Encouraging Dads through Mentoring and Parenting Classes

by Norris Law Group on June 23, 2014

Encouraging Dads through Mentoring and Parenting ClassesAs the old saying goes, “Anyone can be a father, but it takes a special man to be a dad.” For many men, the prospect of fatherhood (or “dadhood,” for that matter) can seem a bit daunting. But a June 2014 article in the Deseret News writer Sara Israelsen-Hartley encourages men to take on the role of “Dad” to the best of their ability, and offers some suggestions that may help them do so.

Israelsen-Hartley contends, “Fathers are awash in confusing ideas about what it means to father. Television and movies often portray goofballs who are inept at housework and child care, or masculine men who don’t show emotion or ask for help. As a result, many men feel lost…” She goes on to discuss the writings of Ralph LaRossa, a professor emeritus of Sociology at Georgia State and the author of The Modernization of Fatherhood. In his book, Dr. LaRossa examines the role of fathers throughout history, from the family farmers of colonial America; Industrial Revolution-era factory workers; kind, hardworking nurturers during the Great Depression; hardened post-World War II providers; seemingly “perfect” 50’s dads in the tradition of Ward Cleaver; a somewhat diminished role following the feminist movement of the 60’s and 70’s, and up to modern fathers.

According to Andrew Behnke, a human development professor at North Carolina State, says that these shifting roles may have left modern fathers “without a map of how to live, how to be a father,” and therefore unsure of themselves and the true impact they can and do have on their families. In an effort to remedy this, Behnke teaches parenting classes just for fathers: “”I tell them to wear their hearts on their sleeves…There’s a need in our culture to make that cool, for fathers to really own being a loving father as … what it’s all about.” As a means of illustration, Behnke begins each parenting class by asking each father to literally pin a foam heart onto his sleeve, and to wear it proudly.

The article also discusses the importance of mentoring for fathers, and introduces Jervis Lee of Kearns, UT. Lee oversees a mentoring program at his church, and once a month takes a group of fathers out for some “male bonding” over bowling, fishing, camping, etc. The men are encouraged to share their stories with one another as well. Jervis Lee, who grew up without a father himself, says, “We’ve been taught that asking another man is a sign of weakness and we’ve been taught not to be weak….Realize you’re human and you’re going to make mistakes, and it’s OK to ask for help.”

Jason Bronson of West Valley City, a married father of five—and soon-to-be six—foster children, reminds fathers who may feel a bit insecure in their role, “You don’t have to be the smartest, best person to be a good dad…You just have to put in a lot of effort…”I teach my kids, ‘Don’t be afraid to try new things. Try your best and fail, but just do it.’ ” It’s a lesson that Bronson learned from his own dad.

Attorney Graham Norris and his associates at the Norris Law Group serve the residents of Utah County and throughout Utah in the area of family law, including adoption. Contact them today at 801-932-1238 or online for a free consultation.

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