Monday, April 12, 2010


The Heart of a Father: How You Can Become a Dad of Destiny is a 1996 book on fathering by Ken Canfield, founder of the National Center for Fathering. Based on the research that organization has collected, Canfield offers a three-part “blueprint” for good fathering.

First, Canfield says, every father should resolve his relationship with his own father so that he can effectively build relationships with his children. Second, a father must be involved, consistent, aware, and nurturing. Third, Canfield offers perspective on each stage of fathering, from having an infant to becoming a grandparent.

For what Canfield has to say, this is a long book (288 pages). Part of the problem is that Canfield loves to belabor his points. He does a ton of recapping, whether from chapter to chapter or paragraph to paragraph. It doesn’t help that the content within a number of the early chapters doesn’t feel well-organized.

When it comes to problem-solving, Canfield is always frustratingly general, as he tends to drop out of his anecdotes at key moments. So we never get to hear how this fathering expert disciplined his children in any specific situations, and he often presents challenging problems without offering solutions of any kind.  

Canfield is more specific with the long-term approach a father should take. Yet his list of mandates feels inhumanly rigid – no one could possibly do all of it and still keep any ambitions of his own. It gives the book a feel of, “Kids are great, but you’ve got to abandon all your hopes and dreams to raise them right.” He also advocates effusively praising your children on a level that feels disingenuous.

Canfield is right on the basics: listen to your children, love them unconditionally, be involved in their lives, build them up, and so forth. No one’s disputing that. But this book isn’t the best way to get these points across.