Relating to your father

by Ward Williams

Describe your childhood relationship with your father, using three to five words. Does the thought of your father affect you emotionally? Over the past fifteen years, I have asked thousands of men in fatherhood classes to consider this question. Over the years, the words men use to identify their experience with their dad have either been very positive or very negative, with a wide canyon between their responses.

Many fathers believe they have done a fantastic job raising and connecting with their children. The struggle for many dads is that their children are the ones who get to make the judgement call on if their dad connected with them and did a good job as their father. It is even more confusing that in the same household different siblings with similar experiences can, and often will, judge differently.

My oldest son spent this summer working out-of-state and was asked by peers to give a depiction of his father. I eagerly awaited the answer to how my son represented my ‘wonderful and engaging characteristics’ to his friends. He was not verbose with his description. He told his friends I kind of act like a Youth Pastor.

I guess that being described as Youth Pastor is a pretty good thing, but I have higher hopes. My goal when my kids describe me with three to five words is that they say I am the best dad ever. There is often dismissal and laughter when I state this ambition in my classes, but I think striving to be the best dad ever will help ensure that my kids’ answer to describing their dad in three to five words will be a positive emotional experience.

In the quickly fleeting moments of childhood, we are going to leave either a positive or negative legacy, so make the most of each opportunity you have to impact your kids.

Ward Williams is the founder and executive director of Vineyard Family Services. Contact him at


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