"Example is everything. Children will naturally love their mothers but copy their fathers."
A number of fathers whom I spoke to gave similar advice when I asked for advice on being a father.
A story was shared by Fr Larry Richards about the future Pope John-Paul II when he was a child. He woke up in the middle of the night and found his father on his knees praying. What would your children find you doing? This is certainly a challenge. I think I'd be more likely to be surfing BBC news for the latest Arsenal results - or possibly thinking up an amusing response to a comment on my favourite blog.
At university a fellow student was in the minority of those who would go to Mass each week and took her faith seriously. I once asked her why this was and she said that when they went to Mass as a family, her father would be completely transfixed by what was happening around him - focused on the altar and not chatting or letting his mind wander - this is something that she could tell even as a child.
One father said to me: "the best “parenting advice” that I can give a father is that your son will “catch” more behaviour than you “teach” – because as we all know, actions speak louder than words, and this is never more true than in the home. Your son will constantly be watching you – constantly be copying you (especially when they are smaller – boys want to be just like their dads when they grow up) – so make sure what he is copying is worth copying. You can “say” whatever you want to a child, but unless your words and teachings are back up with actions (living out the words) the lessons will be lost – scripture talks about this when God calls us (as fathers) to teach His commandments to our children – talk to them, repeat them, when you are sitting at home, when you are walking along the road, when you lie down and when you get up – in other words – teach your son about God (and God’s commandments and God’s wisdom) by living out God’s commandments."
These words were echoed more succinctly: "Know that your son is always - and always will be - watching your every behaviour and listening to your every word. They are great imitators. Model the life you want him to live. The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world."
One of the most amazing fathers I know gave as the core advice to me: "It's simple, always give a good example. What you ask of your children you must do yourself."