The Christchurch Grammar Dads’ group, are a group of fathers, and father figures, who meet every two weeks during term time to explore how to be better fathers. In the five sessions thus far we’ve explored what we learned (and did not learn) from our own fathers. We now understand our children’s ‘love languages’, what makes us get angry at our kids, how to recognise and encourage their strengths and talents, and what expectations and pressures we as fathers unwittingly place on them. In future sessions we’ll cover how to support boys in their transition to manhood.
The idea for the group germinated in April 2014 following one of Bruce Robinson’s presentations at the school. Chaplain Frank Sheehan and I were convinced there were men who wanted to go deeper and started a dad’s group that met every month.
The discussions were great but attendance was spotty, ranging from three to twenty depending on the night. Overall it was a satisfying experience but we felt we did not get enough traction with a wide enough group.
This year we looked at how to improve the experience. Our first guiding principle has been that men learn not only by receiving information but by watching role models and learning by doing. The second principle has been to develop intentionally other men to lead their own dads’ groups.
We began by surveying over 250 boys from years 7-9, asking what they love about their fathers, what they want dads to do more / less of, what they really want to say to dad and have him say to them. Forty fathers came to hear about the report findings.
The dads’ group follow up sessions have six to eight men regularly attending. We have three great men on the team learning how to lead their own groups. We’ve had two guest speakers, including an ex-Wallaby and a board member of the Reserve Bank, sharing honestly about their ups and downs of being a father.
According to the men the content hits the mark. We’ve created an environment where authentic dialogue can happen and our thinking and behaviour examined. Homework is assigned and followed up the next session to encourage learning by doing. Our trainee leaders contribute to content design, facilitation and encouraging open conversation.
In summary, we’ve now got a model to support small groups of men to go deeper into what it means to be a good father. We need to integrate more closely with TFP and find opportunities to engage men wherever they congregate.