“To Father” is a Verb

I think it’s important to figure out what’s going on in your heart when you are spending time with your children. I like the fact that we’ve made the word father into a verb. When you’re with your kids, you’re fathering your kids. We say that pretty easily in our culture. But I think this also brings up, and can really help us understand, that it’s possible something else, other things, could be going on in your heart.

This is one of the things that I’ve noticed for a lot of dads, especially for new dads, this is something that can be really challenging, and that is for them to make sure that as they are spending time with their kids, what’s happening is that they are fathering them as opposed to brothering them or friending them, right?

So the idea here, you guys, is that when you’re a new father, you are very familiar with other identities. Maybe you’ve been a brother, and so you’re used to what that’s like, and so you might cross-apply that to your kids. Or you’re used to being a friend, and so you’re like, “I just want a friend my kids, I don’t want to father my kids.”

Fathering, and what I’m describing in this verb is, it really is coming from a particular place in your heart that is completely unique to the feeling and the experience of being their father. For a lot of people in our culture, a lot of men, we actually resist this. We don’t want to feel like we’re fathering. We even have a lot of language in our culture that says this is bad. We have words like, don’t patronize me, which, a lot of times it means don’t treat me like you are somehow above me.

So a lot of us have been, we’ve really been saturated by ideas that say that if there’s not complete equality in the way that we’re approaching one another, then there’s something wrong with the way that we’re treating the other person. By equality, I don’t mean that we’re of different value, but in terms of, you’re their father and so you know more than they do, and you have a lot of power over them, and you need to lovingly lead them, and guide them, and protect them, and provide for them, and that’s really the fathering verb.

This is a really big deal, you guys, not just for you as dads, but also for your children, because they can only experience their son-ship their daughter-hood to the extent that you are fathering them. I would say probably the most common tension I see with young fathers in this area is that they oftentimes think about their children like toys.

It’s almost like they’re trying to play with them, which is great. You should definitely enjoy your kids. But I think that part of what’s going on there is we’re struggling with how to tap into that fathering part of our heart and to let that identity, because it implicates us as an individual, we’re afraid to let down whatever kind of shell we have around our heart that says that, “I don’t really trust in this area of my heart that says that you’re going to capture a part of me and turn me into something else.”

I was just reading the other day about a father who was just secretly writing online about how much he regretted ever having children. It was really a tragic thing. He said he’d never say that to his kids, but that’s his experience as an individual. I think that oftentimes this can happen because dads don’t understand that when you have a child, they turn you into a different kind of person. They turn you into a father, and the way that you experience that and really completely accept that, is that you have to open up your heart, and that’s this process of choosing to father your , call them your son, call them your daughter.

This is, oftentimes, what I encourage especially new dads to do when you have an infant. Oftentimes, I can tell if a dad’s struggling with this by the way that they treat their infants. Because the infants, they’re really, really, really young, when they’re in their first two or three months, they don’t do anything. They don’t really respond hardly at all yet to interaction. They cry all the time. They’re a lot of work, they sleep a ton, and so oftentimes fathers disconnect during that stage.

When that’s happening, I’m always concerned that what’s going on is the father is not allowing the peace of this stage, where it requires just giving on their part, to open and awaken this part of their heart to being a father and to fathering their children. But yeah, Jeff, what does that stir up for you?

Yeah. I mean, two quick thoughts I would say, which is interesting is, it’s revealing to me, because every … now I think about it, every noun, you can verbify it, but it’s interesting to let yourself think about which ones we more naturally do that with obviously, and which ones we don’t, because then I think that reveals if we think it’s a passive or an active thing. Does that make sense?

Yeah. That’s a good point.

What I mean by that is like the opposite side of that one, which is funny, is because we actually do use it all the time, is mothering, right? I’ve never heard anyone say fathering. I hear mothering all the time. But it’s the same thing, it’s just the other side, right. So that’s fascinating, right, that we’re very okay with mothering.

Yes, that’s true.

Right, we mother a lot as a verb, but fathering as a verb is weird. We see father as more just like this stature and this thing, that you’re supposed to be stoic and stand or whatever, rather than fathering.

Then the other one is, which is a word we use all the time, is coaching, right. You can be a noun coach, you can be a coach, but that word actually almost always gets used in the verb way, like you’re coaching. When you’re a coach, you’re coaching.

Yeah. It’s a positive verb.

Yeah, you almost can’t be a coach unless you’re coaching, right?


Like you can’t be a father unless you’re fathering. I’m not going to distill those a ton, but maybe just let those sit with people as they go about their day today and they’re listening to that episode, is, man, what would it actually look like if fathering the verb became as normal to you as mothering and coaching is in our culture?

Latest Episode

Listen To Our Latest Podcast



Start Building a
Multigenerational Family Team

Live events







Family scouting report