Reggie Cox of the Fatherhood Initiative and Bishop Curt Schultz of the Geneseo Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Reggie Cox of the Fatherhood Initiative and Bishop Curt Schultz of the Geneseo Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

HELP FOR DADS

Fathers’ group started at Geneseo LDS church

September 22, 2010 by Mark Gillespie

Children, unfortunately, don’t come with instruction manuals — and fathers are often the least-prepared of the two parents.

That’s because many dads lack a well-equipped “toolbox” of values and techniques to be the best possible leaders of their children, says Reggie Cox of The Fatherhood Connection, a faith-based education program in Rochester.

The Fatherhood Connection began a 13-week fathers’ group called “Fathers Matter to Kids” Monday, Sept. 20 at the Geneseo Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Fathers and grandfathers are invited to drop in to explore how their relationships with their own fathers color their decisions, and how certain core values can improve any relationship between father and child.

“A father has three jobs,” Cox told The County News, “to affirm, to approce and to celebrate.” He explained that a child’s self-image is shaped in large part by his or her father’s opinion. Approaches range from the strict, unyielding “authoritarian” father to the coddling “permissive” father.

The best approach, according to Cox, is the “authoritative” father — the man children can count on to provide a clear moral compass, but someone who is approachable and open to feedback.

As pastor at the Changing Lives Worship Center, Cox’s point of view is informed by his faith. “It says in Malachi 4-6 ‘He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers,” Cox points out. “For many kids though, there is a ‘father hunger’ which they are never able to articulate.”

It doesn’t help that the “perfect father” is romanticized in media images. Many children see their father’s flaws through the lens of idealized parents who always have time for a game of one-on-one or a sympathetic pep talk.

You don’t have to belong to a certain church, or even be a believer, to benefit from the group sessions. Cox starts with a prayer, but keeps the rest of the meeting focused on worldly, practical advice — as well as robust discussions about fatherhood with participants.

“We spend a lot of time talking about the ‘girl in the woman’ and the ‘boy and the man.’”

Topics include the definition of a healthy relationship, critical thinking, decision-making and problem solving. Participating dads learn how to hold a family meeting, which Cox recommends happen every week. Discussions range from the special bond between father and son — and the sometimes awkward relationship fathers have with their daughters, especially if there is no female role model present in the family.

“A daughter gets her first impression of how a man should behave toward her from her father,” said Cox. “Dad should be the man who gives her her first ring or her first dance. He should be the first man who takes that daughter out to dinner. Sometimes single fathers don’t know how to talk to their daughters about puberty and sex. We want to show men how to be confident and competent fathers who can address a topic like that.”

Bishop Curt Schultz of the Geneseo LDS Church says he welcomes the group as his church’s ongoing mission to offer community-based programs.

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