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Thriving in Your Role as Dad

Air Date 05/21/2018

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Author and filmmaker Rob Stennett offers encouragement and advice to fathers who feel insecure in their parenting role in a lighthearted discussion based on his book The Perfect Dad: A Totally Achievable Guide to Not Messing Up Your Kids.

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Episode Transcript

 

Opening: 

Excerpt:

Mr. Rob Stennett: …And these two things kind of hit simultaneously. But the first one is fear. Like, it’s just this overwhelming, like, I have this “wow” sense of responsibility all of a sudden. I have to provide. I have to take care of someone. I have, like, such a thing there. And it’s also joy…

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: Well, being a dad is one of the most important jobs a man will ever have. And Rob Stennett takes that very seriously. He’s the father of four girls, and he’s our guest on Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. Thanks for tuning in today. I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Hey, John, you and I are both fathers of children. You have six. I have two. So, what do you say to that?

John: It’s not too late.

Jim: (Laughter) It’s not too late.

John: Have some more.

Jim: I’m going to adopt some children. But Rob has written a humorous and helpful book for fathers called The Perfect Dad. When I first looked at the book, I went what? Perfect dad? It’s got to be the imperfect dad. But it’s tongue-in-cheek, I think.

Hey, uh, here’s some of the influences of a father. And sometimes - we talk about how important moms are. And I think we all, in our hearts, we know it. We know moms are important. And so, for you, moms, uh, well done, keep it going. But it’s important for dads to be engaged with their kids. Let me just rattle off some of the stats. Children with fathers who are involved in their lives - that’s an important factor - do better academically. They’re less likely to use - they’re less likely to use abuse substances. Adolescents with more involved fathers are twice as likely to go to college, 75 percent less likely to have a child in their teen years, 80 percent less likely to be incarcerated and half as likely to struggle with depression.

And I just want to point those benefits out because, uh, we can get on dads. We’re aloof. We’re distant. And that is true at times. I mean, we compartmentalize, and we’re not always there at the moment. But an engaged father is powerful to the family, and that’s what we want to encourage moms and dads with the today. Dads, let’s get going, and let’s make sure we’re doing the job we need to do. And with that, Rob, let me welcome you to Focus on the Family.

Body:

Rob: Thank you, Jim. It’s so good to be here.

Jim: OK, I painted that - kind of that important picture. But, you give your overview to it. What motivated you to do The Perfect Dad?

Rob: Well, I saw this article about an NFL player. This is probably five, 10 years ago. But it’s like, this would be the perfect quarterback. The perfect quarterback would have Aaron Rodgers’ arm and Tom Brady’s playbook and Peyton Manning’s head and Tim Tebow’s heart. And if you could somehow, like, Frankenstein a quarterback in a lab, like, that’s the perfect quarterback.

Jim: Well, the Broncos, we need that guy.

Rob: Right, I know.

(LAUGHTER)

Rob: And so, I thought the same sort of thing is true about a dad. Like, a dad has this list of jobs that they have to do that are like, they have to be a coach. Like, as a dad, it’s like, oh, you can coach your kid’s team. Or they have to be a teacher. Like, oh, dad, you should know all the answers to homework. Or they have to be a pastor. Like, hey, Dad, I’m having a spiritual crisis? What do I do with that? So, I thought there are these 12 jobs of being a dad. And there are more of them than that, but I kind of listed out 12 primary ones. And I thought, if you could kind of nail all of those and Frankenstein someone together, you would have the perfect dad.

Jim: And typically, that list is coming from your wife.

Rob: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: That’s something, you know, that’s kind of understood, right?

John: Gentle suggestions.

Rob: Yes.

Jim: Here’s a list of how you could be a better dad.

Rob: Exactly.

Jim: That is common, though. And I want to speak to that - how we have a little bit of conflict sometimes in our marriages because we’re not being the fathers we need to be. What advice do you have to the spouse, the wife, about moving your husband along in a more productive way?

Rob: Well, I think every guy is going to have things that he’s talented at naturally, and there’s going to be things that are like, oh, I need to grow in this - this scenario that I grow. So, I think maybe start with the strengths, like start with the positive, and build on something versus, like, why don’t you ever do this, why aren’t you good enough in this? And, like, we think those things. And especially, if we had a dad who did that so well - like, for me in my house, like, I’m the bad handyman. Like so...

Jim: OK, me and you both.

Rob: Yeah. If the garbage disposal breaks, if the dishwasher breaks - but there are lots of things that, like, OK, I’m the guy who will read to my kids, I’m the guy who will play in the backyard. And so, there are strengths. And so, start with those strengths, and then start working towards the weaknesses as well.

Jim: Why do you think we, as dads, are so insecure?

Rob: I think - some of it I think is biology. I think a mom gets a natural kind of nine-month gestation period of, like, growing close to the baby. And, like, when my wife tells me I’m - the first time she told me she’s pregnant, it’s in theory for me. You know, I’m like...

Jim: Right.

Rob: ...OK. Like, I know that, but my body doesn’t feel different. I don’t feel any different. And so, she’s growing close to the baby in a way that I can’t. By the time the baby’s born, I feel - and even in the birthing process, you’re kind of sitting on the back row, like, all right, Honey, good job, here’s some ice chips. And you just feel like you’re on the sideline. So, by the time the baby’s born, it can kind of create that culture of like, well, I’m the second parent. I’m the second most important parent.

Jim: You’re the support team.

Rob: Exactly. I’m the back-up quarterback.

Jim: That’s interesting. Yeah.

Rob: And so, I think that happens, and it makes dads kind of naturally lean away.

Jim: What about that first time you became a dad? I think all of us, as fathers, we remember that. It’s very poignant. And, you’ve done this four times now with...

Rob: Yeah.

Jim: ...Your daughters, but what was that first time like?

Rob: I think the first time, there’s two fears that come across a man’s face, when he learns that he’s pregnant. And the first - and these two things kind of hit simultaneously. But, the first one is fear. Like, it’s just this overwhelming, like, I have this “wow” sense of responsibility all of a sudden. I have to provide. I have to take care of someone. I have, like, such a thing there. And it’s also joy - this incredible thing that’s going to happen. And so, I feel both. And I think where it can go so wrong is that sense of fear that we have or that sense of, like, overwhelming, like, wow, what has just happened that we have, that can be hurtful to a wife. And so, it’s a little bit like, no, you’ve had time to process this, but you’re just telling me, like, for me, what I remember is my wife - I love “Star Wars” - so she gave me this little present. I open up the box. And it was Yoda. And it said, “Future Jedi,” on a onesie. And I was like...

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: You had to think about it.

Rob: And I did - I had to - I was like - I was like, why are you giving me this? And she’s like, I’m pregnant. And I was like, “Yay!” So, it was just...

Jim: (Laughter) that is so funny. I had almost the same experience. Jean, with number two, she put number one’s baby cap...

John: Yeah.

Jim: ...In the hospital in a box...

Rob: Oh.

Jim: ...At Christmas.

Rob: Yeah.

Jim: And I opened it, and I was going, is this for Trent? And, you know, she just looked at me like, are you dense?

Rob: Right.

Jim: I’m like - I’m - what? What does this mean? Did you - did you - is this the wrap - did you mis-wrap this?

Rob: Right, and I thought I...

Jim: She goes, no, I am pregnant!

Rob: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

Rob: And it’s like, did you mess up the moment? Was - oh, shoot.

Jim: (Laughter).

Rob: Can I take this again? Can we cut, and I can re-open the present?

Jim: Right (laughter). You feel so stupid.

Rob: Right.

Jim: But, that is that feeling. Now, Sarah, she did a French degree.

Rob: Yes.

Jim: You’re having, maybe your fourth child, or your third girl. I can’t remember...

Rob: Yes.

Jim: ...what it was. And she had to complete that. I found that hilarious how she, and why she had to complete her French degree, which meant what for you?

Rob: So, this was actually our very first kid. She had gone three straight summers to New York University in Paris. And so, she had to finish her French degree, go for the whole summer. And so, the baby’s nine months old. And she’s like, I’m going leave the baby with Rob for the summer. And then, all of our friends are like, you’re leaving the baby with Rob?

Jim: You know what every mom just hearing that said – “You did what?!”

Rob: I know.

John: This is like a bad film script here.

Jim: Yeah.

Rob: I know!

Jim: But she did.

Rob: She did. She’s like - she’s like, no, he’s - he’s a man. He’s a father. He’s capable of it. And I - I’ll never forget this moment in the airport. I’m holding baby Juliana. I’m looking at it, and I say, OK, goodbye, Honey. I was like, this is going to be a lot of fun. I’m babysitting for the next three weeks. And she looks at me, and she says, Rob, it’s not called babysitting. And I said, well, what’s it called? And she’s like, it’s called being a father.

Jim: That’s (laughter)... she sorted you out there.

Rob: Yeah. And so - and then it just burned at me. Like, I realized out of, like - oh, this is me. This is my job I’m on. So, I had that kind of month, where it was just me and the baby.

Jim: Rob, I was just kind of shocked by this stat - compared to 30 years ago, families and working folks are working about 11 hours more per week...

Rob: Yeah.

Jim: ...To make ends meet.

Rob: Yeah.

Jim: How does a young couple with kids - how do they do this? I mean, you and your wife have had to do it.

Rob: Yeah, I think it takes more of a community support system. Like, for a while, we’ve had parents who lived in the same town with us, who helped with that. We live in Austin, Texas, now. And so, we have friends who come and help out with the kids and different things like that. And so, it’s taken more of a village to kind of rally around us and do that. It also takes a lot of communication of, like, OK, I’m going to pick up the baby from preschool here. I’m going to drop off the kids to, you know, practice over here. And so, it takes a lot more communication there. And it can also lead to conflict and miscommunication and that sort of stuff of, like, well, I thought you were doing this, and I thought this was your role. So, the roles get a little more blurred, just because you’re literally both working.

Jim: Yeah.

Rob: Dual income is so much more common now. And so, it takes much more conversation. It takes communication of, like, hey, what are our roles? What are our expectations?

Jim: It’s so true. You know, right now, Jean and I are helping a young man, who has struggled and has two children. And we’re just trying to help them with an apartment, and kind of getting on their feet again.

Rob: Yeah.

Jim: I’m seeing, probably for the first time, through the eyes of a single parent, whether that be a mom or a dad. It is daunting. And I don’t know that there’s enough support. And that’s where getting plugged into a church - and, I mean, just to get childcare coverage - and I’m not sure how he’s going to do it. And we’re going to do all we can to help, but he needs, like, five or six of us...

Rob: Right.

Jim: ...To be able to pull that through. Have you given some thought to that single parent? They’re listening, too.

Rob: Yeah, absolutely. I think it - there are all these roles that you kind of need in a kid’s life. And it’s not just, hey, I have to take all this on myself, I have to do this all. It is really like - it’s why investing in friendships are important. It’s why, even if you’re don’t have kids yet, it’s why investing in other people who have kids - or if your kids have grown up, it’s like, it takes all of us taking care of each other for this to really happen. And when you’re a single parent, it takes all the more strategy, it takes all the more planning, it takes all the more, like, looking for resources that are out there. And really, like, I do think plugging into a good church, plugging into a community that’s like, hey, I see your situation - at my church at home, there’s a single dad, two kids - twin kids, nine months old. And so, I’ve done things - like, Sarah and I have taken them to the park, or different things like that to just help out and be a friend to them in that sort of way.

Jim: With all these demands on you, have you organized your goals and priority – how have you organized your goals and priorities? I mean, you look down the future with four girls, you’ve got weddings, you’ve got college education.

Rob: Well, it’s amazing. Every – so, every time I go to the grocery store - this probably happens once a month - I’ll take all four girls to the grocery store, so they’re like...

Jim: (Laughter).

Rob: I have an 11-year-old, 9-year-old, 6-year-old and 3-year-old, so they’re kind of hanging off me.

Jim: It’s a party.

Rob: They’re running around. Oh, dude, it’s - it’s incredible.

Jim: (Laughter).

Rob: And so, we’re running all around. And then, every time, someone’ll look at me and say, oh, man, I hope you’re dusting off a shotgun to fend off those boys.

Jim: (Laughter).

Rob: And then there - one guy’ll look at me and say, oh, I hope you’re saving up for all those weddings. And so, it is - it is crazy hearing that from strangers - people that you just meet in the grocery store - what sort of expectation that puts on you of, like, oh, wow, I have to save up for four different weddings, I have to, you know, save up for these things. So, for me, I think it’s just like, OK, one kid at a time, taking simple goals, doing those sort of things and not letting it be so daunting. If you would have told me 10 years ago I would’ve had four daughters, I would have said get out, get behind me. Like, I don’t believe it.

Jim: Does that include a cool washcloth for your forehead...

Rob: Yes.

Jim: ...as you think about these things?

(LAUGHTER)

Rob: Like, oh goodness.

Jim: Now, you and Sarah, you know, you have made the decision - I think Sarah’s at home with the kids.

Rob: Yes.

Jim: With four, now, that becomes, I think, a very wise decision. But, it puts pressure on you, financially. How do you - how do you prioritize those things? How do you say, OK, we’re going to have to live on less?

Rob: Yeah, I think, for us, it’s been like, OK, we’re going to have to cut down, like, what are needs, versus wants. And really, just like, hey, we’re going to do a trip to the park and pack lunch, versus like, going out for dinner, just different things like that of like, really, our family is our investment. We - Sarah’s grandpa has six kids. And he would say you can have a family, or you can have money. You know, you can kind of choose.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: That’s true.

Rob: That was his thing. And so, it’s like, OK, my investment really is my kids and our family. And it’s also been, like, OK, I’m going to do little things for our family. I’m a freelance writer, and so I’ll take on extra writing jobs and that sort of stuff. And when I do those things, it’s not like, oh, I’m trying to get money. It’s like, I’m saving up college, I’m saving up wedding funds. I’m kind of doing those, really as an act of love of, like, this is...

Jim: Sure.

Rob: ...my way to invest in my daughters.

Jim: And I’ve never heard, you know, a guy that’s on his deathbed that’s, you know, 80 years old say, I regret having children.

Rob: Right.

Jim: At that point, you’re saying, I’m so grateful my family’s around me. And, when you look at life, that’s really critical. I love the fact, in your book, The Perfect Dad, you talk about the, the adventuresome spirit that fathers should bring to this.

Rob: Yeah.

Jim: And you had a trip to Disneyland that went a little crazy.

Rob: Yes.

Jim: I think we can all relate to that. But yours was exceptionally crazy. What happened?

Rob: So, you know, I had these different jobs I was trying to do. I think being an adventure for your kids, like, really making those memories is so important.

Jim: Right.

Rob: I remember the adventures my dad took me on. So, I was like, OK, we’re going to do, like, the ultimate American trip, which is that trip to Disney. So, we went - we had the kids save up for a year. We kind of saved up for all the rides. We were really excited about it - took the minivan. And we were in that part of Utah, where like, if aliens landed, like, they would land in this part...

Jim: (Laughter).

Rob: ...because it’s so desolate.

Jim: Area 51 and a half.

Rob: Exactly. It was just, like, desert. Nothing else, like, barely any cell phone service, that sort of stuff. And so, all of a sudden, I hear this click. And then I was like, “oh, what was that?” And then our speedometer, all of a sudden, starts flashing back and forth. All the lights in our car start flashing. And then our car goes gu-gu-gu-gu-gu-boom, and stops, in the middle of the desert. And so, I was like, oh, my gosh, what are we going to do? So, I get on the phone, call the Esurance. They send out a tow truck. And the tow truck driver gets there. And he’s like, oh, I can’t fit all five of you into my tow truck. He’s like, I can only fit three of you. And we’re - I was like, well, how far away are we from town? He’s like, oh, about 45 minutes. And so, I was like, what do we do? And so, I had this decision. I was like, do I get in the tow truck with him and drive into town and leave my wife and daughters stranded on the side of the road? Or, do we stay on the side of the road and then send them into town?

Jim: Let’s think for a minute. Oh, send your wife...

Rob: Right.

Jim: ...With the car.

John: Right answer.

Rob: And so...

Jim: (Laughter).

Rob: And so, I was like, OK. I sent her with the tow truck driver. And I’ll never forget this look. She gets in the tow truck and kind of looks at me like, are you sure this is OK?

Jim: It’s like a “Twilight Zone.”

Rob: It totally was.

Jim: (Laughter).

Rob: It was like this - right. And so, she shuts the door. And then as soon as she shut the door, I had this eerie feeling like something’s wrong. And so, all the sudden, I’m texting her, I’m calling her, like, hey, is everything OK? And then my phone dies. My car’s dead. I have no battery. And then the sheriff ends up driving up. And he’s like, hey, are you OK? Is everything OK there? And I was like, yeah, we had a tow truck that came. And he’s like, oh, the tow truck already came. And I was like, yeah. And he’s like - I was like, “yeah, he took my wife and kids.” He’s like, “you sent your wife and kids with the tow truck?”

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: You idiot. (LAUGHTER)

Rob: I know. I was like, yeah. Is that a problem? And he looks at me. And he’s like, “It’s probably fine.” And then he - and then he gets in the car, and he takes off. And so then, all of a sudden, I’m just totally frightened, freaked out.

Jim: Now, how are you going to get back to town?

Rob: Well, the...

Jim: Why didn’t he give you a ride?

Rob: He just - he - I don’t know, he got a call on his radio. And he’s like, oh, I got to go check this... and I didn’t... I’m not thinking straight. I didn’t know what happened

Jim: And you’re standing on the side of the road with no...

Rob: Standing on the...

Jim: ...vehicle.

Rob: ...Side of the road in Utah, in the desert...

John: Truly an adventure.

Rob: ...100-degree day. I was like, this is a true adventure.

Jim: Now, is Disneyland still in front of you or behind you?

Rob: Disneyland is in front of us. So, we’re...

Jim: (Laughter).

Rob: ...On our way. Like, this story is just getting started. Well, and I’m thinking, you know, we’re - like I said, we don’t have a lot of money. So - I’m like, OK, we’re going to spend our whole Disneyland budget to fix this car. And so, then I go - the tow truck driver finally comes and gets me. And he’s like, oh, we’re gonna go to Bernie’s, instead. Like, the shop you were supposed to go to, they have a two-day wait. So, he’s like, I’m just going to take you to Bernie’s. And so, I was like - all of sudden, I was like, what is this situation that I’ve gotten myself into? I was like, this is what they do to poor dads, who don’t know how to fix their cars. They take them to the side shop out there, and then he’s going to, you know, fleece me. And so, he goes - takes me to this, like, little garage-looking thing. Wife and kids are there. Everything’s great. We all hug each other. And then we sit there for about three hours. And he’s like, OK, the car’s fixed. And so, I was like, all right, how much is it going to be? And he’s like, “Uh, it seems like you’re having a really hard day, so we’re just going to charge you $45.” And I was - I mean, it was the Good Samaritan story, in a way I’ve never experienced it. I was like $45 is...

Jim: What was it?

Rob: It was the serpentine belt, and it did a few different damages and that sort of stuff, and that’s what it was.

Jim: That’s cheap.

Rob: And so, he just did it for as cheap as he could, just less than the part was worth. And he’s like, I just want to really take care of you guys. And I just...

Jim: Wow.

Rob: ...Got all like misty, gave this guy a hug. And I was like, you saved our vacation to Disneyland. Thank you.

Jim: Man, that is - shout-out to whoever that was in Utah. If you’re listening, way to go.

Rob: Yeah.

Jim: That’s awesome.

John: Well, we’re talking today, on Focus on the Family, to the author of The Perfect Dad. As you can tell, he’s almost perfect. He can’t fix cars, but he can do other stuff. Rob Stennett is with us. And you can get a copy of his book and a download or CD of our conversation at focusonthefamily.com/radio. Or, if you still have cell service, and your battery’s not dead, go ahead and call us - 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.

Jim: You, with all four girls - I mean, you and your wife Sarah, you talk about how we’re going to train these girls up to be wonderful daughters of the Lord. So, how does discipline enter into your family? How do you go about that, as the perfect dad?

Rob: Yeah, I think discipline, it’s kind of two things. One, it’s disciplining your kids. And two, there’s always these little violations that happen with your girls, or your kids where something happens, and she did it, no, I did it and stuff like...

Jim: That happens in your home?

Rob: All the...

(LAUGHTER)

Rob: It’s probably happening right now.

Jim: I know, right.

Rob: And so, it really is both of those things. That’s what we had a lot of conversations about. For us, it’s both positive and negative discipline. And so, there’s the positive discipline, which really is - we want to create a culture in our home of noticing when our kids do something right.

Jim: That is so important.

Rob: It’s like, “oh, great job.” “Thank you for helping with the dishes.” “Oh, you helped your sister with that coloring, thank you.” And so, just really looking out for those things versus, like, reacting to why didn’t you do this? Like, and so, we try to do three positives for every negative. It doesn’t always work like that.

Jim: But it’s good to keep in your mind...

Rob: Yeah, it is.

Jim: ...as a parent. I like that. And, we try to do that as well. Sometimes we’re not as good at it either. Share an example of how you’ve done that, and not so much the positive but maybe the negative, as well.

Rob: Well, the other thing with the negative is we have really clear expectations. And so, we say these are the rules. So, we do that in the calm times. What I found early on was we would just - there’d be something going on, and then you would kind of snap and say, hey, don’t do that, don’t do this. And so, we’re like, OK, we need to back up and slow down and say, hey, these are the first expectations. So, the first one is there’s a warning. Like, OK, this is your warning of what’s going on. The second one is, this is, what the consequence is going to be. And then, the third one is the consequence itself. And it’s age-appropriate. For a 3-year-old, it looks different than 11-year-old. But it can be a loss of dessert, or loss of screen time, or that sort of stuff.

Jim: Yeah.

Rob: But by the time it happens, it’s not a surprise. It’s still...

Jim: Right.

Rob: ...tense there. But it’s like, hey, you knew this was going on, and you know this is better. And for me, the other thing about discipline is discipline isn’t about the rules. Discipline is about teaching the behavior that we want to impart to our kids. So...

Jim: And that’s so good.

Rob: Hey, this is what we’re trying to do, Juliana. This is what we’re trying to do, Claire. These are the conversations that we have. I’m not trying to punish you arbitrarily. The reason this - but, like, you have to be honest and tell the truth. And if you can’t do that, that’s going to hurt you later in life.

Jim: Boy, that’s really important. What are those five rules that you deploy in your home?

Rob: So, we have five rules. They’re more like...

Jim: Guidelines.

Rob: ...Guidelines, values, that sort of thing. But the first one is, be kind and don’t yell.

Jim: How’s that going?

Rob: Man...

Jim: (Laughter) That’s a tough one, but it’s a good one.

Rob: It’s something - the reason we made it our first rule is, like, with sisters, it’s - like, I’m learning this, but it’s amazing how quickly the volume can escalate...

Jim: Yes.

Rob: ...How quickly the snapping can happen. And so, we’re like, OK. But it’s really important for us to instill that value in our girls of, like, your sister is one of the best friends that you’re ever going to have. Love her. Cherish her. And so, really, be kind, don’t yell at each other.

Jim: That’s sweet. But I thought the first one might be you only get 10 minutes in the bathroom.

Rob: Well...

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: With five girls in your house, that might be a better one.

Rob: That’s coming. Once they’re teenagers, pray for me. And so...

Jim: All right, number two.

Rob: So, my number two rule is, we say that, be responsible - responsibility’s a big deal. And so, for us, it’s age-appropriate, so it’s chores and homework. It’s that sort of thing that’s really a big deal for us. We want to make sure, like, hey, you have these responsibilities, and you should learn to do those. Like, if you can learn to own your responsibilities when you’re young, as you get older, as you get jobs, as you get families of your own, it’ll help you - those responsibilities not to seem so burdensome.

Jim: That’s so true. Number three, you said, is eat what is served.

Rob: Yes.

Jim: That goes down well in anybody’s house, really.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: That’s important.

John: Honor the cook.

Jim: Honor the cook.

Rob: Yeah, eat what’s served is just - it’s amazing with kids. Like, you put food in front of them, and how much they push back and say, no, I don’t want this, I don’t like this. And so, we really try to teach that in our own home. And then when we go to grandma’s house, or we go to a friend’s house, it’s like someone’s serving us something, so we’re grateful for that.

Jim: That’s fun. Number four is have fun every week.

Rob: Yup.

Jim: That’s a great one.

Rob: Yeah, have fun.

Jim: How do you guys do that?

Rob: We try to do, like, some sort of family outing, or a family movie night, or something like that. But, we plan something during the week that it’s like, “hey we’re going to look forward to this.”

Jim: So, you do a buildup...

Rob: Yeah, we do a buildup to it.

Jim: ...With the kids.

Rob: Yeah, and so...

Jim: It’s coming Friday night.

Rob: Yeah, Friday night, we’re going to do ice cream night, or we’re going to do pizza night, or family night, but just something more just like - and I wanted one of the rules to be something that was fun and positive...

Jim: Yeah.

Rob: ...So all the rules weren’t finger-wagging, like, do this, don’t do this. But it was like, hey, we’re going to have fun - that’s a rule in our house.

Jim: So, you don’t say we’re going to do ice cream night, but you know what? - ice cream is so bad for you.

Rob: Right.

Jim: I don’t know why we’re doing it.

Rob: Right, exactly.

John: We’ll serve tofu ice cream.

Rob: Right.

Jim: Tofu is good. And then the last one, the fifth one, be honest. That’s a beautiful one for a household guideline or rule.

Rob: Yeah.

Jim: So, has that broken down, or has that been relatively easy to deploy?

Rob: I’m amazed at how honest my kids are actually. I’m amazed how much when we’ll confront them about something, or ask about a grade, or ask about something that happened, they’re really straightforward and honest about it.

Jim: Yeah, and that’s - those are great spiritual tools that you’re developing in your girls. So, you’ve been a youth pastor. You’ve been around kids your entire life, it sounds like. So, you’ve seen, firsthand, some of that brokenness that kids come from in their homes. And you’re trying to provide, I’m sure, a better environment obviously for your own daughters. But what have you learned from that environment, being a youth pastor, seeing broken homes where maybe there’s been failure?

Rob: Yeah.

Jim: What are some of those big lessons you take away?

Rob: I mean, when I was a young youth pastor - assistant youth pastor, we would do different kind of prayers at the end of the night - different messages. And there was no prayer where students would come up for prayer more than, hey, who here has been hurt by your dad, or has had a broken relationship with your dad? When that - when you say that in a youth meeting...

Jim: Yeah.

Rob: ...Every hand goes up.

Jim: Every hand.

Rob: And - and...

Jim: Wow.

Rob: And it’s amazing to me, I think, because dad’s have so much authority and power, and that relationship is so easy to be frayed. And so, I remember being, you know, 20 years old seeing that happen and just - not - not blaming the dads, but just asking myself, like, OK, if I ever have that opportunity to have kids, how am I going to do better? And it was, for me, just a warning sign of, like, I have to take this job really seriously, because it can be so hurtful, if it goes wrong.

Jim: Yeah. Rob some dads are hearing this. And they’re saying, I haven’t been a good father. I remember when the last time I hugged my dad when I was 11. And I told him I was going to live with my brother, not with him. And he was battling issues. And I remember he stood up, and he said, you know, I haven’t been a good husband, and I haven’t been a good father. And I hugged him. And he died a few months later. And that was the last conversation I had with him. That’s what you’re talking about...

Rob: Yeah.

Jim: ...That kind of brokenness, where dads aren’t doing the job. Some are listening right now. And, it may not be that extreme. It may be you’re just so occupied with the provision part of your responsibility - building your career, doing all you can do...

Rob: Right.

Jim: ...to make sure the family is taken care of. We can justify that, as dads and husbands, you know. Look how hard I’m working for us.

Rob: Right.

Jim: Don’t you see that? What do you say to that father when their kids are crying out for him?

Rob: Well, I do think the provision thing, like I said at the beginning, it’s such a weight that that’s where all of our energy and attention goes first. And it’s what we feel more naturally inclined to. Men find their identities in their careers. And so, it’s like, OK, that’s what I’m going to do, and that’s what I’m going to bring. But, I would say to that dad it’s never too late. I talked to Dad who read my book, and he was crying and kind of having that same conversation - my kids are old, they’re grown up, there’s been a lot of brokenness there. And I was like, man, texts, phone calls, emails are easy to send.

Jim: Yeah.

Rob: And it’s amazing what little steps can bring healing to.

Jim: Yeah.

Rob: And so, if you’re listening to this right now, if you’re going through it and, like, I missed it, my kids aren’t young anymore, it’s broken there, I believe Jesus heals these relationships. I believe God’s a God of redemption, and I believe those relationships can be healed between you and your kids.

Jim: And reach out to them...

Rob: Absolutely.

Jim: ...Even if they’re adult children out of the home. Send them a text today. I love you.

Rob: Yeah.

Jim: I’m sorry I missed so much. That’s a relatively simple thing to do. Rob, I so appreciate your heart for fathering. And your book, The Perfect Dad is a great resource - very practical - to give us handles. And that’s important for us fathers - make it simple. And all the wives are laughing, “that’s true!”

But, it is a wonderful resource. And if you’re in that spot, or maybe it’s your husband, and you want to do something gently to say, hey, I heard something on Focus today that I think would really be interesting to you, get in touch with us. We’ll get this in your hands. If you can’t afford it, we’ll get it in your hands. If you can give us a gift for any amount, we’ll say thank you by sending it along to you to help us help others. That’s what it’s about. So, thank you for that. And, Rob, thank you so much for pouring into your daughters and your wife and your family as an example of what it means to be, maybe not the perfect dad, but darn close. So, thanks for being with us.

Rob: Thank you, guys. This was fun.

Closing:

John: And, go ahead and donate, order the book and find other resources at focusonthefamily.com/radio, or call 1-800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.

I would point out that while you’re waiting for the book to arrive, you can also, at the website, take a parenting assessment tool that we have.

Jim: That’s a good one.

John: 7 Traits of Effective Parenting, it’s maybe seven or eight minutes long. And it’ll help you understand what your strengths are, as a dad, and give you some handles on ways to grow in that all-important role as we’ve talked about today. Again, the website, focusonthefamily.com/radio.

Coming up next time on this broadcast, opposites in marriage: How do you cope with those inevitable differences?

Teaser:

Mrs. Melanie Shankle: And I think that so much of marriage is, it’s figuring out here’s the hill I’m willing to die on and here’s something that I can let go and compromise on.

End of Teaser

 

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Guest

Rob Stennett

View Bio
Rob Stennett is an award-winning novelist and filmmaker, and the author of four books including The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher and his latest, The Perfect Dad. Rob's writing has also appeared in screenplays, web articles, short films, commercials, documentaries, and live theatrical events across the country. When not writing, Rob works as a creative director at his church in Austin, TX. He and his wife, Sarah, have four daughters.