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Music and the Spoken Word: Fathers don't have to be perfect to be good examples for their children

Editor's note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square broadcast. This will be given June 16, 2019.

Good fathers make a big difference in the lives of their children — bigger, in fact, than they might realize. Fathers often try to share with their children some of their hard-won wisdom — lessons about work, integrity and perseverance. But most children will tell you they remember less of what their fathers say and more of what they do — who they are. How blessed are the many sons and daughters who can say, “I want to be just like my dad,” or “Whenever I’m not sure what to do, I think about my dad and try to follow his example.”

When they hear those words, fathers are touched but also terrified. Nothing makes a man aware of his weaknesses quite like fatherhood, and the only thing worse than fearing that his children won’t follow his example is realizing that they probably will. Of course, children know that their fathers aren’t perfect. In fact, that’s one lesson from good fathers that seems to stick especially well: children notice how their fathers handle mistakes — their own and their children’s.

Good fathers treat mistakes not as failures but as opportunities for growth. Even when things go wrong, they keep loving and caring and trying. They see potential in the present and hope in the future.

This perspective was captured well by Thomas Edison, who is reported to have said about the long process of inventing the light bulb: “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” Charles Kettering, another well-known inventor, called failures “finger posts on the road to achievement.” A child who has learned this from the example of a father will go far in life, even if that life is marked with its share of “failures” pointing the way to success.

So it may help the self-conscious father to know that when his children say, “I want to be just like my dad,” they don’t mean they expect to be perfect. They might mean, instead, that they plan to grow and learn and carry on, even in the face of troubles and setbacks. And they hope that this lesson they learned from their father will also find its way into the lives of their children — for generations to come.

Tuning in …

The “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL Radio 1160 AM/102.7 FM, ksl.com, KSL X-stream, BYU-TV, BYU Radio, BYU-TV International, CBS Radio Network, Dish Network, DirecTV, SiriusXM Radio (Channel 143) and on the Tabernacle Choir's website and YouTube channel. The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at musicandthespokenword.org.

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