As a parent, you have to be able to lead family discussions with a listening ear, respecting each family member’s point of view. From the diversity of opinions, in love you can forge a united course of action. Sincere agreement is vital for harmony and effectiveness.
Many years ago, Dads4Kids convened Australia’s first-ever Fathering Forum in Federal Parliament in Canberra. Almost 30 different groups were represented. The one thing each group had in common was a vital interest in ‘turning the tide of fatherlessness’ in Australia. In some cases, that was the only thing they had in common.
The aim of the Fathering Forum was to promote positive debate and achieve some overall policy consensus as we moved towards the first-ever National Strategic Conference on Fatherhood, 18-19 August 2003, again at Parliament House, Canberra. The purpose of that conference was to develop a national strategy to tackle Australia’s most pressing social issue, ‘fatherlessness’.
In organising Australia’s first Fathering Forum, it would have been easy to invite only those organisations that see ‘eye-to-eye’ with the team at the Dads4Kids. This would have doomed the Fathering Forum to failure. I remember at the time that many representatives coming to the Forum were people I would personally have disagreed with on many subjects very strongly.
Sometimes in the course of life, you have to take a chance and bet on a good outcome. Prayer helps. Looking back at that historic Fathering Forum, I keep thinking of that famous saying: “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” You see, I was naïve, but sometimes naivety can help you.
Believing the best about other people sometimes forces other people to find the best in themselves Surprisingly, we found the place of common agreement. The historic 12Pt Plan, to turn the tide of fatherlessness, was the result. This document became the bible for the men’s movement. You see, the place of agreement is always the place of power, as Ed Cole used to say.
If we are to see change, we must endeavour to work with all those who want that change, even if we do not fully agree with them. Our job is to do our best to find the place of agreement. Being a father in a family is much the same. You are the forum leader.
You will not always agree with all the points of view raised by your wife or your children. Many times, they will go against everything you believe in.
What do you do? For a start, you must listen. We all have two ears and one mouth: this gives us the ratio of listening to speaking that should be displayed by every human being on the face of this earth.
Most of us, myself included, will usually reverse that ratio in our favour and do more talking instead of more listening. And your wife or children might just be right!
This therefore is the key to change; this is the secret to success in family deliberations — LISTEN with a humble heart. Ask questions. Try to understand your children’s point of view.
Times change but values don’t. Your ability to listen humbly will show them that you value their opinion, which is really another way of saying, ‘I love you’. Change that comes through forceful arrogance is not change, but bullying. Only change that comes through love will last.
Let your home be filled with loving change. Change that comes through open and friendly discussions. Use mealtimes to talk through issues affecting your family. Switch the TV off while you eat together. Enjoy each other’s company. Ask questions, listen. Be ready to see the funny side of things, learn to laugh at yourself. Life is too short to be sad.
I’ll end with a Short Course on Human Relations that I have had pinned up in my office for the last twenty-five years.
SHORT COURSE ON HUMAN RELATIONS
THE SIX MOST IMPORTANT WORDS
‘I ADMIT I MADE A MISTAKE’
THE FIVE MOST IMPORTANT WORDS
‘YOU DID A GOOD JOB’
THE FOUR MOST IMPORTANT WORDS
‘WHAT IS YOUR OPINION’
THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT WORDS
‘WOULD YOU MIND’
THE TWO MOST IMPORTANT WORDS
THE MOST IMPORTANT WORD
THE LEAST IMPORTANT WORD
Why not take the whole family through the short course on human relations this week? You could do it around an evening meal.
You could have a special family meeting to discuss the Pros and Cons. Trust me, the Pros will come out in front. But let your family come to their own conclusion, because the place of agreement is the place of power.
Yours for loving change,
Photo by Antoni Shkraba.