The Fathering Project: 'I wish someone had shown me how to be a good dad'

Kinderling News & Features

For many dads, letting go of the way their fathers showed them how to parent (in a more traditional way) can be challenging.

That's one of the reasons why Dr Bruce Robertson founded The Fathering Project, a peer-to-peer support group and online resource for dads. 

Bruce told Kinderling the idea came to him while he was working as a doctor: 

“In my role as a doctor [I often hear dads] talk reflectively: 'I wish I’d spent more time with my kids'. Or, 'I wish someone had told me how important it was to be a dad and how to do it'." 

Listen to Dr Bruce Roberston on Kinderling Conversation: 

Traditional roles not reflective of nurturing, loving roles

For dads who grew up with more traditional role models, the modern issues facing kids like cyber-bullying, obesity, pornography and drugs can seem bewildering. 

The Fathering Project peer support program addresses these issues by showing men that their role as dad is really important, and helps them learn - in lots of different ways - how to do it. 

“Our work in The Fathering Project has shown us that if these two areas are addressed, then men can change,” says Bruce. 

Overcoming stereotypes

A big part of the project is going to schools and speaking with dads to encourage them to pull together. 

“We champion dads' groups in these meetings, which encourages men who might not know what to do,” says Bruce. 

“The idea that men can’t talk about it is not correct because they do love their kids and they want to be a good dad. When you get a bunch of dads together, it’s not natural to them but they can get into it quickly.”

Dads learn how to parent differently to mums 

When researching for The Fathering Project, Bruce noticed how popular parenting books were mostly read by mums. 

“It’s all very well to write a 200-page book for men, but they won’t read it … I wrote something short that I call a ‘dunny book’, which means dads can just pick it up and flick through a few points.”

As part of the project, dads will also receive an email tip once a week and have access to The Fathering Project website that’s full of resources. 

Aim for a rich and fulfilling inner life 

The key to happiness as a parent is not to compartmentalise your work responsibilities from your family life and your relationship with yourself. 

Dads who have active relationships with their mates - like heading away for the weekend with the boys - are role modelling to their kids the importance of a rich life. 

“It shows your kids that you are not ‘just’ a dad, but also a person and good friend. As long as you offer the same opportunity to your partner to also get away, and be willing to look after the kids,” says Bruce.

“It’s all about learning how to parent and making it part of having a rich and fulfilling life.”