The dadcraft Life: Mark Foreman & Raising Renaissance Children

  by Chris Horst

The dadcraft Life:  Why Mark Foreman believed in fathers enough to write a book to encourage them in their journeys.  

Tell us about your family.

My sons, Jon and Tim, are rock and roll musicians (Switchfoot) that have been in the business for 20 years. My youngest was signed as a senior in high school. They believe in their songs. They’re so passionate. They’re still touring as we speak. They’ve given us three grandkids. My wife and I have been married for 43 years. We’re best friends.

Why did you write Never Say No?

Whenever Jan and I would speak, we would talk about how God loves everybody. And in the Q&A, usually the question comes up: We love your kids. How did you raise them? We decided to lean into that question. We asked ourselves, Well, how did we raise our kids?

We wanted to raise renaissance children that would love God, love people, use both sides of their brains, and would see themselves as part of the bigger story than just their own happiness. That was the target we were generally aiming at.

Why do you care so much about helping dads be better dads?

To me, the answer is obvious. We aren’t the future. Our children are. We behave as if we are the future and we forget our children. Our kids are our legacy. They will carry on the torch. How we hand the torch onto them is really significant. As fathers, particularly, we need some help. I had a great dad, but he didn’t invest much time in me. I wanted to rethink how to be a father.

Why is Never Say No a good resource for dads?

I was raised in a “cat’s in the cradle” home, from that famous song from Harry Chapin. “We’ll have a good time then.”

That “then” never happened. My dad’s time with his kids never ended up happening. I saw myself early on doing the same thing. I was working 80-hour work weeks and finishing grad school. I was my dad all over again. I wanted to change the song. I wanted to rewrite the lyrics. To “have a good time” now.

I made some significant changes in my life. I read books about ways I could be a father apart from being a distant disciplinarian. I discovered a lot. I was viewing myself as a firm disciplinarian, and it wasn’t working for me. I didn’t want to be the dad walking around like the Army sergeant.

I stumbled across a book called How to Really Love Your Child. It spoke about a “love tank.” If you fill your child’s love tank, then the discipline issues will largely go away. I put the author to the test. I put the bulk of my time as a dad filling my kid’s love tanks. Specifically, what I remember about filling the love tank is that I needed to know how my kids experienced love.

There isn’t a dad alive who would say he doesn’t love his children. But we often don’t really know how to love our kids. A child’s love language is high touch: hold their hand, hug them, put your arm around them. It’s high eye contact. Kids can be really chatty. When I turned and listened with my eyes, they knew I cared about what they were talking about.

Spell love with the letters T-I-M-E. Love is time. Most dads say they don’t have the time. My answer is: Pay me now or pay me later. You will spend time with your kids during adolescence or young adulthood as they go through pain and hardships. Why not start while they’re young by filling the love tank?

It’s all about being high touch, eye contact, and time.

We always ask: How has becoming a dad made you a better person?

In every way. Raising kids is really raising parents. Every day you’re hearing yourself with your kids. You have to ask if you’re becoming the person you want to be. The good dad is making changes constantly. Ironically, it’s the kids that are raising us.

“I enjoy you.” They are three words I never heard during my childhood. That whole idea revolutionized my perspective of God, but also my perspective of fathering. I want my kids to know I enjoy them. All parents would say they love their children. But, not all parents would say they like their children.

We always ask: What do you believe is your finest fathering skill?

Mentoring my sons, even to this day. When we’re in town, we spend a sizeable amount of time surfing and going to coffee. By mentoring, I just mean helping them to bounce ideas off of me that pertain to all of life. There isn’t a limit to what we can talk about. We talk about spiritual, political, financial, philosophical things. I just let the fish run. I don’t bring an agenda. A lot of times, obviously, we talk about music. They’ll bounce their new songs off me.

I try and create a safe environment for mentoring. Our kids need to be self-directed and bounce ideas off of us. They need to look into our eyes and bounce ideas off of us. As they age, we should aim to be short on advice. It’s a scale. We decrease the advice as they grow.

We always ask: What’s one thing you’ve learned from your father?

The biggest thing I learned from my dad is to say “yes,” because he always said “no” to me.

I would come in on Saturday mornings with a football or basketball in hand. My dad would be watching sports on TV and drinking coffee. I’d say, “Hey Dad, let’s stop watching football and go play football.” He would say, “Give me a moment, and I’ll give you an answer in a little while.” I’d come back in a half an hour later. The answer was always “Not right now, but maybe tomorrow.”

There’s the “cats in the cradle” I referenced earlier. My dad never said “yes.” It was always, “Not right now.” I noticed my older brother didn’t ask anymore.

My answer was always “yes.” Even when it was hard, I tried to do that. One time, Jon came in and said, “Dad, let’s go surfing.” I looked outside and it was pouring down rain, with huge winds. And, Jon said, “Let’s paddle out.” My wife and I had developed this slogan “Never say no” when those opportunities surface. I heard those words in my mind. So, I agreed.

It was the worst surf day of our lives. But, the best father-son time. Ironically, I learned that from my dad.

We always ask: What is your favorite activity to do with your kids?

Every day when I got home, I’d get down on my knees, and we’d hit it hard wrestling for 30-40 minutes before dinner. Afterward, funny enough, I discovered that they were ready to do just about everything we needed to do that night. When you wrestle, you’re getting all three ways kids experience love. Eye contact, a lot of touch, and time.

As they got older, that changed. We started surfing together, playing soccer, sitting outside and talking. I looked for something they were interested in and we did that together.

We think if we say “I love you,” that’s all that’s needed. But we aren’t cerebral beings. We’re physical beings. We’re whole people. We have to bring that into our marriage and into our fathering and into our friendships.

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There’s lots to be gleaned from the wisdom of other dads; check out the other interviews that we’ve had with dadcraftsmen.