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Be A Better Dad Today

A Book Review


Be a Better Dad Today: Ten Tools Every Father Needs by Gregory Slayton, Regal, 2012. Kindle version available from Amazon for $9.99; other formats also available. 

成就好爸爸:男人一生最重要的工作 (Be a Better Dad Today, Chinese version), 2014. Kindle电子书version available from Amazon.cn for¥4.99; other formats also available. Kindle电子书version available from JD.com for ¥3.99; other formats also available.

Reviewed by Barney

Ambassador.  Philanthropist.  Venture Capitalist.  Harvard Business School Professor.  Best-selling author.  Ask Gregory Slayton which one of these he feels is the most important job he has ever had and he will tell you none of them.  In the introduction to his book, Be a Better Dad Today: Ten Tools Every Father Needs, Slayton emphatically states: “being a good dad is the most important job any of us—from the President of the United States to the CEO of a major corporation to the guy taking out the garbage—will ever have” (p.14). 

Raised by a dysfunctional father who abandoned him in his early teens, then taken in by a Chinese immigrant family who had moved in next door, Slayton had two distinct fatherhood experiences which set him on a quest to learn how to be a dad. That quest spanned more than 30 years and took place in different societies and cultures around the world.  On the one hand, he determined that he would not be like his deadbeat earthly father; but on the other, he saw in his “Chinese father” a God-fearing man who cared for, guided, and provided for his family, motivating him to explore the powerful impact good fathers can have on their families.

More than theory, Be a Better Dad Today is an inspirational and practical guide for men on their fatherhood journey. Slayton highlights “10 Tools Every Father Needs”.  These include such things as “Family First/Family Fun”, encouraging dads to take the lead in creating fun and memorable things that families can do together, and having an “All-in Marriage”, which states in no uncertain terms that one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is for Mom and Dad to truly love each other. 

While families around the world face tremendous challenges today, China’s rapid urbanization, her one child policy,[1] and economic boon have had a social cost. Divorce is now common; teenage rebellion is on the rise. Absentee fathers now dot China’s landscape leaving family casualties in their wake. Many of the traditional values which once undergirded the family have been abandoned; China’s moral fabric has begun to unravel. In the face of these mounting difficulties, Be A Better Dad Today offers practical and proven solutions to fathers. 

Take the third tool for example: “True Moral Compass and True Humility.” Slayton tells us that one of the father’s key roles is to set moral standards for himself and his family. Falling standards outside the home need not mean that standards inside the home will fall too, any more than falling temperatures in the winter mean that those inside need to suffer from the cold. The most important inheritance that a father can pass on to his children, according to Slayton, is not the material kind.  He writes: “Strong spiritual, moral, and ethical inheritances almost always lay the foundation for a productive and successful life” (p. 88).

One of the most helpful chapters for me personally is “The Power of a ‘Noble Family Vision.’” It is now standard practice for teenagers to go to guidance counselors to help them chart their educational path. At some point, educational choices lead to a career path. Once in the corporate world, it is foolishness to think that companies in the 21st century would not have a mission statement and a vision for its future. Even our politicians articulate their vision for a better city, state, or country in their attempt to win votes. Although we are convinced of the need to plan and build for the future in all of these areas, few ever take the time to consider what kind of a family they want to become. Few ever lay out practical goals, or determine the conditions which will assure success in reaching these goals. Slayton’s noble family vision concept gives us a blueprint for building a family that will not stagnate but continue to grow and make the kinds of decisions upon which legacies are made. I am now convinced that every family needs to have a noble family vision, a clear picture of who we are and where we are going which every member of the family is committed to and strives together to realize.

Another amazing chapter in my opinion is Tool #8, “Other Good Dads.” Modern society for all its advances in technology has left many people feeling alienated and alone. We are separated from our families, from our communities, and many of us don’t even know our neighbors. But when it comes to building strong marriages and homes, we men need buddies and allies. I couldn’t agree more. Being a good dad is hard work, but having others who can encourage us in our journey lightens our loads and lifts our chins. Men need other men. We need to be held to account at times. We need to learn from what others are doing. We need to know that we are not alone.

Finally, Slayton reminds us that there are times when even friends are not enough. Although a highly successful businessman, diplomat, and leader, Slayton himself has realized that when it comes to being a dad, he needs heaven’s help.  He writes, “To be the best earthly father you can be, you need help from the Ultimate Father” (p. 159).  It certainly is a wonderful revelation to realize that God himself is a father, that he has given us an example, and that he is so willing to come to our aid whenever we call, to help us to become the best fathers we can be for our families. 

I doubt that there is a single father out there who would say that he doesn’t want to be a better dad. With these ten tools in hand, you will certainly get a great start in realizing your desire to be a better dad today!

Notes

  1. ^ China’s one-child policy was modified to allow couples to have two children in October 2015. 
Image credit: Dad and daughter by leniners via Flickr. 

Barney

Barney is an American who has lived among and served Chinese people for more than 30 years. He has witnessed a century of change in less than a generation in China, but can say from experience that the greatest changes which have taken place are not in the height and number of buildings, …View Full Bio


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