"My job is to help them make good decisions and model how to be nice," one father says.
Being a father is a tremendous responsibility. Even with all the advice and direction in the world, people can still be unsure about the best way to go about raising a child.
We asked some local fathers to give their wisdom on how to be a good dad.
Jeffrey Koffman, 56, spent more than 20 years raising his two children, Cameron and Julia, and has watched them grow up and set out into the world. There’s an earned pride to that and Koffman feels he’s done his job well.
But rather living in an empty nest, Koffman has his hands full with 4-year-old James, who he and his second wife welcomed into the world in their late 40s and early 50s, respectively.
“In your 30s, you’re rushing your career and worried about life and what you’re doing,'' he said. "I traveled a lot then but I’m a lot more present this time around. I can enjoy things more because I know what’s going to happen.”
As with his past children, he feels the best thing he can do is nurture his son’s sense of independence. He thinks it’s critical to encourage children’s sense of adventure and to show them new experiences.
Like a poem he enjoys says, parents are the bow and the children are the arrow that flies free.
“Some parents make their dreams their kids’ dreams, and it’s absolutely the wrong decision,” Koffman said. “You need to promote their dreams and not meddle in their lives. … you owe your children two things: unconditional love and an education.”
Dan Ceaser, head of the Hershorin Schiff Community Day School, thinks he’s been more prepared for raising kids than most. Ceasar and his wife have been teaching children for nearly 20 years and felt they were ready for whatever parenthood would bring.
Still, having three girls with different attitudes and personalities has brought its share of surprises. His first daughter 15-year-old, Caroline, is extroverted and outgoing. Daughter Natalie, born 18 months later, is more introverted. He says they’ve taught him how to adapt and be supportive to each in the ways they need.
“Parenting is very humbling,” Ceasar said. “We like to think as parents we have some amazing control over where our kids end up, but the same inputs with my first two daughters led to very different outputs. I learned early that they’re independent people, they’re going to be who they’re going to be. My job is to help them make good decisions and model how to be nice.”
He believes teaching his children to have decency and to accept mistakes will be more beneficial to them in the long run.
“(It’s about) allowing our kids to make mistakes and focusing on how to learn from them, instead of putting them in a bubble,” Ceasar said. “Adversity is important to kids. We have to show how to deal with adversity and that creates confidence and resilience in them.”
Larry Bowman says that even growing up, he couldn’t see a future for himself where he wasn’t a father.
He grew up without his dad but learned a lot from friends, cousins, uncles, a stepfather and even a boxing coach.
“It’s an interesting thing is when you don’t have a dad, other people step up and fill that void,” Bowman said.
He says that more than anything they taught him integrity — living up to the ideals and values they said were important. It’s a trait he plans to pass on to his two children, Luke and Elle, 6 and 3.
One of the smartest things he thinks he and his wife did was to sit down and discuss the kind of values they would instill in their children.
They decided upon a firm reward and punishment system that would prioritize responsibility to others while also making it clear there are consequences that can’t be taken back for bad behavior.
Bowman has stressed in his children to understand their fortune and privilege. He says he plans to have his son start volunteering at an early age to help others in the community.
“We’re living in Sarasota, this magical bubble,” Bowman said. “With all the blessings (he’s) been given comes responsibility. … I tell him ‘You’re a healthy, lucky kid. If you see see someone being bullied, it’s your responsibility to go over and take care of him and stick up for them.’”
He feels the moments of joy that have come with parenting have made up for any moments of discipline.
“It makes me so proud to hear stories (from teachers) where there was a kid playing alone at school and Luke decided to play with him,” Bowman said. “I’m going to continue to reward that behavior so he understands how important it is.”