Let’s face it, in the rough and tumble world of day-to-day parenting, it can be very difficult to see the forest from the trees.
Creating a Dad’s Vision Statement — whether you’re an expecting dad, have a toddler or young child, are parenting a teen or young adult — will help you take a step back, clarify your sense of purpose as a dad and guide you in important decisions.
Without this sense of vision, it’s far too easy to just keep moving and allow your immediate circumstances to determine your course of action. Instead of letting fatherhood happen to you, this guide will empower you to be the father you intend to be.
A clear sense of purpose
Whether it’s for a Fortune 500 company, a global relief agency, or a personal relationship, an effective vision statement clarifies a sense of purpose, priorities, and values.
For example, part of the Red Cross’s vision is “to provide relief to victims of disaster.” The purpose is helping those in great need, the priority is victims of disaster, and the inherent values are, among many, compassion and care.
Creating a Dad’s Vision Statement is about being pro-active, intentional and purposeful as a parent. At the heart of this exercise is a simple, but powerful question:
What kind of relationship would you like to build or develop with your children over the long term?
With a clearer sense of purpose as a parent, you can then begin sorting out your priorities, where to focus your time and energy.
The Dad’s Vision Statement is meant to serve as a living document. As you and your children grow and enter new stages of life, revisiting this document on a bi-annual or annual basis will help you determine if a shift in priorities or a change in action is needed.
Writing Your Dad’s Vision Statement
Having done this exercise with thousands of dads from all walks of life, I can assure you that while it may seem a bit daunting at first, creating your Dad’s Vision Statement will be useful at the very least, and more than likely transformative in some way.
For some dads, this is a solo venture; with that said, I do think there’s great value in doing this guide in the presence of other dads, whether that’s a formal group or just getting together with a few friends.
Now let’s get to it!
First, read the central question below very carefully:
Imagine 20 years from now your child is approached to be in a documentary film about fathers. Now imagine the filmmaker asks your child to describe their relationship with you.
With this scenario in mind, respond to the four following prompts (you should prepare paper or your computer):
1. Write 3 things you hope your child would say to the filmmaker about you twenty years from now.
Examples: I hope they say, ‘my dad pushed me to really be myself,’ or ‘my dad taught me how to respect women and be a good husband,’ or ‘my dad was someone I could trust and talk to,’ or ‘my dad was always around, he was there for me.’
2. Write 3 things you hope your child would not say to the filmmaker about you twenty years from now.
Examples: I hope they don’t say, ‘my dad pushed me too hard,’ or ‘my dad was never there for me,’ or ‘my dad wasn’t really interested in who I was,’ or ‘my dad was angry a lot, I couldn’t really talk to him.’
3. Today, my main priorities as a parent are…
Examples: ‘I prioritize time with my kids each day by reading to them,’ or ‘my priority is making sure my kids feel listened to and that I am present for them,’ or ‘my priority is showing them that men and women share the load at home’ or ‘I prioritize keeping my word, not breaking promises or agreements.’
4. What I need to change (do more of/less of, stop doing/start doing, etc.)?
Examples: ‘I need to learn how to manage my anger better,’ or ‘I need to practice patience, especially right when I get home from work,’ or ‘I need to communicate better with my wife and model a healthier adult relationship.’
Find a Witness & Revisit Your Dad’s Vision Statement
In order to feel supported and accountable, it’s important to find someone with whom you can share your completed Dad’s Vision Statement.
Said differently, the idea is to find someone who can bear (or be a) witness. I suggest choosing someone close to you — your spouse/partner, a good friend, a group you belong to, a relative, etc. — and show them your Dad’s Vision Statement.
Below are some ideas and suggestions for what you might talk about when you share your Vision with a witness:
- What it was like to do this exercise – Helpful? Difficult? Enlightening?
What was challenging about doing this exercise?
Any concerns you may have about sharing your Dad’s Vision Statement with your kids or anyone else?
What you learned or realized about yourself or your kids by doing this exercise?
Finally, make sure to commit to a future date (in six months or a year) to revisit your Dad’s Vision Statement to check-in about how things are going, and determine if any changes need to be made to the document.
Fulfill Your Dad’s Vision Statement by Creating an Action Plan
Now that you’ve completed your Dad’s Vision Statement and found a witness to share this experience with and hold you accountable for taking some action, the last step is to create a simple action plan.
The Action Plan involves two steps. First, you’ll be asked to think about any skills, knowledge and support you may want or need to realize your Vision. Secondly, consider sharing your Dad’s Vision Statement with your family by posting it somewhere in your home where it will be visible to all.
1. What skills, knowledge and support might you need to fulfill your Dad’s Vision Statement? If you need some assistance with this, ask your witness (from above) or someone else you trust who knows you as a parent.
Examples: Active listening, mindfulness training, time management, anger management
Examples: Child development, paternity leave or flex-time policies at work, healing childhood trauma, raising a child with______ (a health, mental health or other issue)
Examples: professional coach or therapist, parenting group, 12-step group, online or live workshop or course, web resources.
2. The last step in your Action Plan involves printing out or rewriting your Dad’s Vision Statement (the scenario and 4 prompts) and finding an appropriate place to share it visually with your family. This may sound a bit crazy at first, however, if you think about the family unit (whatever your configuration looks like) as its own little organization, posting a vision or mission statement in public view makes more sense, right? Consider the following questions first:
- Discuss any reservations you may have about posting your Dad’s Vision Statement with your witness or another adult who knows you as a parent.
- Decide where in your home would make sense for you to post your Dad’s Vision Statement?
- Determine how best to introduce your Dad’s Vision Statement when you post it – could you have a family meeting? Discuss it over dinner? Post it and wait for reactions?
By posting your Dad’s Vision Statement for your family to see, you will not only be modeling your commitment to growth and change as a dad, but you will very likely inspire other family members to reflect on their own sense of vision.
Lastly, by posting this document, you will also be showing your kids that you are accountable for what you’ve pledged to work on – your priorities and what you want to change going forward.
For more self-coaching guides to approach fatherhood and parenting with confidence, visit Dadditude.