What We Can Learn About Parenting From FDR’s Father

I recently started reading a biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), the 32nd president of the United States. (If you’re interested, I’m reading FDR by Jean Edward Smith.) Self-assured and optimistic in the midst of hardship, FDR “rescued the nation from economic collapse” and “led the nation to victory” in WWII.  Elected for four terms, FDR “proved to be the most gifted American statesman of the 20th century.”  The author of this biography made several very interesting observations about how FDR was parented. Perhaps we could learn some lessons from FDR’s parents for our own generation. After all, we could definitely use any suggestions that might produce men and women of character in the world today. We can learn lessons from FDR’s mother and from his father. This post will share two ideas we might learn from his father. (Read What We Can Learn About Parenting from FDR’s Mother for more parenting ideas.)

Speaking of FDR’s father, the author said, “The regard in which he (Franklin) held him (his father), amounting to worship, grew out of a companionship that was based on his ability to see things eye to eye, and his father’s never failing understanding of the little problems that seem so grave to a child.”

  • FDR adored his father for two reasons. First, they spent time together engaged in mutual, meaningful activities. His adoration “grew out of a companionship.” Children spell love T.I.M.E.  Spending time with our children will communicate how much we love them. Second, his father took the time to understand his child’s problems, even if they seemed insignificant through his own adult eyes. By “understanding the little problems,” FDR’s father accepted FDR’s concerns as important enough to address and thus FDR as significant as well. He validated FDR’s significance and value in his own life and as a person. All our children need that.

“Sara was asked if she had thought her son would ever become president. ‘Never,” she answered. “The highest ideal I could hold up before our boy [was] to grow to be like his father: straight and honorable, just and kind.”

  • This, to me, is a beautiful description of the kind of fathers we need in our world. We need fathers who live a life of character, a life worth emulating, a life that is the “highest ideal” one could hold up for our children. Fathers need to be men of character—”straight and honorable, just and kind”—so our sons have someone to admire and emulate and our daughters have an image of how a “good man” lives his life and treats women.

Our world needs fathers like FDR’s father today; fathers that might help produce men of confidence and kindness.  Great fathers live out the three aspects of parenting mentioned in these quotes:

  • They spend time with their children.
  • They take time to understand and empathize with their children’s problems (no matter how small the problem might seem to our adult senses).
  • They exhibit personal character that represents the “highest ideal” we could hold up for our children to emulate.

As fathers practice these three aspects of parenting, they will prove great fathers…and great fathers produce great children.

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