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Dads, Look Up! You Can’t Lead Your Family from Behind Your Phone.

Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker

Many fathers think of themselves as coaches, guiding their sons and daughters to academic and athletic success. I’m all in favor of hoping your child succeeds. But if you really want to be a great dad, especially in today’s society, focus on leading instead of coaching.

There’s a big difference between a coach and a leader. Coaches can teach skills and encourage their execution, but it’s a leader who brings vision, which is another way of saying a moral framework for how life is to be lived.

There’s a big difference between a coach and a leader. Coaches can teach skills and encourage their execution, but it’s a leader who brings vision, which is another way of saying a moral framework for how life is to be lived.

Moral leadership relies on moral courage, which means having the intestinal fortitude to do, say, and believe what you know to be right. That sense of right and wrong comes from a well-formed conscience—a conscience that doesn’t make up its own rules but that conforms itself to eternal truth.

Fathers, you’re raising kids during a difficult era: the era of social media. This is bad news for your kids and bad news for you. There is an entire world online trying to tell your kid what is right, what is good, what is cool and what is not. It’s up to you, dads, to hold strong to your convictions and teach your kids what is actually good and what is actually right.

It’s up to you, dads, to hold strong to your convictions and teach your kids what is actually good and what is actually right.

This is bad news for you too because it also is affecting adults. Our phones are a constant temptation. It is easier to look at them than it is to connect with our kids or have a hard, but needed, conversation with them. Think about all of the families you see when you’re out to eat. How many of the dads are looking at their phones? My guess is most of them.

More than ever dads need to focus on being the leader, rather than the coach, because leaders connect. They instill character in their kids. Coaches simply look up from their phones every once in a while to direct the next play.

More than ever dads need to focus on being the leader, rather than the coach.

Why am I telling this to fathers? It is equally as important for moms to do the same, but it’s especially magnetic when a father practices this type of moral leadership because children want to admire their fathers. They are wired this way, so when they have a father who leads well, they will follow. It’s their natural instinct.

Of course at the heart of being a leader, rather than a coach, is sacrifice. True leadership is sacrificial in its nature. Putting your family first at all costs, over your text messages and email—this is what your kids expect out of you because you are the adult and not the one in need of guidance like they are. They look to you to have their needs met, not the other way around.

The world today will tell you that as a father your primary job is to coach, but what a child needs most from his father—especially in our social-media drive culture—is a leader, one who will connect with him and instill good character in him.

The world today will tell you that as a father your primary job is to coach, but what a child needs most from his father—especially in our social-media drive culture—is a leader, one who will connect with him and instill good character in him.

This is harder work than coaching to be sure. Coaches only have to work during the game. Leaders are always on. They stay engaged throughout childhood, adolescence and adulthood, instilling good character in their kids and giving their family someone to follow, other than their phones.

But, dads, the work is worth it. Lead your child well today and you will see that as her character grows, she will grow into an adult who is able to lead others. And it will all be because of the way you led her.

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