If you want to become part of the movement by attending a training, becoming a trainer or starting the movement in your country, please contact your country coordinator by clicking on your country on this map on our front page, or navigating to your country in the menu under the “My Country” tab.
We are first and foremost a decentralised movement, which means that we have a flat structure with no centralised head office or leadership. This is critical to our growth (we are active in 100 countries and counting) because it empowers you to pick up the movement and make it your own in your culture. We see ourselves as a global team, working towards a shared goal.
We are very intentional about giving away ownership and sharing responsibility, so anyone who has a passion for the work we are doing can start the movement in their country. Some of the most active countries now started with one passionate person who attended a TWNAF or TMD training, and is now a master mentor overseeing a team of many trainers, impacting thousands of fathers and mothers in their country.
We believe that headquarters are where the trainers are.
We do have a de facto global admin office that helps facilitate global infrastructure (like this website) and develops resources for trainers and teams around the world, but it doesn’t make operational calls for any of the active countries — it is purely to provide support.
We are also intentional about cross-pollination, which means we create opportunities for senior trainers around the world to learn from and support each other. This way, the growth and strengthening of the movement is organic, and not reliant on a head office anywhere.
We do hold non-profit status in a few countries, but you will need to contact your country coordinator to find out more about your country.
Anyone can see that the world has issues, but most of us feel powerless to do anything about it because there just so much need everywhere. One of the main reasons TWNAF is growing so rapidly is because we:
- identified and clearly named one of — if not the most important — cause at the root of so many issues plaguing the world; fatherlessness.
- present a clear plan of action that any person can participate in, empowering them to be part of the solution while joining a global community of like-minded individuals fighting the same fight.
- have stories and examples of how the processes and tools we offer make a real, tangible difference in the lives of people and communities around the world.
The other key reason for our growth is our decentralised structure and insistence on giving away as much as possible (resources, authority, responsibility). 99% of the people involved in TWNAF around the world do so on a volunteer basis, which means that there is a significantly deeper buy-in and engagement with the content and culture than a paid, structured organisation that primarily retains their people through the size of the paycheck they offer.
Far from it!
We believe that culture is the strongest force we have to deal with, so we use two main tools to bring about culture shifts: training and communities of practice. Our goal is to bring about six main culture shifts:
- From a self-orientation to an orientation on God / a clear set of absolute norms: Children and parents should remind each other daily that they are on God’s mission / the mission defined by their clear set of absolute norms, and discuss in the evening how they managed to stay on that mission instead of their own during the day.
- From worldly values to Kingdom / morally superior values: The family should be intentional in choosing Kingdom / moral values so that the worldly values of money, sex, power and media don’t dominate their lives. Each family should have at least four clear values they live from.
- From individualism to communal thinking: Instead of just seeking advice (which can be easily rejected), individuals make key life decisions with a group of people (their mentor, accountability friends and coaches). The table of support is a great example of this.
- From a false self-concept to a true self-concept: This shift is rooted in the healing of our wounds and resolving identity confusion. It is accepting that we are beloved and significantly made to be a representative of God / a higher moral standard in this life and that we do not need possessions, to do things, or have the support of people to give us value.
- From self-love to selfless love: Love is not an exchange; love is to give, without expecting to receive anything in return. Full stop. Truly selfless love never says “I love you” without being prepared to serve the beloved, sacrificially and selflessly.
- From passive parenting to intentional and empowering fathering: Shifting your parenting approach from reactive and doing the bare minimum to keep the child alive, to being intentional about giving them focused, quality attention — even scheduling in time slots on a daily basis if necessary — and engaging in activities that empower and uplift the child.
When these cultural shifts happen, people learn a new language and a new approach to life.
While trainings are our main tool for imparting knowledge, deep life change happens through the mentorship relationships and communities of practice that develop after trainings. Our courses also help you start the process of healing from father and mother wounds you may still be carrying.
It is important to remember that our content has been created with lasting, transformative life change in mind. So while you will find useful information in our trainings, the content is designed to help you uncover things that may be holding you back as a parent or a leader, and equip you to step up with clear conviction and passion.
TWNAF was born from and is rooted in the Christian tradition, but the epidemic of fatherlessness holds no prejudice. So neither do we.
We have training material for both secular and faith-based communities, and will help any country, community or culture battle the scourge of fatherlessness, regardless of creed or religious beliefs.
We have three training levels aimed at helping men grow start by building a solid foundation in our content, maturing into master mentors capable of overseeing a network of 1000+ trainers in their country.
The three levels are as follows:
- Dads Talk — Helping fathers understand the basics of manhood and fatherhood and giving them the tools to apply the principles in their lives and those of their families.
- Fatherhood Facilitator — Equipping fathers who have been through level one with the tools to train other fathers.
- Master Mentor — Taking men who have completed a level one or two training and are already training other fathers to the next level. This training goes deep into the course material, giving the trainers a broad and deep understanding of the content, and how to apply it in training.
We encourage fathers to go through each level thoroughly because the master mentor training can be daunting, and the expectation of people attending that training is that they will be drivers of the movement in their area, training up other trainers and building momentum for the movement to flourish.
We provide as much support as possible for the master mentors, but as has been mentioned above, we put a high priority on people — especially trainers who have been through a Master Mentor training — taking ownership and responsibility for growing the movement in their country.
Due to the decentralised nature of TWNAF as a movement, we don’t receive details for most of the trainings that happen around the world on a regular basis.
The best way to find a training is to visit your country page and get in touch with your country coordinator. If there aren’t any trainings happening near you, encourage your country coordinator to set one up!
We have different types of trainings; some are condensed over a weekend, while others are held one night a week over a period of months. We strongly recommend that you attend the whole training either way, but this is especially true of the condensed trainings. Each day builds on the previous day’s content, so if you skip sessions you will miss out on valuable information that provides context as the training progresses.
We regularly receive feedback that the trainings completely transformed one or both parents, and their children celebrated the experience of heaven at home. In our experience, that is most common when people attend the whole training.
Absolutely! We have heard incredible testimonies from families attending a training together. However, there are a few things you should take into account:
- We would only recommend inviting your child to join if they have the capacity to focus throughout the training, and will find value from being there. We don’t often have people under 18 at our trainings, but if your child is willing to join for a whole training, they are welcome!
- Our trainings can be personally challenging and sometimes uncover emotional wounds, so if you are not yet comfortable with that degree of intimacy with your child, you might want to consider carefully before inviting them. That said, it could be a remarkable time of intimacy and growth between you and your child, so it might be worth pushing through the fear and inviting them.
- Our trainings do not facilitate a therapeutic reconciliation process between parent and child, so we would advise caution if the relationship between parent and child isn’t healthy and mature.
Part of our training covers the character of a real man and how he functions in society, so if you are unmarried this will give you a better foundation for life, and tools for if you choose to marry in the future. And if your children no longer live with you, you will still be able to pass on what you learn to them, their children and your broader community.
As Cassie says, The World Needs A Father is as much about leadership as it is about parenting. And because the issue of fatherlessness affects your whole community, you will learn how you can make a difference in your space whether or not you have children of your own.
Many people in our global community have been through separation, divorce or are single parents. We have heard countless stories of how a training helped them analyze where things went wrong, and create a healthy framework for future relationships. There is also a good chance of finding solidarity and support.
Part of our training does focus specifically on single mothers, helping them understand what children need in every year of their lives, and providing tools to compensate for the absence of a father in the house.
However, we do want to offer a word of caution. If you attend the training before going through a healing process, some of the content might be triggering and bring that trauma to the surface in a raw way.
- Regularly revisited the core principles you learned, even on a daily basis. For example, say the following to yourself every day: “My attitudes and behaviour determine the atmosphere in the house”; “I can only bring heaven home if I am filled with selfless sacrificial love”; “I must focus on the values of our home to make sure that the right priorities are followed through”.
- If your wife is on the same page as you, ask her to remind and encourag you to follow through on what you learned — choose a few things that will make the biggest difference in your family life and ask her to help you focus on those.
- Make sure you fill your table of support, and regularly check in with them, asking them to help you to stick to your commitments.
You are right — we all have bad days! So prepare for those bad days now:
- Write a letter to your family, describing the kind of father you want to be. Refer to chapter 10 in the book for help on this.
- Give that letter to your wife and to your mentor and share it with your family.
- Then, prepare a “leader headspace” for yourself. You should always carry this mentality with you, but it is especially critical on your bad days. Remind yourself that circumstances do not determine leaders; leaders determine circumstances. You need to exercise the discipline of emotional self-control on the good days and bad until it is second nature.
A good leader never contaminates the people around them with toxic speech or conduct, even if they struggling with something. Instead, they practice emotional control by parking their issue until they can address it. So instead of reacting from the emotions of your bad day, ask yourself, “What is the right/good/healthy way to think/talk/act in this situation now? What would a good leader do?” Then do that.
You could say to your family “I’m having a really bad day, but I don’t want to bother you with it right now. I will sort it out later, but for now, I am with you guys — let’s have a good time together.”
When you are in a safe space, come back and address whatever caused your bad day. You must come back and address it later — leaving issues to fester creates bigger problems for yourself in the future. It is like a separate room in your life that you walk into and work through the bad things.
As a father, you are teaching your children how to handle their emotions. You are teaching them emotional control, and through that process, they will build discipline and maturity.
It is important that we do not define fatherhood by our ability to provide. If this were true, disabled men would never be able to consider themselves fathers (which is clearly not the case). Fatherhood is defined by a much wider spectrum of things. In our training, we cover four of them in detail:
- Moral authority
- Emotional security
Intentionality is another value we ascribe to fatherhood. So even though you may be struggling to provide right now, the more important measure to use is whether you are making the effort to find a new way to provide, even if it takes a while to happen.
Your responsibility as a parent does not change, regardless of the gender of your child. However, it is important to affirm their gender identity, so a father should be the primary role model for his son, and a mother for her daughter. But both parents have an important role to play in ensuring that the seasonal needs of the child are met.
Not at all! We clearly believe (and state in trainings) that fathers and mothers are equal co-conspirators in bringing heaven home, but with distinct roles and responsibilities. As Kevin MacCullough puts it, “We have equity of value but distinction of purpose.”
Fathers should become the servant leaders of their families, living by example rather than dictation.
The initial concept comes from Erik Erikson’s phases of life and development phases. As we researched, we found a number of other people who had built on his theory (such as James Fowler and JR Clinton) and realised that developmental seasons of life is a widely accepted principle.
The breakdown into the specific impact phases and years happened over quite a while as we distilled an enormous amount of research that and related topics (as we researched the development of the brain and spoke to experts in neurobiology and neuroscience, a lot of the precise phases became much clearer to us).
Beyond personal observation and conversations with thousands of parents around the world, we have access to specialists in a number of fields, including early childhood development, psychology, physiology and medicine. We asked a lot of questions, specifically about age-appropriate development milestones and guidelines, and ended up with the framework you see in the book. We took that framework to one of the top specialists in neuroscience, and he affirmed it strongly.
It is very important to understand, however, that this framework is a guide, a model. Because every person and context is different, some children may take slightly longer to reach certain phases or milestones than others or may seem more attached to one parent than the other. That is usually okay — the important thing is that just because a child learns more from their mother in a certain phase does not mean that the father gets a free ride. Consistent, positive input from both parents is critical for healthy development throughout childhood (and even into adulthood).
There are a few things you can do, most of which we cover in chapter 10 of the book, and they apply whether your child is 5 or 50 years old. This is how we recommend you start:
- Schedule a memorable event (a special coffee date, for example) where you do the following:
- Confess that you made mistakes
- Ask for forgiveness
- Describe what you intend to do to change
- Explain how your mentor & wife will keep you accountable for following through on what you promised.
- Identify the important developmental milestones and capacities your child may have missed out on due to your absence.
- If your child is 10, they might lack foundational contributions to their identity formation, and have missed out on the affirmation you were supposed to give them, which could have left them with a poor self-concept or serious identity confusion.
- Once you have written down what they might be lacking, you need to talk through everything with your wife/mentor/accountability partner and get guidance on how to make contributions in your child’s life related to what they missed out on.
- Then, be very intentional in future about doing the things you came up with, even if it costs you.
- For your 10-year-old child, you should work towards a certain specific defining experience called “the rite of passage” at 12 or 13 years old (you can read more about how to hold a rite of passage for your child in chapter 9 of the book).
- A critical part of building up to the rite of passage experience is intentionally talking through the process with them, focusing on the things that were neglected, but also focusing on the things that will prepare your child to move from childhood into young adulthood.
At the end of the day, the most important time for you to repair your relationship with your child is right now. Don’t put it off. The sooner you can build an emotionally connected relationship with your child, the sooner you will experience the trust and transparency that allows you to walk with your child on their road into the future.
It is hard to make up for it entirely, but it is possible to build bridges and restore some of the damage.
If the child is still in the mother impact phase (younger than five), the mother should put in extra effort to provide the child with what they need to develop healthily.
If the child is old enough (five or six onwards), the mother should follow the process outlined in chapter 10 of the book (which we discuss in an earlier question on this page). In her case, writing a letter is a great way to approach the situation, but a special coffee date would also work well if the child is old enough to appreciate it.
Doing this is necessary for the emotional recuperation of the child and will start the healing process for any spiritual baggage that may have accumulated during that time.
Confession and asking forgiveness are critical parts of the process, but they are only the first steps. The neglect of intimacy usually leads to insecurity, struggles with emotional connection and an unwillingness to let anyone in. To help heal these wounds, both parents need to be very intentional about doing the following:
- Meaningful emotional communication (we talk about this more in chapter 8 of the book). Investigative listening is important here, as well as validating the feelings and not trying to provide solutions.
- Give physical affection — lots of it. The child needs to know that they are welcomed and embraced by the parents, so hug your child a lot. A hug also releases bonding chemicals in the brain, which will help the process of reconnecting and rebuilding intimacy in the child.
If the child is clearly struggling developmentally it will be a good idea to consult a specialist. Play therapy is an excellent tool for this — if you want to learn a little more about this, watch the video below (or click this link to watch it on Youtube).
Firstly, and most importantly, we strongly recommend that you consult a specialist to help you through this process. Not only will it be best for your child, but it can be extremely challenging for the parents too, and a good specialist will also give you as parents tools to cope and stay strong.
Then, you need to provide unconditional affirmation, nurture and care. You will have to put extra effort into understanding the mental and emotional age of your child to know what they need specifically to stay healthy and develop at their current mental and physical age, especially if it is different from their actual age.
As far as it is developmentally possible and safe for your child, you should help them develop skills and competencies so that they can feel pride and accomplishment, even if their skills are far behind what other children can do at the same age.
You must also not neglect to deal with important developmental issues like sexuality because you think that they will not be able to understand. You should keep your explanations simple and mental and emotional age-appropriate, but don’t forgo them because it might be uncomfortable for you. We strongly recommend consulting your specialist on this topic.
Remember, at the end of the day it is your responsibility to provide for the needs of the season. Some children with special needs will take much longer — perhaps the rest of their lives — on one season than others, while others will just take a little longer to mature.
There are lots of resources available online for stimulating activities you can do with your children, especially when they are younger.
A few examples of things you can do (that are free or don’t cost much) are:
- Playing “peekaboo”, hide and seek, building blocks, puzzles, and board games as they get older all help develop the brain
- Sport (as part of a program or socially), dance (proper classes or simply dancing in the home to music they enjoy) and unstructured play all help develop the brain and their gross and fine motor coordination
- Stimulating their imagination is very important. An easy way to do that is to encourage your child to play any sort of game, and you just follow along as a player, encouraging them as they imagine and create. Don’t try to impose any rules; let them lead the process.
- Another way to build your child’s imagination is to encourage them to tell stories to or with you. For example, you can tell them a story one night with a few clearly defined characters (such as a dog and a cat, or two best friends), then remind them of the story you told the previous night and encourage them to use the same characters and take the story further. Again, don’t be strict about the rules — let the child take the story in any direction they want.
- Learning a musical instrument is one of the best ways for your child to develop their intellect and fine motor coordination.
- Learning multiple languages is also an excellent way for them to develop their brains. Children learn languages especially quickly, so help them start as early as possible.
As they get older, helping them reflect on their experiences (journaling is a great tool here) is a great way to help them develop connections in their brains and better understand their worlds.
Multiple generations positively impacting a child is always beneficial. Grandparents don’t have a specific impact phase but can add value at any point in a child’s life. Because grandparents usually have more time than the parents, they are able to facilitate many of the activities listed in the answer above. They can also tell great stories, and help the child develop their own story-telling capabilities, which is excellent for development and for life understanding.
Grandparents can also play a huge role in affirming the inputs for each season of life (see chapter 3 of the book for more on this). They can provide valuable affirmation for the child, help them clarify their identity and values, and even give input on their friends. Some teenagers prefer to talking to their grandparents, in part because the grandparents have more time and might listen better. They can play a big role in helping the child develop emotional regulation by asking questions like:
- How do you feel about this?
- What do you do when you feel like that?
- What could you do when you feel like that?
- And what is the way forward?
However, it is important to stay connected to your children; just because the grandparents are able to contribute a lot to the children doesn’t mean you no longer have that responsibility.
The first question you should ask yourself is, “Why is my child’s behaviour influencing my emotions?” It may be that your authority feels threatened, or their behaviour is stirring insecurities you have tried to cover or aren’t even aware of. Either way, your lack of control is a reflection of a deeper emotional wound in you that you need to identify and heal.
Secondly, you need to repair the situation with your son. If you are wrong — in why you got angry or how you handled the situation — ask for his forgiveness and for his help to be a better father. You should also build an accountability structure for yourself (such as the Table of Support) to help you recognise when you don’t react appropriately, and how to do better next time.
Even if you are getting angry for a legitimate reason, you still need to remember that emotional outbursts are unhelpful in building a strong relationship with your child. If you feel like you are about to lose your cool, leave the situation and take time to take control of your emotions. Remember, you need to do discipline with your child, not to them. And it is very hard to do discipline with someone while you are overcome with emotion.
Spanking is a very contentious issue, and rightly so.
While it appears to be affirmed in the Bible (“spare the rod and spoil the child”), a contextual reading of that scripture affirms the value and need for discipline, but does not imply any need for corporal punishment.
And so far, the research done on spanking seems to unequivocally confirm that no form of corporal punishment creates a lasting positive effect, but does lead to statistically relevant negative effects on the child’s emotional and mental development (see more in the links below).
The reality is that if parents live with love and high moral authority, the need for discipline will be minimal. Doing discipline to your child is destructive, so you need to look for ways to do discipline with your child.
Spanking is actually against the law in a number of countries, so we encourage parents (and especially fathers) to carefully consider the consequences of spanking as a disciplinary option. We aren’t going to tell you how you should discipline your child, but we do want to caution you to not ignore the research on this contentious topic. At least read it, and come to your own conclusions. There are two links to well-researched articles on the topic below.
The father is the primary disciplinary figure in the house. He should never be distant and also provide care and nurture (hugs, affirmation etc.), but as soon as the child misbehaves he must walk into the situation.
For example, if the child is misbehaving with the mother, the father should stop what he is doing and stand with the mother to help with the discipline if necessary, or simply to physically show that he supports the mother while she is exercising the discipline. He can also say something like, “You don’t do this with mommy. She has spoken, you had better listen.”
If the child is misbehaving in a neutral space and both parents are present, the father should be the first one to respond. The father’s emotional strength is key here because it should help him not overreact, but apply appropriate discipline from a position of calmness and leadership. Any discipline he gives should be a natural or logical consequence of the child’s misbehaviour.
For example, if the child is teasing another child, he might say, “What you are doing is wrong — we don’t tease other children. If you don’t apologise and stop teasing them, we will leave this play area and you will be grounded to reflect on what you did wrong.”
Thirteen is an excellent time for a rite of passage for your child. A rite of passage is a very intentional process where you hold a ceremony to celebrate their transition between major life phases. In preparation for the ceremony, you should talk through many things with your child, such as their:
- understanding of life
- how they see their life in the future
- transition from child to teenager/young adult
During these conversations, you will have plenty of opportunities to talk about the internet, gaming and mobile phone use. If your child doesn’t bring up those topics, you need to initiate them. By the end of the preparation process, you need to have agreements with your child regarding boundaries and limitations. You can affirm that as they are growing up,
You must always remember that you are not your child’s friend — you are their parent. A parent and a friend is a different relationship. You should be friendly, and as your child matures many elements of your relationship might start looking like friendship, but you remain the parent and have responsibilities for them that no friend will have.
One of your main responsibilities as a parent is to help your child mature from having an external locus of control (where others decide things for him) to an internal locus of control (where he decides for himself in the right way). Click here to find out more about the locus of control.
One way to do this is to teach your child rules and limits. In this case, you could say something like, “We want you to be able to make wise decisions in the future. One way you will do that is by learning how to take responsibility for things like this. As we discussed during the preparation for your rite of passage into young adulthood, these are the limits you will follow with regards to using your cellphone, social media and gaming. If you don’t follow those limits, we are still responsible for you and will unfortunately have to enforce them by taking away your device / limiting your access to the internet.”
If you haven’t yet set boundaries with them, now is a good time to do so. Ask them what they think is reasonable, modify those boundaries if need be, then help them stick to those boundaries. It is important that they have a say in setting those boundaries because then you are helping them follow the rules they set for themselves, which is an important part of developing maturity and shifting that locus of control from external to internal.
Any conversation about a difficult subject should be held with respect as the foundation. That said, many topics — such as sexuality — are only awkward if you start talking about them later in life. If you talk about challenging subjects from an early age (even as young as 3) and do so regularly, it becomes almost second nature to talk about these kinds of things. And don’t be afraid to say, “I’m not sure of the answer to that question. Let me do some research and I will get back to you.” If you demonstrate to your child that you are a safe place and they can ask ANY question without fear of judgement, they will learn to trust you with their deep struggles later in life too.
That said, if you did wait too late and it feels awkward to talk about a subject, start by being honest about how you feel. For example, start by saying, “This conversation is uncomfortable for me to talk about. However, the more we talk about this, the easier it will get. I will always treat this conversation as sacred and will not violate the respect we have for each other while we are talking about this. How do you feel about talking about this?”
Then let the conversation progress naturally from there, giving your child the space to share what they feel about the conversation, and enter the conversation about the subject having affirmed your respect for each other.
We discuss this in more detail in chapter 8 of the book, but in short, you have to plan your time so that you are able to give your children quality time — for optimum development, a child needs at least three hours of direct interaction with their parents a day. You can split those hours up however you wish, but that is what your child needs from birth until at least four years old.
From four years onwards, you might be able to lessen that time, depending on how many children you have and how self-sufficient they are. Either way, you should ensure you give them at least an hour of quality, direct connection on a daily basis — no media or other similar distractions.
This may seem impossible right now, but go take a long hard look at your schedule, and see if you can’t make it happen. As the parent, it is your responsibility to ensure that your child gets the best possible emotional and developmental environment to grow up in. Creating that environment doesn’t require lots of money or toys; it requires focused attention, creative interaction and unconditional love.
The birth of your first child will change your lives drastically. The mother’s body changed during her pregnancy, and it changed again after the birth. This can be traumatic for her, especially if she had a difficult birth or C-section. Both parents suddenly have a new massive responsibility in their lives, and many things that you took for granted will no longer be the same.
Going for counselling can help you find a new sense of stability and prevent potential issues that are common after the birth of a first child. We would recommend focusing on the following things during counselling (probably not all in one session, or even with only one therapist):
- Evaluate for post-partum depression
- Talk about the changes the child will bring to your lives. Some examples could be:
- One spouse having to stay at home which might mean the other taking on more work to pay the bills
- Your sleeping patterns being uprooted for the next few years
- You can no longer just go out together — the child must come with or you need to find a babysitter
- How your current daily rhythms will change
- And so on. This list will be different for every couple, so take time to talk through it in detail.
- Time management. Specifically, how should you plan your time so that the child can get the attention it needs from the mother? This might mean the husband needs to pick up more chores around the house, for example. Also, make sure you have time scheduled in for each other to stay connected (more on that below).
- Sexual intimacy. It is especially challenging to keep each other sexually satisfied when you are both tired, but it is critical to find ways to stay connected. Talk honestly about your expectations around sex and foreplay in this new season, and think up ideas to keep things fun, intimate and connected, even — especially — when you are both tired.
- Emotional connection. It is easy to get so caught up in the excitement and craziness of a new baby in the house that you start living past each other emotionally, especially if the husband is working longer hours or there are other external stressors on the relationships. Talk about your expectations and needs for feeling heard, feeling supported, feeling loved, feeling respected and what you can both do to meet each other’s needs. Schedule regular emotional check-in times and make date nights a priority.
We believe strongly that if you cannot commit enough time to raise a child properly, you should NOT have a child. If you cannot afford to have one of you at home to raise the child (preferably the mother for the first 5 years of the child’s life), the child will grow up with severe father and mother wounds caused by a lack of quality time, and they might miss important developmental milestones.
The first 1000 days of a child’s life are the most important developmentally. If they don’t receive the focused attention they need, they stand the risk of falling behind developmentally and really struggling later in life.
We encourage the mothers to be the primary caregivers for the first five years, but especially the first three, for two reasons
- The first two years of a child’s life are when they learn intimacy, primarily through the mother’s care and nurture. Breastfeeding is an excellent tool in this process, as it strengthens the bond the mother has with the child and gives the child a safe space.
- Those are the mother-impact years, when the mother has the largest influence in the child’s life.
We are not saying that the father cannot be the primary caregiver, nor that the mother doesn’t have influence later in life. However, our years of research and conversations with parents around the world have strengthened our conviction that it is best for the child if the mother is the primary caregiver during the first 5 years. For more on this topic, read chapter 3 of the book.
The more important question behind this question is, “what effect will drinking in front of my children have on them?” The answer to that question depends on your culture, your beliefs, and how much you are drinking.
For example, beer is a major part of German culture, so most children will be exposed to drinking in moderation from a young age. Because it is so widely accepted, and because beer is a generally light alcoholic drink, the impact on the children should be negligible where the beer drinking isn’t excessive.
However, in many cultures around the world, wine and hard liquor are regularly consumed in large amounts, leading to all sorts of negative alcohol-related behaviour. In that kind of context, even just one drink in front of your children might create the wrong impression or set a precedent for them that will lead to dangerous habits later on in life.
Quantity and frequency are also critical factors to consider. There is a world of difference between drinking one glass of wine or beer with a meal and drinking multiple units a day, especially when it has a clear impact on your behaviour.
There are four clear warning signs that should make you strongly reconsider — and consult your mentor, others around your table of support or a close friend who will be honest with you — whether or not you should be drinking at all:
- Drinking alcohol dramatically affects your mood or behaviour, especially if it makes you more aggressive in any way
- You feel like you need alcohol to manage your emotional state
- You feel incomplete if you aren’t able to have your drink
- Your struggle to function if you don’t get your drink
Remember, children might listen to what you say, but they will definitely emulate what you do. You need to ask yourself if you would be okay with your child drinking the way you do when they grow up. If not, you need to change your drinking habits.
And don’t do it in secret — be an example for your child of making wise decisions together. For example, you can explain it to them as directly as this: “I noticed that I am drinking more regularly than I think is healthy for me, and I don’t ever want to be a bad example for you. I spoke to my mentor and she agreed that I should cut down to one drink a week, and if I can’t manage that for a month, I should stop drinking altogether. I want you to help me with this because it is important to me that I set a good example for you.”
At the end of the day, alcohol is addictive and directly linked to many negative behaviours. If you have any doubt, rather err on the side of caution and avoid drinking at all.
Firstly, we need to clarify what we mean by intimacy. Consensual physical affection within reasonable boundaries (hugging, kissing, cuddling) in front of your children is healthy, because it normalises appropriate physical affection between consenting adults, and reinforces the image in their minds that mom and dad really love each other and aren’t afraid to show it.
When talking about sexual intimacy, we are referring to any sort of sexual activity that could lead to an age restriction on a movie. Any sexualised nudity is an obvious example, but even obvious sexual activity while clothed or under bed covers would qualify here.
As an aside, we know that non-sexual nudity is commonplace in some cultures. However, no matter what your cultural norms are, if that nudity leads to public displays of sexual affection, it should be avoided for the sake of the children.
It is really critical to clarify this; being sexually intimate in front of children is considered sexual abuse and can cause all sorts of emotional, psychological and behavioural issues in your child. DON’T DO IT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE.
It is important for parents to help children understand that the parents need a private space where the children cannot enter. If the home is not big enough for physical private space (for example, a shack in an informal settlement or an open-plan bachelors apartment), the parents can still enforce a “parents’ private time” rule, where during that time the children need to not be in the same room as the parents. This time can be used for sexual intimacy but can also be used for connection and quality time together. If both parents work late you may have to be creative about how you set aside this time for yourselves (maybe even ask a trusted friend or family member to look after the children), but doing this is vital for your emotional health and connectedness.
Feeling tired or passionless can have many causes. It is important to get to the root of the issue so that you can apply the appropriate solution.
In many cases, your lifestyle will be a major contributor (not getting enough sleep or exercise, unhealthy eating patterns, a severe imbalance in your work/life/family/recreation paradigms). If you can identify areas of your lifestyle that are unhealthy, you should focus on improving them. You should evaluate this regularly, even when you aren’t feeling tired.
Sometimes, tiredness or a lack of passion can also be a symptom of a deeper problem, like depression or burnout. In that case, you need to seek out professional, specialised help.
But generally speaking, passion is created in the tension between a crisis and a mission. If your lifestyle is healthy and you don’t have any other deeper issues, the best way to reignite passion is to get closer to the crisis, so that you are emotionally pushed to do something about that which is wrong.
At the same time, work on clarifying your vision and reimagining the desired future you see for the group you are (were feeling) passionate about. (You can read more about that in chapter 7 of the book, and if necessary, redo the life mission statement exercise, which you can find in the appendix of the book.)
As you start feeling the emotional tug of the crisis and clarify your life mission statement, the tension between the two will drive the passion.
It is also important to remember two things:
- The people you surround yourself with are some of the greatest contributors to passion in our lives.
- Make also sure you get rid of passion stealers, such as:
a. Conscious sin
b. Spending too much time with negative people
c. Spending too many “nothing hours” that don’t connect in any way to your life mission statement (social media, gaming, TV, movies, etc.).
“Nothing hours” can be a good way to relax, but make sure that they aren’t the main way you rest. Limit the amount of time you allow for them, and replace that time with generative rest that either improves your health (in any of the dimensions of life) or moves you in the direction of your life mission statement.
A mentor plays the role of a whole life coach. Because most of our fathers didn’t “teach us life”, a mentor is super valuable to help us navigate life and make the best possible life decisions. Our mentors also serve as an accountability structure, helping us to choose the right thing instead of the nice thing.
Choosing a mentor is a serious process, and it is important to consider that the mentor has the same value system as the mentee.
Before you agree to mentor anyone, make sure you discuss expectations with them. Be very clear about what you expect of each other, of the process, and name any fears either of you might have.
If everyone is willing to continue after that discussion, write down the agreement you have with each other, listing the expectations and fears.
Then, it is a good idea to start the process by working through:
- the lenses and the windows of the mentoring process
- their mission statements and family values
- their lifeline/timeline.
These three factors will provide you with a good framework for the mentoring process.
Absolutely! It is critical to frame expectations and boundaries at the beginning of the relationship.
However, be careful how often or how strictly you use the word “boundary” because it enhances the resistance against transparency and accountability. Also, make sure that the boundaries you set are to the benefit of both parties (mentor and mentee). An example of a healthy boundary could be:
“Because I have a busy life I might not always be able to answer your calls, so let’s rather set regular dates to meet together, and only call me outside those dates we set if there is a crisis.”
That is a specific boundary that honours the mentor’s time, but it is important to avoid creating the impression that the mentor is not approachable.
Another example is when dealing with someone who is only willing to process things while discussing them with the mentor. That behaviour can become a problem if they are avoiding the personal responsibility of working through things on their own — they are expecting the mentor to do their work for them. In that case, the mentor must give the mentee homework so that they can adopt a personal responsibility attitude for their own reflection and growth.
The frequency of mentoring sessions depends a lot on the age of the mentee, whether they are going through any critical transitional times, and the intensity of the season they are in. 60 – 90 minutes once a month should be fine for adults, and as the relationship matures even once every 3 months could be sufficient. The problem with spacing mentoring sessions out too much is that you stand to lose the transparency and intimacy of the relationship.
In a mature, totally transparent mentor-mentee relationship, no issues are considered to be really sensitive and private. Generally speaking though, issues where sin, transgression or crimes have been committed (cheating on a spouse, embezzlement or other financial fraud, abuse etc.) are the most sensitive to deal with.
We encourage mentors and mentees to strive for a relationship where total transparency is possible because it leads to an enormous sense of freedom, trust and shared responsibility.
There are 4 important factors that improve transparency:
- Trustworthiness and creating trust
- A non-judgemental attitude that must be picked up by the mentee
- The mentee must experience an absolute belief from the mentor in the mentee
- The light-heartedness of the gospel that it wants to give freedom must permeate through the whole process.
In practical terms, to build transparency you should start with yourself —be prepared to be totally open on personal issues (money, sex, power) and your insecurities.
Secondly, make sure you go deeper in as many conversations as possible because if you create a habit of being shallow, every time you go deeper it will be a bit of a shocking experience.
Thirdly, always communicate how much you value that you can have a deep and significant relationship with the mentee. Focus on and affirm the value of a deep transparent relationship that creates freedom.
It usually requires seven phases to create a lasting mentoring culture:
- Personal example
- Small group example
- Critical mass demonstration
- Encouraging the early adopters
- Promoting middle adopters
- Reaching the tipping point
- Culture starts
Once you have a mentoring culture in your community, it is much easier to instil this DNA in future generations.