Five Things Every Dad Needs To Know

The messages of Harry Chapin’s song, “The Cats in the Cradle”

Photo by Sabine van Straaten on Unsplash

Five things every dad needs to know is wrapped up in familiar lyrics. Many of us Baby Boomers can still sing the words to Harry Chapin’s song, “The Cats in the Cradle.” A Nissan commercial combined the 1974 classic with a series of short video images. It resurrected deep emotions for those of us who watched the 2015 Superbowl game.

It was easy to tear up with various scenes about the bond between dads and sons. The fast-action clips focus on the life of a professional race-car driver. There are tensions and struggles between his personal life as a dad and the high’s of his career.

All ends well in ninety seconds. The dad and moody teenager reunite with loving connection. Then they drive off together in their new Nissan.

As a result, we get these messages. Life is valuable. Relationships are resilient. Teenagers understand. A new Nissan satisfies and is safe. Yes, we can connect with those messages. . . or can we?

Generational Patterns

Chapin’s lyrics express the regret of an older dad who missed out on the seasons of his young son’s life. The career-building stage of life over-powers the ten-year-old’s voice. The child who admired his dad thanked him for the ball and asked him to play. Dad responded to each invitation with an excuse. He was too busy and had other things to do.

Dads who parent well, take time to tune into the lives and emotions of their sons and daughters. They are able to put their smaller agendas aside. They’re aware of a larger story. Their small children and moody teenagers are future husbands and wives; dads and moms.

There’s five things every dad needs to know.

1. Every dad needs to settle his personal history so he doesn’t live it through his children.

It’s important to remember and make sense of the past. Courageous dads face the loss and pain of childhood. Those who don’t have limited self-awareness. And most will attempt to live through their children. As a result, dads miss out on nurturing their children’s individuality.

2. Every dad needs to be aware of generational patterns.

Rather than criticizing extended family members, dads should take time to hear their stories. It’s valuable to examine both positive and negative traits passed down from relatives. Dads should own both strengths and weaknesses. It takes intentional awareness to get beyond what was passed down.

3. Every dad needs to look for role models.

We find what we look for. If we’re naturally pessimistic and critical, we’ll fit others into that profile. It’s vital to look for role models. Others have raised their sons and daughters well. Find those who have close connections with their teenagers or adult children. Spend time with these dads. Ask questions. Be vulnerable with them.

4. Every dad needs to respect the opinions of his children’s mother.

Most mothers know and feel connection with their children. Many are natural at tuning into their needs. It’s worth it to talk through differences. Partner with your children’s mother. Seek outside counseling rather than settle into chronic disagreements. Protect your children from the insecurity of divided parenting.

5. Every dad needs to respect the differences of his children.

Children are separate people, worthy of love, respect, and belonging. They are not objects to be controlled. They are not little versions of their parents. Tune into their hearts and their needs.

I thank Nissan for getting our attention. They may have sold many cars through that commercial. But they’ve sold me on the opportunity to encourage dads to parent their sons and daughters well.

Get updates on the book: “Beyond Messy Marriages: Divine Invitations Toward Your Authentic Self”