrong thing, but we must love them the same even when they do.
Bruce often refers to the story that Jesus tells of the Parable of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15: 11-13. Many scholars would argue it is the greatest example of unconditional love that was ever told. It is a story that all fathers would do well to read and ponder as they jump on the BUS on the road to effective fathering.
Bruce’s simple fatherhood BUS acrostic is still the best piece of fatherhood advice I have ever heard, and it is a BUS I am still trying to stay on. Sometimes I fall off the BUS but I always try to catch it again, and my children are always glad when I do. I encourage you to stay on Bruce Robinson’s fatherhood BUS and get a good seat, because I guarantee your children will be happier when you do.
Yours for Listening to Good Advice,