SUMMARY: There are numerous approaches to becoming a great father, but there are some that we need to avoid. In this Resolute Podcast, Vince Miller interviews Greg Bourgond president of Heart of a Warrior Ministries about the call to becoming a strategic father and the challenges associated with making changes to our approach to parenting.
Vince: This is Resolute, and the Resolute Podcast, where we make men better. I am Vince Miller, your host. And today we’re in a series entitled, “Strategic Fathering.” And today we are discussing the topic of the 3 types of fathers.
So men, welcome back to the program. If this is your very first time tuning in, thank you for joining us. We exist to make men better. If you want more information on our program for small groups, all you need to do is go to beresolute.org. We have numerous great tools for men who want to lead small groups with other men. Great, high-quality videos. Beautiful handouts for participants. All the stuff we would love to put in your hands as you lead other men. Just head to the website today – beresolute.org, and check it all out. And now let’s dive in.
Well, today I am joined one more time by Doctor Greg Bourgond. Doctor Bourgond is the president and founder of Heart of the Warrior Ministries. He spent about 10 years in the defense industry and in commercial business. And over 18 years in various ministry positions throughout the country. He has served as a consultant and teacher in the areas of leadership formation and personal development, and I am pleased to have him with us again today. We are looking at the topic of strategic fathering. Today addressing the 3 types of fathers in our culture.
Well Greg, thanks for being with us again. I – one of the things I have wanted to do is really lean into you on this topic of strategic fathering, or strategic fatherhood. You’ve built a wealth of wisdom in this area over the years, simply because you’ve not only had the opportunity to parent your own children, but you’ve also brought your grandchildren into the mix, and functioned as a father to your daughter’s children. And I just think it’s such an emotional and powerful story.
And I heard you speak recently on the topic of strategic fatherhood, and I heard you say that engaged, healthy fathers are important to the spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical well-being and health of the children. And of course, I can’t agree more – because I grew up in a fatherless home. Take just a moment and set this up for us. What do you mean that fathers – healthy, engaged fathers are important to the spiritual development of children?
Greg: Well, there’s a – it’s called the National Fatherhood Initiative, puts statistics out on fathering on a regular basis. And some of the statistics are quite alarming. In essence, what they’re saying is – is that children who live absent their biological fathers are on an average, at least 2 to 3 times more likely – to be poor, to use drugs. To experience educational, health and emotional and behavioral problems. To be victims of child abuse. To engage in criminal behavior and so on. Just statistic after statistic.
Some time ago, Heart of a Warrior was brought in to Atlanta 03:43 Lakes Prison for several years to work with – with prisoners. And what I found is that most of these men – many of them had taken somebody’s life, but almost all of them lived in fatherless homes. And whether you’re a biological father or a father who has adopted their children, or surrogate father – is the key issue. Children need a male influence in the home. And so that’s what strategic fathering is all about.
And so, essentially – there are 3 different types of fathers. There’s the absent father, who is apathetic, oftentimes self-absorbed or self-centered – oblivious to what’s happening around. They may be physically present, but they’re not emotionally present. They’re focused on doing this. They feel that “Gee, I’m providing for my family, they should appreciate that.” Or, “They know I love them, I don’t have to tell them,” which is a huge error. Your children – by the way, man, have to hear it regularly that you love them. So an absent father is apathetic, self-centered, oblivious, focused on doing this. In the end, the child ends up being very lonely and feeling alone.
The second type of father, and it’s very prevalent here in – in western society, is the emotional father. They’re always at the dance recitals or at the hockey games. But in essence, they’re a kid in adult clothes. They feel that the best way to relate to their children is to be like them. So even when they have their friends over, they act like their friends. They’re joking and– There’s nothing wrong with joking and being jovial -but when you’re acting like the teenager or the adolescent, you’re not really being a father. Matter of fact, these types of fathers would rather be a friend. They’re more comfortable with that. But in the end, if that’s your fathering style – the emotional father – your children will ultimately tell you – either by word or deed that they wanted a father, not a friend.
Greg: It may be cool at the moment, but later on as they have their own children they wished they would’ve had a model so that they could manage their own families.
And then finally, the model that I prefer – and that I’m recommending to all of the listeners, is a strategic father. He’s observant, he’s aware of what’s going on in that child’s life. It may seem like he’s a warden on occasion, checking up on them. But it’s more for not trying to find out what they’re doing wrong – it’s finding out what they’re doing right. And then to underscore that for them. But learning what their personality temperament is, learning how they select friends, how they talk, what they’re interested in – all of these things are important for you to be able to engage them effectively.
A strategic father is also intentional. He’s not just sliding and gliding through life and expecting some traumatic thing to take place, and all of a sudden it’s going to correct the direction or the course of their child. They have to be intentional about it. Be strategic in their life. They have to be engaged. And finally, they have to be situationally responsive. You can’t react to a child the same way every time. And you can’t react to all of your children the same way all the time. It’s individual, and that’s what makes it sometimes difficult – but it can be done.
Vince: Okay so, I am – I’m listening to you, and I think you’re right on. Especially about the first 2, regarding western culture. Just anybody living in our country – you can see these people all the time, right? Like I go to my kid’s hockey games. I go to their lacrosse games, their soccer games. And you can see these types of fathers present on the sidelines. They’re either absent or apathetic, or they’re over-engaged in emotional – and you can – you can kinda see that take place.
And yet, you’re calling us to a type of fathering that may be a little bit out of our comfort zone. It may throw our family into a little bit of disruption, so to speak. Because we have to really – it sounds like – unlearn some patterns maybe that we picked up over time. Maybe we picked up through culture? And that can be often challenging. But I – I love these 3 types of fathers. Because you’re describing some things that we don’t want to be, and maybe something that we want to be.
How do we make this transition? I mean, you talk about absent father, you talk about the emotional father, you talk about the strategic father. How do we make the shift, Greg – to being more of a strategic father in moving away from the other styles?
Greg: Decide to do so. I mean, it’s a choice that you have to make. Just because you’re changing the dynamic of the relationship, moving from either being an absent father or an emotional father to a strategic father – is not a bad thing. It’s not something that you can slide into over the course of time. It’s a decision you have to make.
Sometimes it’s sitting your family down and saying, “You know what? This is the kind of father that I’ve been, and it’s not the kind of father I want to be. So I’m letting you know, and I’m taking the onus on myself kids, that I am going to be a better father. I am going to be more strategic in your life. And you’re going to have to cut me a little slack because I’m new at this. So I’m going to make some mistakes. But I want you to know, I want to be involved in your life. I want to help you navigate an ever darkening world.”
Vince: I – I love that. That is so powerful. Because really it might just start with realizing who we’ve been and making a conscious decision. And then – maybe it’s stepping into a family meeting?
Greg: Yeah, exactly.
Vince: And confessing some weaknesses, and saying, “Look, I want to change. I know that if – if a number of our fathers out there sit down and had that moment with their family, I think that would be a very emotional, transformative moment.
Vince: And by the way, when you speak things out loud, they tend to want to come to be, right?
Greg: Exactly. I mean, especially for men. We can think about things we want to do, or changes we want to make. But rarely do we ever accomplish them. It’s when we publicly declare them in front of people that matter in our lives. It gives us the courage to lean into our fear, to do what we need to do. But there are payoffs. And sometimes they’re incremental.
Just a couple of days ago when we celebrated father’s day – 4 of my grandsons came to me and gave me a card that they all signed. And as I opened it, I thought it was going to be the normal thing, “Happy Father’s day.” Each of them had written a paragraph about what I meant in their life. And about the grief that they had caused, and how I was – they didn’t use the term strategic, but that’s what they meant – and, “Thank you for being there for us, papa. Thank you for allowing us not to ever be separated. Thank you for helping us hold the line. Thanks for being a model.” I came to tears. You never know what registers with kids.
Greg: And sometimes you may not hear that message until they’re in their own 20’s or 30’s and they have their own family. But there is hope. It’s holding the line. Doing what needs to be done without the acclaim that sometimes comes with it. And they’re not – you’re not always going to be appreciated for being that in their lives, but there will come a point in time.
My – my oldest one – Brayden who’s now a, a certified welder in another city. He said to me this last weekend. He says, “Papa, I can’t tell you how many times it’s come to mind, the lessons you taught me – and it irritates me.” He says, “About being responsible, about doing the job right the first time. About fulfilling my promises, and I just want to thank you, papa.”
Greg: I mean, I just got choked up.
Vince: Yeah, I mean that – not that we aim for hearing and having those moments, but that’s really what we want, isn’t it? Is to know that we as fathers have done a good job and that our children appreciate the things that we do for them.
Greg: Well and sometimes they won’t. But here’s another way to look at it, men – whatever you do for your children, do as an act of worship to God. They just happen to be the beneficiaries. Whether they appreciate it or not. As long as you are honoring your heavenly father by what you’re trying to do. Then that’s what matters. They just happen to be the beneficiaries.
Greg: So he’s the ultimate judge and evaluator.
Greg: And so, learning from what the word of God has to say. I mean – we would love to have been given a manual on how to raise kids as soon as they were born. But the fact of the matter is, we have been given a manual – it’s called the word of God.
Greg: That’s what you need to consult to become a strategic father, is the word of God.
Vince: Yeah, it’s still the aim, like I’ve heard you say before, Greg – it’s still Godliness, right?
Greg: Yes. That’s the objective.
Vince: The aim is Godliness, the objective is Godliness. And along the way, we act Godly. We encourage our children to become Godly followers. And if we get an accolade once in a while for a job well done–
Greg: That’s icing on the cake.
Vince: I know, it’s just part of the process, right? It’s, it’s – it’s part of the process of becoming a great and strategic dad.
Greg: And, and – it’s the idea that we’re all in the process of becoming, yet not having arrived.
Greg: So again, fathers – cut yourself a little slack.
Greg: Don’t give up, just because you made a mistake or you did something wrong. Make the correction, and make it immediately.
Greg: Own it, and then do better the next time.
Vince: Yeah, absolutely – I love it. Thank you, Greg, again. Fantastic thoughts. The absent father, the emotional father, and the strategic father. And yes, we can reconcile. We can change, we can find new ways of doing things, and we can even stop our family in their tracks and say, “Look, I want to change, and I want to be a more strategic dad.” Well Greg, thank you again for being with us.
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