How to Be a Hero to Your Kids
Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team
Paul Pettit is a man’s man. The president of Dynamic Dads and a former sports broadcaster who writes on a level geared to the average dad, this book is best suited for a man who either doesn’t have the time to invest in a 300 page tome, or would turn apoplectic at the simple thought of a 300 page tome. This book is a mere seven chapters, punctuated by inset ‘Dynamic Dad’ textboxes. Prefacing each chapter is a selection of quotations drawn from surveys, journals, Scripture, and various other luminaries, while each chapter ends with discussion questions ostensibly written with a ‘Dynamic Dad’s’ accountability group in mind. Pettit begins with the following statement, reflecting his desire that this book would serve its readers: “I hope reading this book helps you become a better father. Or to be more precise, I hope reading this book helps you to father better.” This incident of inversion is a promising opening to a book that promises much by its allusion to heroic fathering.
Yet another propitious early sign is the author’s assurance that this is not another “nine steps” or “follow this proven plan” type of book; he does not claim to possess some “secret formula that unlocks the fathering code.” Pettit draws the parallel that just as God is mysterious and His ways are “often difficult to track or explain,” so fathering is a messy business with no surefire manual, nor recipe for success. With these humble statements Pettit launches into the rationale for writing this book, supporting his findings by proffering disturbing statistics, helpfully placing them in proper perspective: “Statistics, however, are cold, lifeless numbers. They alert us to a problem and for that I am grateful. But rarely do they move us to feel or to act. In addition, numbers do not have names. Statistics represent people and things, but numbers are not the people themselves. My heart does not break for the statistics but for the children: children who have never had a bedtime storey read to them by an adult male…” Throughout the book Pettit reveals his burden for children who lack fathers, or truly fatherly figures. Here is the wellspring of this book, and it goes deep.
The second chapter addresses the priorities of a godly father. Firstly, Pettit underscores the field on which fatherly heroics are performed: “It’s in the day-to-day, run-of-the-mill activities of our life that we impact our children the most. Habits, routines, and heroes are made in the normal days, not at the annual visit to the theme park.” That’s not to say that regular family vacations aren’t indispensible opportunities which serve to bind a family together, but the point is taken. Secondly, Pettit places people priorities over against time priorities, in correct sequence: “I personally know of no better way to accomplish [the task of being a hero] than to be a hero at home. How? Work hard each day at becoming a servant leader in your home. Honor your wife. Interact with your children at a deep level. And commit yourself to great character and integrity.” Later he states, “Your family will only be as solid as your marriage”, yet he realizes that fathering is a sacrificial endeavor on the part of both the husband and the wife.
Theologically, I was fairly impressed. Not only does this book root all fatherhood in God the Father, which many books on fatherhood do, but it is solidly Trinitarian, which is quite a bit rarer: “what is the Father is saying repeatedly? He is saying, ‘Listen to my Son!’ Jesus Christ said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself…” Not only is Pettit concerned with the practical how-to’s of excellent fathering, he is careful to set out the theological underpinnings of fatherhood. He reflects a refreshing God-centered view of fathering: “we can’t compare God with an earthly father because doing so demeans God, but we can compare the actions of a good father with God and say, ‘In the ways that a father is acting as a good father, he’s acting like God acts.’ ”
Obligingly, Pettit brings theology home to roost. He owns that “In the real world that you and I occupy, dads engage us in the same manner as all humanity; fathers are fallen, imperfect beings with flawed motives and actions.” Therefore, we ought to teach our children that not only all fathers “trace their lineage back to the father of fathers, apple-crunching Adam”, but we ought also to actively instruct our children about sin, since “there is only one perfect Father and He is in heaven. The job of perfect father is filled. You need not apply” (author’s emphasis).
This book’s blemishes are few but worth mentioning. Most jarring is a recollection of a locker room event that monopolized an entire page of type and seemed only tenuously related to the point at hand. The author’s broadcasting roots are showing. Likewise, some references to pop psychology concepts such as father wounds, performance anxiety, self-esteem and natural male aggression didn’t seem to jive with the biblical care exhibited in the rest of the book. And I couldn’t really fathom that children would be excited about composing a family mission statement, nor that many dads would enjoy constructing a Legacy Map calculating net end results of quality time spent with their children. Those points aside, this book is a useful bottom-shelf introduction to excellent fathering. It’s appropriate to close with quote ardently calling for God-centered fathering, the only truly successful parenting in light of eternity:
“Let’s jump into this fray we call fathering. Let’s father as hard as we can until our sides ache and we feel like we can’t father one more day. Let’s father in selfless ways, continually pointing our wife and children to the Father of fathers.” Amen.