M.J. Sullivan is the author of one novel involving a father-daughter
relationship, entitled, Necessary Heartbreak. He talks about his
You’ve written a book on parenting, called Necessary Heartbreak.What is the one thing you think parents should know about your work?
My novel is something that fathers and their kids can read together, since it attempts to show situations from both adult and teen viewpoints.
What are your feelings about the role of the father in child development?
In my family, I have always been the primary care giver, working from home as a writer while handling the responsibilities of our children. As such, it has enlightened me to how important a dad is to a family. When I was growing up, I rarely saw my dad – my mom was the one home and my dad worked extensively. For my daughters, I’ve always been their point-person for school, activities, and social development.
What is the best thing dads can do in the raising of their children?
The hardest thing but the best thing I can do is just to listen to them, finding quiet time with them individually to learn about their lives – what’s important to them, what bothers them, what makes them happy.
What is the biggest error dads can make in raising their children?
Treating kids exactly the same has been a common error I’ve seen. Each kid has a different personality with different needs. As important as it is to be fair and neutral, you have to adjust your parenting style to a child as an individual, rather than a member of your ‘family’ group.
It’s been said that the greatest regret aging men have is that they didn’t spend more time with their kids. How do you feel about that statement?
Being a stay-at-home dad, there were more than a few days where I couldn’t get away from them for a second! But, I wouldn’t give up a moment and, even in looking back now, I know the precious hours you get with your kids are never enough.
Every generation worries that their kids aren’t strong enough to handle the real world. Do you feel kids need to be “toughened up” by experiencing rough times?
Can you be certain that each kid will experience the same ‘rough time’ the same way? Each child will respond to a situation differently – as a dad, haven’t we all had those times when we wondered why such a minor thing was really upsetting to our kid? Why overburden them more?
Or conversely, do you think kids need to be smothered with love to give them storehouse of good feelings with which to deal with the inevitable challenges of life in the real world?
I don’t believe in smothering but I do believe in cultivating a feeling of confidence in them. I never hesitate to praise them but I’m usually the first to make them aware that their actions have consequences.