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How Going to Jail Made Me a Better Dad

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By Tyler Stanton, Children's Trust program participant

The day my son was born and the day I became a dad are not the same day in my life. I made some bad choices. I put drinking and partying ahead of my family – and I, and my family, paid the price. I know now that the days I spent in jail are precious days I lost with my family, but they are also the days that gave me my family. Let me explain.

While I was in jail, I enrolled in a 13-week program offered by the Children’s Trust. It was a group of fathers who gathered to discuss our own childhoods and how we’ve parented our kids. It helped us come to terms with our pasts and the behaviors that landed us in there in the first place so that we could learn how to be better dads – and could learn from each other.

The program helped me with a lot of different parenting skills and coping mechanisms, and helped me understand that I need to be there in my kids’ lives. It made me calmer. I talk more, and I’ve learned to talk things through. I learned all kinds of different ways to deal with your children and with yourself — different viewpoints on everything from discipline to just being there for your child when they need you. I learned how to be a dad.

It’s easy to run away from your feelings, from your commitments, from the hard things in life (that, it turns out, are often also the best things in life). But that is not what being a good man means. Being a good man means raising your children to be good people. It means listening to them, supporting them, practicing patience, and offering guidance. It means nights in watching movies and eating popcorn. It means showing them to strive for constant improvement and that you don’t always have to get it right the first time if you keep trying.

I continued the program even after I was released from jail and took my youngest son, Walker, to the graduation ceremony. I hope that’s something he’ll always remember: seeing me trying to better myself so that I’m there for him. If I didn’t do the program, I’m not sure what I’d be doing right now. It awoke the father in me.

Staying sober is a big part of my life now. I live an amazing life. It isn’t perfect every day, but one day at a time life keeps getting better. I expect that I will be around for my children for quite some time and I will enjoy every second of that time raising and learning with them.

Originally published on the Good Men Project.