by Pete Codella:
I recently heard about Keith Zafren and his quest to inspire and empower fathers to become great dads. He has a book aptly titled: How to Be a Great Dad.
I don’t know a father who wouldn’t buy-in to Keith’s message:
It doesn’t matter what kind of father you had, only what kind of father you choose to be, and through developing and fostering three core fathering practices: affirmation, acceptance and affection, fathers can become great dads.Keith’s book focuses on the present but also deals with the past to teach, as Keith puts it, how to heal a father wound.
I recommend and encourage fathers and mothers alike to read Keith’s book.
After I finished the book I reached out to thank him for his efforts with The Great Dads Project. This question and answer article is the result of my email exchange with How to Be a Great Dad author Keith Zafren.
My Question: The difference between a parent’s approval and giving affirmation seems tricky. How do you prove to your kid you still love them, while letting them know that their behavior isn’t something you approve?
Keith’s Answer: This distinction is as tricky as it is important. The problem is that when most parents, and particularly dads, think they are expressing disapproval their children often experience rejection. That is, the child takes the disapproval personally. So even though a dad may think he is telling his daughter he doesn’t approve of something she is wearing, she may experience a feeling of rejection, believing that she (not her shirt) is not acceptable. This is why this distinction is so radically important for parents to understand and then make clear when they express disapproval.
Here’s the key: it’s fully expected and acceptable for a parent to disapprove of some behavior, choice, action, belief, style choice, preference, you name it. What is not okay is rejecting the child. It’s a fine line that many parents miss, to the detriment of the relationship and often the pain of the child. We have to make it clear to our children that we disapprove of something they’ve said or done, but we still love and accept them always, no matter what.