Part of becoming a great dad will mean attending or starting a small group with other dads who share your commitment to being the best dad you can be. You will find encouragement to press on, new ideas and creativity you had not discovered on your own, and elements of healing as you choose to share more openly from your own life story. This guide will help you know what to do, how to do it, and what types of questions you can ask each other once you form a group and decide when, where, and how long you will meet together.
This small group guide is intended for use by men who have read or are currently reading How to Be a Great Dad—No Matter What Kind of Father You Had. You will all get more out of this guide if your discussions are informed by the practices, stories, and action steps in the book. However, this guide should still be of benefit to your group if you have not yet read the book. You can order your copy today by clicking the book image to the left.
Suggested format for group meetings:
- Begin with some sort of invocation: this can be a prayer, a minute of silence to collect your thoughts and focus, a guided meditation led by a group member or one recorded, or a even just a few deep breaths and an acknowledgement that we’re here to learn from one another and encourage each other.
- What’s good and new? Take just 2-3 minutes each to share something good that has recently happened for you as a dad. It could be an interaction with one of your children, a book you read, a quote or movie you saw that inspired you to be a better dad, anything that uplifted you that you think might encourage others in the group.
- Sharing: Each person take 10 minutes to share an area in your fathering on which you’d like to receive some help. The group is to listen carefully and then share resources and ideas they have to help you move forward. This process of sharing an area of need and the feedback needs to be limited to 10 minutes so each dad can share. Someone needs to be the timekeeper for this each week. You can take longer if the group is smaller (3-4 dads) or if the group is larger (5-8 dads) you can still take longer and decide on a rotation pattern where half the dads share one week and the other half the next (unless someone has something really pressing they need to talk about).
- Questions: On some weeks, you may choose not to do the sharing and instead ask each other one or more questions such as the examples below. You could share and ask questions, but that will probably produce a very long group meeting. You decide the amount of time you have and what you want to do with that time from week to week.
- Affirmations: At the end of the meeting each week, take two minutes per dad (who shared that week), and focus the attention of the group on him while every other dad speaks some words of affirmation about him as a father and a man given what he shared that week and what action he has committed to for the week ahead. Build him up with your words! Then do the same for the other dads who shared that week.
- Closing: This can be a closing prayer, a meditation, a quote, poem, or short reading someone has brought for this purpose. Many of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book specifically written for dads (there are a bunch of them) have wonderful stories that could serve this purpose. Whatever you do (and it can change from week to week), close the group time in some way that is meaningful to your group and brings some closure while giving hope and inspiration for the next week ahead.
Below are a few suggested questions you can ask each other during your group times or offline when you talk with each other. These questions will help stimulate meaningful conversation to help move you along your path toward being a great dad. These are not intended to be asked of each man each week. This is a long list of possible questions to pick and choose from. You could even just take one question a week and build your own weekly curriculum out of these.
- What are three things you love most about each one of your children?
- What kinds of affirmations have you spoken to your kids this week?
- Are there character qualities in your kids that deserve a great dad affirmation? What are they? And how could you affirm them?
- Are there some things any of your kids are doing that you don’t approve of? If so, have you tried Keith’s suggestion of writing that thing (or those things) down and then writing next to that upsetting thing something like, “Even still, I love and accept you always, no matter what”?
- Have you communicated to your kids this week that you will love them forever no matter what? That is, that you accept them even when you disapprove of something they’ve done, said, or chosen. If not, what will you do to change that?
- Have you hugged your kids enough this week? If not, what’s your plan to make that happen?
- Have you communicated your love to your children verbally this week? If you know they need to hear it more from you, what are some ways you can do that creatively next week?
- Have you identified some ways your relationship with your father has impacted you and your fathering of your own children? What are some of those ways?
- Have you figured out any things for which you feel you need to forgive your father? If so, where do you feel you are in that process today? And what is your next step forward?
- How aware have you been of your need to re-father yourself? Can you identify any ways you may need to do that? If so, what creative and loving fathering words or actions can you offer to the little boy in you?
- Can you name three things you truly are grateful for about your dad, even if your relationship with him was not positive? Name them.
- On a 1 to 10 scale, how are you doing at being the great dad you want to be? What would it take this week to make that a 10?