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Good men make great dads

Updated: Jun 7

First published in Sorted Men's Magazine - The New Dad Diaries by Chris Kerr: click here for more.

Chronicling life as a new father to his beautiful firstborn child – daughter Thea – Chris Kerr’s goal is to provide all men experiencing fatherhood for the first time with some invalble tips and tricks as they are learned – the hard way. This week, Chris deals with the fact that his daughter may one day want to marry someone, and what he should do now to help her choose well.

When Thea was born, I was told something that hit me really hard: “How you treat your daughter, and how you treat your wife, will ultimately determine whether Thea grows up to marry a good man or a bad one. You are the standard by which she will judge any man – so be a great one, for her sake.”

Regular readers of the New Dad Diaries will know that I am not emotionally ready to imagine Thea marrying anyone. However, on the off-chance that a young man does manage to overcome the Hercules-style 12 trials I put in their way (I am joking – it will be 30), it is my duty to model to Thea what a ‘great’ man looks like. It’s every dad’s responsibility – but you already knew that.

The truth is, I am not really sure what makes a man ‘great’ anymore. Society certainly doesn’t. It increasingly defines manhood in one of two extremes – hyper/toxic masculinity or blurring genders to the point that they are indistinguishable. Far from creating ‘great men’ who love, protect, and serve their families, these ideologies create bullies or diluted men who, like a large lion pacing up and down a tiny cage at the zoo, end up being a shadow of what they were created to be.

The other frequent narrative is that a man’s greatness will be measured by external rather than internal things. Marketing has reduced men down to what they own: the size of their bank balance, the clothes they wear, the job title they have, the cars they drive and so forth. These are good things but when it comes to our children, they don’t define us. Some of the greatest dads I have met have nothing. Some of the worst I have seen have everything.

The key breakthrough in my quest to find out what makes a man great was to reverse-engineer the process. I asked myself, what type of man would I want my daughter to marry, or my son to become? It was interesting that every trait was character-related. Loving, caring, sacrificial, courageous, strong, faithful etc.

That led me to ask, how can I model these traits to Thea? If, for example, I want Thea’s future husband to build her up rather than break her down, I must insist on doing the same for my wife. If I want Thea to marry a man who does the difficult right thing over the easy wrong, then I must consistently do the same. If I want her husband to support England Rugby and not Wales, then….

I have personally found the best blueprint for ‘great men’ is found in The Bible. God’s focus is purely on the important things – character traits like faith, integrity, love, courage, kindness, patience and so forth. I will never forget asking God, in His capacity as Alicia’s Father, whether I could have His blessing to marry her. That certainly put the microscope on me and the man I am!

You may also have been blessed to have great men in your life. If you did, ask yourself what you admired about them. What made them great to you? Perhaps it was your dad, an uncle, a sports coach or a teacher. My Grandpa was someone I looked up to and I remember he was a man of responsibility. He was a man who made sure he was a good husband and a proactive father; he was ahead of his time in that regard. He worked hard and in one way or another, made the lives of those around him better for knowing him. So, I measure myself against those yardsticks of greatness (and yes, I sometimes come up short).

Finally, if you look hard enough, you will find some excellent commentators on what it takes to be a ‘great’ man. Here are a few that have really helped me:

  • Stephen Mansfield, Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men and Men on Fire

  • Stephen Mansfield, Great Man Podcast

  • John Eldredge, Wild at Heart

  • Gordon Dalbey, Healing the Masculine Soul

  • Morgan Snyder, Becoming a King

  • Stu Weber, Tender Warrior and Four Pillars of a Man’s Heart

  • Sorted Magazine!

I am delighted to say that we will be interviewing one of these men next week as part of our series ‘The Father Hood’ – Q&As with dads who have been there and done it. That man is Stephen Mansfield. Stephen is the Founder of Great Man, an organisation whose mission is to help men become the best version of themselves. If you want to know how to become a great man, be sure to check back next week for this interview.

So, there we have it. I have piled the pressure on you this week, but I don’t regret it. I feel the heavy weight of this responsibility too. Thea is counting on me, just as your son or daughter is with you. When I stand at the bottom of the aisle, my arm linked with Thea’s on her special day, I want to be happy for her, not angry and afraid about her future. What really happens is in my hands – for now.

TIP OF THE WEEK: If you are up in the night comforting your crying baby, I can recommend listening to an audiobook. It takes the edge off of the crying and can help you stay calm and interested if the crying goes on for a long time. Why not download one of the books recommended above?

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