The Modern Dad's Dilemma: A Review by Papa Bear
Through his long experience in talking with and surveying children, John Badalament tells us that what children want most from their dads is a strong emotional connection with their fathers, and children want to know more about their dad’s own childhood. This then serves as an undercurrent for Badalament’s new book, The Modern Dad’s Dilemma: How to Stay Emotionally Connected with your Kids in a Rapidly Changing World. The book is a self-help guide for dads who want to figure out how to balance all of the competing interests for their time and attention, with a central component being creating and maintaining a strong connection with one’s own children. While the book has familiar self-help elements (including a series of challenging exercises in an appendix), at its heart it was, for me, a book about stories. Badalament interviewed a number of different fathers who bring with them an array of different backgrounds and experiences, however, for each the common thread is working to maintain a strong emotional connection with their respective children. The stories of these men serve as the centerpiece of each chapter in the book, bringing life and humanity to Badalament’s ideas. All of this directs each of us as a dad to create our own stories with our children - stories that have meaning and serve as a connective tissue in the relationship between father and child. For example, one of Badalament’s ideas for creating stories is via the development of a familial ritual that is performed by father and child. The ritual can be something simple, such an every Saturday morning outing for at breakfast at a bagel shop. The act itself is not the critical element – the critical element is the performance of the act in a sincere and deliberative fashion defined by active engagement.
Dads also need to learn the stories of their children – not just hear them, but to listen carefully and to know the details. It is this knowing, which children recognize, that serves as a way to forge a strong emotional connection with children. As dads we are also bridges between the past, present and future. We possess the stories of our own childhood, as well as whatever our own father’s passed on to us, be it good or not. Badalament asserts that in order to become a more emotionally connected dad, each of us must come to terms with our own relationships with our fathers. The appendix includes an exercise designed to facilitate this which I intend to engage in over the coming days.
I strongly recommend this book for any dad who is interested in developing or maintaining a strong relationship with his children.