The Year of the Good Father

Barack Obama Shows Us How to Be Good Parents

First Dad: President Obama’s leadership style could apply to parenting.
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First Dad: President Obama’s leadership style could apply to parenting.

By Eric Elkins

Published January 01, 2013, issue of January 04, 2013.
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The Obama model made the most sense to me, and his victory in the general election sent a clear message to men: Be strong. But be sensitive, too.

Obama has had ample opportunities in the last year to demonstrate that confluence of strength and sensitivity. Whether it was showing both resolve and sadness in the loss of Americans during the Benghazi debacle, learning from his mistakes after the first debate, standing arm-in-arm with Chris Christie after Hurricane Sandy or shedding a very public tear in the wake of the Newtown school massacre, Obama has been both resolute and compassionate.

Obama’s balanced masculinity is finding its way into pop culture as well. In the past, movie dads were portrayed as hapless and incompetent. But 2013 is shaping up to be the year of the good father. If Judd Apatow’s vision can evolve from the clueless new father Seth Rogen in “Knocked Up” to the nuanced struggles of Paul Rudd in “This Is 40,” then I’m optimistic.

On the small screen, TV dads are flawed, to be sure. But you never doubt they love their children and will sacrifice everything for their well-being (RIP, Eddard Stark of “Game of Thrones”). They may be gruff and goofy (the dads in “Modern Family”), or depressed and struggling (“Louie”), but they are also loving in their own way, building up their kids’ sense of self and letting them fail when they need to, but being right there to help them back up again every single time.

It’s almost as though today’s television writers have been reading Foster Cline and Jim Fay’s “Love and Logic” parenting books, which advise parents to let their kids fail when the stakes are low, and then give them the warmth and empathy they need to bounce back so that they’re better equipped to face the challenges of adulthood.

In 2012, you couldn’t open up an issue of The Atlantic without finding articles about the lack of quality men and the rise of women in U.S. society. Though many readers responded to these articles angrily, I saw them as a call to action.


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