Fatherhood is hands-on learning.
You borrow the good from your father and swear you won’t make the same mistakes. The rest you learn as you go, picking up tips from friends over a beer or two.
Not the best way to raise the next generation. Worse when you consider some 26 million children live in single-parent homes in our country and 9.6 million have not seen or heard from their father in the last year.
That statistic is from the National Fatherhood Initiative. It also states the feds spend some $100 billion annually for child support enforcement and poverty issues dealing with father-absent homes.
David Justus teaches fatherhood skills for the Northcoast Fatherhood Initiative, the chapter of the national organization providing services in Northwest Ohio. He knows how difficult it is to teach basic parenting skills to young fathers who may not have grown up with a male role model so he’s developed a teaching program based on the game of football.
“When I talked to Dads the two most common things we could talk about were sports and our children,” Justus said. So, he wrote a book called Become a Touchdown Dad and started a support group called Touchdown Dads Club.
In the book, Fritz O’Bannon an elderly father and coach, mentors an ex-college quarterback with young children and a job that consumes more of his week than is healthy. O’Bannon tells him everything he needs to know about fatherhood can be learned from football. For example, boundaries and rules in football provide structure for the game. The same is true for the game of raising children. Both also need minor and major penalties to punish indiscretions. And, just as there are rewards like touchdowns, children need rewards when they cross the goal lines set by their fathers.
O’Bannon tells young dads a father is like a quarterback. He manages, with his spouse, the game plan for rearing children. He assembles the teammates who will help him meet his goals. In parenting, it’s baby-sitters and tutors and car-pool drivers. He develops strategies such as how much homework, chores and organized sports will help him raise his children to become educated, productive, balanced adults.
O’Bannon cautions his protégé that, just as a quarterback needs to be aware of the blitz, a father needs to be aware of inside and outside linebackers. Inside linebackers are threats within the home. These include safety concerns, junk food, boob tube, etc. Outside linebackers are external influences such as drugs, alcohol and premarital sex. Just as a quarterback signals to his line when he senses a linebacker blitz, a father warns his children when he senses danger from outside forces.
If you know football, the analogies are easy to remember and will help young men develop parenting strategies. Chapters include such titles as Be a Dad, Not a Referee; Level the Playing Field, The Red Zone and An Inside Look at Why Some Football Players Fail.
The best advice?
Just like a good quarterback wouldn’t think of drinking before the big game, getting only a few hours of sleep or disrespecting his teammates, a father needs to take care of himself physically and mentally so he is in condition to take care of his children. No words can counter a bad example. A good father strives to achieve a balance between work, personal growth and family.
Ironically, Justus never played football. He grew up in Cleveland, one of seven children. He is an United States Navy Veteran and a graduate of Brigham Young University where he majored in family science.