Generational Insights on Fatherhood

June 1, 2024

by Steve Strutz | Photos by Jennifer Dawn Photography

I remember holding my firstborn for the first time. Weeping and smiling at the miracle of this little person, I wondered, “Now, how to do this dad thing?”.

 In getting perspectives on fatherhood, we chose to examine the kid side of the equation. And when we say “kid,” no stone was left unturned; we’ve got (anonymous) insight from “kids” ages 5-95. On this investigative journey, I asked two questions of those that I encountered: What one thing did your dad do that had a lasting positive impact on your life? What is one thing you wished your dad had done to support you better in life?

The interactions were rich—most conversations left me smiling, while others brought me to tears. So, dads, let’s explore some of those responses and see how they might assist us in improving in our most significant role. I’ve done the legwork for us and carefully sifted through the answers to identify recurring themes; here’s what emerged.

Many shared positive experiences of their dads embodying a youthful spirit and teaching them various skills, from playing baseball to guiding them in prayer. Conversely, some mentioned less favorable traits, such as a dad's excellence in cooking but reluctance to clean up or excessive eating habits. While these aspects hold significance, weightier concerns were raised that warrant our attention. Let's delve into them.

SHOW AND TELL you love them

         Loving and being loved were recurring themes in the reflections about dads. What resonated most was not just hearing “I love you” but witnessing tangible demonstrations of that love.

        It was fascinating to observe how a father’s love for his child’s mother profoundly influenced our respondents. As one individual expressed, “My dad’s marriage was top priority, even above us…He loved Mom well!”

         A common refrain through many of the responses was, “My dad loved me.” Both in words and actions, the affirmation of love from their fathers was frequent and unwavering. One noted, “I always knew my dad loved me. He was always present and willing to drop anything he was doing to be there for me. His loving presence then, and now as a grandpa to my daughters, has made a lasting impact on us.”

         Conversely, some responses stirred a deep emotional reaction within me. Comments like, “My dad never told or showed me he loved me! He never told me he was proud of me,” or, “He provided roast beef for the table and a roof over my head…but never said ‘I love you.’” It is foundational for your children to know – without a doubt - that they are loved by you in word and deed. They need you to SHOW AND TELL them that you love them.


Numerous individuals shared the vital importance of their fathers being physically and emotionally present. Upon reflection, one respondent determined, "I want to be a student of my kids for who they are and who they are becoming, having conversations with them in what they are curious about or interested in, offering guidance as they engage with me.”

Having their fathers at home and attending their activities certainly mattered, but what truly resonated was their fathers’ relational presence. This meant genuine engagement, active listening, sincere conversation, and intentional efforts to understand them whenever they spent time together. In essence, it wasn’t just about being there physically but being fully engaged and connected on a relational level.

Conversely, one noted, “My dad’s investments were in things he liked, not things I liked. That generated a vacuum relationally as I didn’t feel he was genuinely interested in me. The redemptive piece that comes out of all of that is to take a genuine interest in my kids.”

A counselor friend highlighted a prevalent issue in today’s fast-paced world, where many fathers are often absent from their children’s lives. Merely providing financially isn’t enough; children need their fathers to invest time and affection regularly. There is a “palpable difference between children whose dads are relationally present in their lives versus those whose dads are relationally distant most of the time.”


“I refuse to replicate the behavior of my father; I will be different for my children,” emphasized one respondent.

As dads, we often emulate the fathering style we witnessed in our own dads. While this can be beneficial with a positive role model, it becomes problematic when the person in that role is lacking. I commend the courageous dads who were determined to pave a different way and not follow the detrimental patterns of their fathers.

One story was particularly encouraging. Despite a difficult upbringing that included an absent, love-withholding, alcoholic father who was also rough on his mom, this person was determined to do things differently. In adulthood, he married and had three children; he actively chose to forgive his father and prioritized love and his presence with his family. Remarkably, his dad reached out 32 years later, filled with remorse, which led to a heartfelt reunion. Amends were made, tears shed, and a relationship repaired.

           So, if you are one who did not have a great example for a dad, know that it’s possible to reverse the curse and choose to be the dad you know is best for your kids. Be the example for them to follow.

           You might ask, what about you, Steve? The Strutz kids had a dad who was the best! He taught us skills for life, showed us an authentic faith in God, loved our mom well, showed us he loved us with words and actions, supported us, attended our events, gave us his best wisdom, and was there for us, not just physically but relationally. He wasn’t perfect. He drank way too much coffee and called too much when goose hunting!

Dads, take heart; you have what it takes to excel in fatherhood! Prioritize showing and telling your children you love them, commit to being relationally present, and, if necessary, reverse the curse and break free from negative patterns to make positive changes for the sake of your family!

Originally printed in the Month 2024 issue of Simply Local Magazine

Read this article in the digital copy of Simply Local here!

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