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Cultivating Hope: A Dad's Role According to Jesse Bradley

Dads With Daughters

Release Date: 05/06/2024

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Cultivating Hope: A Dad's Role According to Jesse Bradley show art Cultivating Hope: A Dad's Role According to Jesse Bradley

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When discovered he was going to be a father to a daughter after having three sons, he knew this would bring a unique set of delights and challenges. Jesse emphasizes each child as a unique gift, advocating a tailored approach in fostering connections that affirm a daughter's persona, building confidence amidst the ever-present peer pressures. **The Power of Presence and Words** One-on-one interactions form the core of Jesse's parenting strategy, offering a safe space for his daughter to share her thoughts and feelings. He recognizes the formative power of a parent's words and presence, which...

More Episodes

When Jesse Bradley discovered he was going to be a father to a daughter after having three sons, he knew this would bring a unique set of delights and challenges. Jesse emphasizes each child as a unique gift, advocating a tailored approach in fostering connections that affirm a daughter's persona, building confidence amidst the ever-present peer pressures.

**The Power of Presence and Words**

One-on-one interactions form the core of Jesse's parenting strategy, offering a safe space for his daughter to share her thoughts and feelings. He recognizes the formative power of a parent's words and presence, which serve as a bedrock for a child’s development, especially before bed—a time both sacred and profound in the Bradley household.

**Positive Reinforcement**

In our podcast episode, Jesse shares personal experiences of affirming his daughter's worth and building her confidence, with a reminder to parents about the potency of positive reinforcement. His intentional interactions include daily prayer and reading sessions, maintaining an equitable balance between tenderness and honesty.

**Grappling with Challenges**

Jesse opens up about his insecurities in not understanding his daughter's world, from hair care to jewelry. He advises parents to lean into these differences and learn from their children, rather than maintaining a distance. Adjusting parenting methods to match the child's pace is also key, as Jesse demonstrates by embracing his daughter's composed approach to life.

**Cultivating Hope**

On the critical notion of hope, Jesse advocates for relational, habitual, and thoughtful practices to instill a strong sense of optimism in children. These practices are deeply relational, requiring attentiveness and intentional affirmations from parents.

**Wisdom for Fathers**

Jesse's advice encompasses being 'tough and tender,' encouraging dads to support their children's pursuits without trying to control them. He suggests a reflective approach to one's natural tendencies and emphasizes the significance of an honest and humble approach in parent-child relationships.

In our introspective conversation, Jesse Bradley's insights serve as a reminder that fatherhood is a continuous journey marked by growth, learning, and unconditional love. His experiences and guiding principles stand as a beacon for dads navigating the waters of raising daughters in a world filled with emotional and spiritual complexities.



Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:00:05]:
Welcome to dads with daughters. In this show, we spotlight dads, resources, and more to help you be the best dad you can be.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:00:15]:
Welcome back to Dads with Daughters where we bring you guests to be active participants in your daughters' lives, raising them to be strong independent women. Really excited to have you back again this week. As always, every week, you and I are on a journey together. I've told you this before, and I'll tell you it again. You know, I'm a father of 2. My kids are in their teenage years and in college. Your kids are gonna be at different places, but we all are on that journey together as we raise our daughters to be those strong, independent women that we want for them to be successful and to find that path for themselves. It's not always going to be easy.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:00:53]:
The journey is not always going to be a straight line, But it is something that we all go through. And it is so important that we are able to have these conversations and that you can learn and grow from the conversations and the people that we have here every week. I love being able to bring you different people, be people with different perspectives, different fathers, mothers, other people with resources that can help you on this journey, that can help you to make that journey just a little bit easier because you do not have to do this alone. I've said that before and I'll say it again. Fatherhood does not have to be a solo experience. Sometimes it may feel that way. Sometimes you may feel like it should be that way, but it doesn't have to be that way, and it shouldn't be that way. There are so many dads that are out there right next to you, your next door neighbors, the people around you.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:01:45]:
And by reaching out, by talking, by sharing, by being a little vulnerable Yes, I said the v word, vulnerable. You can definitely do so much to be able to help yourself to be that dad that you wanna be. Today, we've got another great guest with us. Jesse Bradley is with us today, and Jesse is a speaker. He's an author. He is the lead pastor of of Grace Community Church, and we're gonna be talking to him about being a father of 4, as well as the, some of the things that he does on a daily basis and working with dads, but also working with just people in general. And I'm really excited to be able to have him here and talk about his own experience. Jesse, thanks so much for being here today.

Jesse Bradley [00:02:26]:
Christopher, it's an honor to join you. I've been looking forward to this. Thanks for all you do to encourage and to equip dads and really parents because we need help. We really do. I'm not joining you as a guest as someone who has all the answers or has it together. We're lifelong learners and parenting is truly an adventure. But we can encourage each other, I think through stories, through things that are working in one home are probably gonna work well in another home. And thank you for connecting dads too.

Jesse Bradley [00:02:55]:
Because like you said, the temptation I think is to drift, to be isolated. And with isolation, that's never the isolated. And with isolation, that's never the best spot to be. And we wanna come together and you've created community. So thanks for all you do. You've been very dedicated and devoted, and we appreciate it.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:03:10]:
Well, I really appreciate you saying that. Now first and foremost, one of the things I love doing is I wanna turn the clock back in time. And I know you've got 4 kids, you've got one daughter, 3 sons, and your daughter's 13 now. So I wanna go back, let's say 14 years. I wanna go back to the very beginning when you found out that you were going to be a dad to a daughter. What was going through your head?

Jesse Bradley [00:03:29]:
Well, you know, that's an interesting story because we had had 2 boys. We'd also had 3 miscarriages. So we had really been on a roller coaster ride, and that helped us realize that every child is a gift. I believe that with all my heart. Every child is unique, wonderfully made, and truly a gift. Now with our 3rd child, when we showed up to find out, is it going to be a boy or a girl? The assistant who had the view of the picture, the first words out of her mouth were, oh, boy. And that's not probably what you wanna say when it's gonna be a girl because literally she looked at the picture and said, oh, boy. And my mind went to, well, here comes boy number 3.

Jesse Bradley [00:04:11]:
And then a few seconds later, she said, you're gonna have a girl. And I was like, wait, what? So it was a gender reveal that went one direction, faked us out, head fake, and then we came back and a girl. I knew this was gonna be a really different experience than the boys. Of course, there's a lot of commonalities, but I also knew this would balance our home a little more. With 3 boys right now and a girl, we were intentional to get a girl dog. Just, you know, trying to balance out the home a little bit. But I was excited. My wife had a name in mind, and it just seemed to come together well.

Jesse Bradley [00:04:48]:
And such a blessing. I'm so grateful for Lily.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:04:51]:
Now each child is unique. You've got 4 kids, and you have to take that time, spend that time to connect on an individual level. When you have 4 kids and you have a daughter, you have 3 sons, what are you doing to make those unique bonds with your kids and especially the bond that you want to have with your daughter?

Jesse Bradley [00:05:11]:
That's a great question. It's easy to always be in a group, and you really need that one on one time. I like the phrase be intentional because a lot of times your child might not come to you and share everything they need, and they're hoping that you're going to pursue them. And that time for me that's been consistent is before bed. I feel like there's something about that last hour where people are a little more open, honest, share feelings, let their guard down, and that's been consistent for us and we do a couple different things during that time, but sometimes it's playful. We started playing catch with one of her stuffed animals that's round. And then we started keeping score. And eventually, what's our record? And we made it up to a couple hundred, but that was just kind of a fun thing we started doing.

Jesse Bradley [00:06:00]:
And I thought, okay, my daughter isn't into sports like I was, and that's okay. In fact, she's the exact opposite. I wanted to do sports with teams, scores, balls. She doesn't want anything to do with stress, competition. Like, she would prefer to just go for a run, enjoy a run, or a hike, or something, swimming. She would just swim for hours. She doesn't wanna race, but she would just be in the water for hours. She likes to swim, learn how to swim.

Jesse Bradley [00:06:28]:
So we're very opposite when it comes to sports. And this is just one of those playful things we did and started to she has a lot of stuffed animals, and I don't even know how we started. But, she learned to catch through that. And that was one thing we did. But more than that, during those times together, I listened to her how she's doing. I try to speak a lot of words of affirmation because especially middle school and even slightly before that, there's a lot of pressure. There's a lot of peer pressure. Sometimes kids tear each other down.

Jesse Bradley [00:07:00]:
Are you cool enough? How do you look? Do you fit in? And they're bombarded. And sometimes by the end of the day, they can just feel like I don't measure up and you know who I am is just not gonna work. And I try to come in with that voice of affirmation. And let me tell you, children need the affirmation. If you have a critical spirit and you're just always finding the areas that, you know, you don't think they're doing well and you lead with that and you overemphasize that, it tears them down on the inside. Yes. We do need to hold them accountable on some areas and bring out the best in some areas, but a lot of it is the affirmation. And I can just see there's a security with dad's voice.

Jesse Bradley [00:07:42]:
When I see things, and I'm not saying things just to flatter. I'm not saying things that are half true. Like, sincerely, what I see in her, it's so wonderful. And I put words on it. I don't just have that thought, but I put words on it. It builds up a security for her. And I think what it does is give her confidence that she doesn't have to chase after everything that her peers are chasing after. And she really is one of our children who has seen through the games and seen through some of the, you know, emptiness of just trying to be cool.

Jesse Bradley [00:08:18]:
And there's been a security and a confidence that she's had. And I I think that the affirmation of parents on her character, on her effort, on her creativity, on her kindness, on her intelligence, like, just all the wide range, you know, her face. One of the things we do before bedtime is is just a short time of prayer, or we like to read. Now we've read read a lot of different stories, but we also read, like, the Bible, and we wanna build her up. And when I think about parenting in that time, and I know I'm focusing on that time before bed, but that's been daily for as long as I can remember. Since she was just an infant, it's every night we're there in that time. And sometimes it's my wife and I. Sometimes it's just me.

Jesse Bradley [00:09:06]:
Sometimes it's just my wife and the longer one. Both parents are there, but it's just one will stay longer. But that is intentional with every kid. And 1 on 1, that's where they really they don't have to look around and say, okay. Are my siblings listening? What are they gonna think of me? They just pour out their heart. And when they feel safe, create that safe environment where they can talk to you about anything. And if you start that early on, then when the teenage years come, that's already part of the culture and the conversation. They're just gonna keep coming with that.

Jesse Bradley [00:09:37]:
And when they do, that's a gift. When they share their heart with you, that's a gift. And by being there to listen, sometimes it's not so much what I say, although the affirmation's important. It's just creating that safe place and listening. And as she starts to share about what she's thinking and feeling, just listening to understand, asking questions, drawing her out, She's a little more introverted than we have 2 extroverts, 2 introverts. And the extroverts just start to talk. And with those extroverts, you know exactly where they are. But the introverts, you have to kinda stop, ask them a question, give them time to think, ask them another question.

Jesse Bradley [00:10:13]:
I'm an extrovert, so that's not as natural as it should be. I think it's important to be quick to listen, slow to speak. I'm often the opposite. I'm quick to speak, slow to listen. So I've got to turn it down, ask questions, be silent, and then ask more questions. I've heard it said, you ask how someone feels. Say, how do you feel? And then you say, well, how do you feel about that? And then you say, well, what are your thoughts on that? You might have to ask a couple times to go deep. But once you create that trust, and all relationships come down to trust.

Jesse Bradley [00:10:43]:
And with your kids, do they really trust you? And when the trust is there, they open up and they share. And when they do that, that's a gift. And how you respond is important. And I love it that, you know, my daughter has said, I feel like I can, you know, talk about anything. That doesn't mean that she doesn't sometimes try to keep things secret or, like, we have a perfect relationship, but there's a trust that's deep and she shares deeply. One of the most precious gifts she gave me is a little coupon and she said, dad, this coupon is for infinite number of times coming into my room. And I mean, even this week, I got that years ago. It's at my desk.

Jesse Bradley [00:11:25]:
You know, this coupon's good for infinite visits to my room. Anytime, any and I come into her room and I'll say, well, Lilz, I just came in today because, well, you gave me that coupon for infinite visits. So I'm coming in for a visit and it's kind of playful at this point, but it's so sweet. It's so dear. And but we like to joke around and she has the way the heat is distributed in our house, it's not equal. And she has the warmest room in the house. And in the winter months, you know, in Seattle where there's a lot of rain and so forth, and I just come in there. I'm like, Lils.

Jesse Bradley [00:12:01]:
And she'll kind of say, do you just come in because I'm a warm room or do you wanna talk to me? You know, we we just play around with that kind of stuff, but we keep it light, we keep it fun, but then we also go deep. It's a both and. And I think a both and is really good. When you can laugh, you can cry, you can share your hurts, you can share what you're excited about, you can pray. Like, the wide range, that is rich. And I know for me, and I'll let you talk a little bit because I just got into these sweet times with my daughter. But when I think about being a dad, yes, there's protection. Yes, there's provision.

Jesse Bradley [00:12:39]:
Yes, there's the physical activity we do. And there's a lot of different components. But for me, what's close to my heart is the emotional connection and also the spiritual connection. And I think when I consider the fullness of fatherhood, like, how am I involved in all the different parts of her life to build her up, to encourage her? And I think a lot of times, it's when that emotional or spiritual connection happens that we feel the closest. And I like to go there. And that probably ties in, because parenting, I think, really starts when you're a kid, and it's your experiences with your parents, and that shapes you. And you either see things you wanna imitate or you see things that weren't there and you really wanna bring. And I think, for me, it's all connected.

Jesse Bradley [00:13:28]:
And I love the opportunity to have those times with my daughter. We almost always leave grateful. We leave appreciating each other. We leave those times just feeling joyful. Like, there's a smile, there's a laugh, and it's sweet.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:13:44]:
I appreciate you sharing that. Now I know that in talking to a lot of different dads, there are sometimes some fear that comes with having a daughter, raising a daughter, and every person's fear is a little bit different. What would you say has been your biggest fear in raising a daughter?

Jesse Bradley [00:14:01]:
That's a great question. I would say a couple of aspects. 1 you're right is that I know what it's like to be a boy. I don't know what it's like to be a girl. And when you have a child that's the opposite gender, for example, her hair. I don't know how I don't even have any hair right now. But, like, how do I help her with her hair as a kid? You know? And it's like, oh, dad. That's too hard on my hair, the the snarls and trying to get that worked out.

Jesse Bradley [00:14:28]:
And how do I talk about jewelry? How do I talk about painting your nails? How do I talk about things that I just wasn't into and I didn't do? And so she's already different in terms of gender, and then she's different in terms of she loves to read. She will go through book after book after book after book. When I was a kid, I felt like reading was very slow. I knew it was good, but that was challenging. She loves to read. She loves to draw. I joked with her that you passed me up at about age 5. You know, she could draw a better picture than I could as an adult.

Jesse Bradley [00:15:06]:
She's so talented as an artist and her creativity. And I was terrible at drawing. I still am terrible. So when you start adding all these different things up, it can touch on the insecurities that I have as a dad. Or can I really be a great dad if her talents are different, her interest is different, her gender is different, like, all these things are different? How am I going to support her well? These are not my areas of expertise, right? Like, if she wants to talk about a, b and c, I can do that. But she's into a lot of things that I don't know much about. So here's I think a key is don't stay distant in those areas. It's okay that I'm much lower than her, or I don't know much.

Jesse Bradley [00:15:52]:
Like, when she liked Pokemon as a kid, or she you know, it's like, I don't know anything about Pokemon. Like, Warrior Cats, I don't know anything about that series. But so just, I own it that I don't know anything. Okay. Lils, teach me a little bit about this. And then we turned it into a fun game because with warrior cats, it's like, oh, they all have 2 word names. And so I would say, Lilz, like, would this be a good word? Like thunderpaw, you know, or something like that. And it it just got to be playful.

Jesse Bradley [00:16:24]:
So that's that's one is realizing that we have a lot of differences, but don't let those differences become a distance where I'm not entering in. And it's okay to come in with a lot of questions and learning and just be playful with it. I think the other thing for me that I found internally is that I naturally wanna protect her a little more. Now sometimes that's good, probably sometimes it's not as good. But with, like, let's say boys start to have an interest in her, I wanna protect her. Like, that's my daughter. Like, something's awakened in me that even more than the boy is, not that it should be, but, you know, she can stand on her own. She's strong, but I feel an extra, that's my daughter.

Jesse Bradley [00:17:08]:
I'm gonna protect her. And, you know, any boys that come around or any threats or someone's picking on her, like, I feel like I'm gonna enter right in on that. So, those are, you know, some differences I probably noticed. But with the first two boys, they are up lots of energy. Like they want to do things. They want to go, go, go. And I had to get them to a park early in the morning and it felt like a park a day, you know, at elementary school. Like we we've got to get the energy out quickly.

Jesse Bradley [00:17:36]:
And her pace was a little different. She moves slower. She likes to sleep in. She wants to talk. She wants to start maybe more relationally, whereas the boys are looking for something physical and just picking up on these differences. I they weren't, like, planned ahead of time, but it was like, okay, this is gonna be a different rhythm with her. And it almost felt easier in some ways, because I don't know how to describe it exactly, but I just felt like we were being together. We were just being, and that was really, really good.

Jesse Bradley [00:18:08]:
Whereas maybe the boys, it was a little more on like, so what are we gonna do? What are we doing? And she could just sit in that being for longer. And that was another thing I picked up on early on. So those are some initial thoughts, but you're right. It was different. And, of course, it's not just gender, but, you know, different kids have different interests and passions and pace and all of that. But, yes, it was different.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:18:31]:
Now, I know that you have a new book called The Power of 2nd Sight, How to Live with Indestructible Hope. And I know that hope is something that you talked to a lot of people about, not only within your church but just in speaking and and working with people. And sometimes with kids, under helping them understand hope, helping them understand what that means and how that impacts their lives may not be always tangible.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:19:01]:
So talk to me about hope. And how are you working with your own kids? How are you working with other people to help them to better work with their kids, to understand the power of having hope and how to help their kids to kind of hone that hope within their life.

Jesse Bradley [00:19:21]:
Yes. Thank you for bringing up the topic of hope. It's really vital. Hope is essential. Hope is that confident and joyful trust in someone or something. When people have hope they feel alive, they're motivated. And what we see now, I looked at a recent study at UCLA that there's a 5th of high school students that are thinking about suicide. I I mean, we live in a time, especially the last few years since the pandemic, where there are so many people that are feeling hopeless.

Jesse Bradley [00:19:49]:
I remember the Census Bureau said 48% of Americans feel hopeless, less, and our kids are struggling with that. It's a generation with a lot of technology, but not always a lot of connection. And how do we come alongside kids and build up hope? Hope, it's linked to a lot of different things. I like to say hope is available to everyone. This is not just vague hope or hope that randomly comes and goes, but hope is relational. It's tied to your quality of your relationships. I think that's what parents, friends, God, I think that relational aspect's important. Also, hope is habitual.

Jesse Bradley [00:20:29]:
There's habits you can cultivate. So when we get together before bedtime, that's a hope time together. Right? When we have certain things we do together that are positive and their habits ingrained, they're worked into our schedules intentionally. Those bring hope. So hope can increase, hope can decrease. And you can tell when someone has hope. You can see it in their eyes. Some people are alive, and there's almost a fire in their eyes, and some people are glazed over in despair.

Jesse Bradley [00:20:57]:
And we need to come alongside kids and help them discover hope. And I think that can happen, in it starts with a parent and I think it relates to our our thoughts. I say the power of the second thought is that you can replace the negative first thought. Because we have thousands of first thoughts every day. And how do you replace it with an intentional second thought? Let's say you're parenting and the kids are pushing your buttons, and you're getting really frustrated. You might feel like, oh, I don't wanna be around these kids. And you have these thoughts about your kids that are not good. Right? And what can you do? Intention replace it with a second thought.

Jesse Bradley [00:21:37]:
Where we started today, my child is a gift. My child is so important to me. Or when you start to distance from your kid, you need to have that second thought. Like, the most important thing is my child needs to feel connected. And you go back to that connection and you reconnect. My child's more important than my phone. My child's more important than my job. My child's more important than my own hobby right now.

Jesse Bradley [00:22:01]:
And those intentional thoughts, they redirect us and we remember our priorities. We get the right perspective and we have hope and then hope starts to flow out of those thoughts. Well, a child has a lot of thoughts and during the day. And there's gonna be a lot of thoughts running through their mind. And those negative thoughts when they recognize those and start to replace those. And as a parent, you provide thoughts that are true and you build up your child. I think parenting is very conversational. There are intentional times.

Jesse Bradley [00:22:35]:
Like, I love the time my daughter and I went to the daddy daughter dance. You know, we celebrate that with a picture. And, you know, she's drawn a picture from the actual picture. We've gone to New York City together and including her in those longer extended times where it's just my daughter and I. Those are amazing. During those times, I want to be saying things that bring hope to her. And when she starts to hear those, then she'll start to believe those more. She'll start to own those and realize those.

Jesse Bradley [00:23:04]:
And when I talk about how special she is, every child's different. For my daughter, words of affirmation are very important. And when I start to bring those, now she has those and she's hearing that. And that's gonna help her what she believes and what she believes about herself, what she believes about her talents, and all those things are connected to hope. Affirmation, I think, is one of the ways that I can bring hope to my daughter. And when that foundation is strong, when she knows that God loves her, mom loves her, dad loves her, she knows these are her talents. She knows, that she is special in these ways. When all those things start to come together, there is a foundation of hope that is solid.

Jesse Bradley [00:23:56]:
And it's like that house on the rock and not the sand. And that's what kids need today. Can they do it all themselves? That's a tall order. But who has more influence than parents? I like to look at it this way. There's a lot of things I do that a 100 other people can do. If I'm not pastor Grace Community Church, there'll be a 100 resumes in tomorrow. During the day, there are all kinds of things. There's only one person that can be Lily's dad.

Jesse Bradley [00:24:26]:
Only one. And if you're the only one that can play any given role in life, right, I'm the only one that can be Laurie's husband. I'm the only one that can be Joel's dad. Like, if you're the only one that can, that tells you, like, this role is incredibly significant. And I don't think anyone shapes hope more in a child's mind and heart than the parent. And yes, the parent has an incredible privilege, an incredible opportunity to build up hope. And we do that, you know, in a number of ways. But notice your child because this is relational.

Jesse Bradley [00:25:05]:
It's not a formula. Yes. I think there's some best practices. I think the words you say, their soul, the affirmations you give, the connection you have, the way you listen, recognizing their strengths, all those things build hope. And that voice of a parent, I remember our very first child, and his name's Joel. When he was born, he was fussing and came out screaming and fussing, and the doctors could not get him to settle down. And then I walked over to where he was, and I just said, Joel, it's okay. And just like that, everything calmed down.

Jesse Bradley [00:25:43]:
He was fine going forward. And I realized in that moment the power of a parent's voice. So my encouragement to dads is just check your tone, check your words, check your affirmations, and realize that you're a hope leader. You're the one that's gonna lead your child to more hope and that you bring that in that role right there. It's a spot where no one else can fill. No one else has the same influence and be intentional. And it's worth really maybe reading for some. The Power of Second Thought is a book I wrote, but there's so many good resources.

Jesse Bradley [00:26:19]:
And I've got some other ones on jessebradley.org that talk about how to interact with children and build that hope. But my encouragement to you is start with your listening and start with your words. Start with your time. And when you invest the time, it's quality time, you choose your words that bring hope and you listen. And that combination right there, when a child feels heard and loved, and they have truth statements that they can hold on to that are solid, that's a hope foundation. It's so much more than a feeling, and you can help your child have a solid foundation of hope.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:26:54]:
Now going beyond helping your child to find to have that solid foundation of hope, many times in a father's life, a man's life, there will be things that will rock that foundation, that will challenge them in many ways and may shatter the hope that they have, the hope that they have as a father, the hope that they have as a as a man. And what do you say to those people, The people that are listening and that are losing hope for themselves about what they're seeing in their own family, that what they're seeing in the relationships that they have, let's say, with their daughter. What are you saying to them to be able to either regain that hope or move back toward a pathway to be able to have hope in their life?

Jesse Bradley [00:27:41]:
So great insight, Christopher, because how we're doing is directly related to how we parent, and all of us, every day, every year, hopefully, we're growing, We're learning. We're healing. There's restoration. Personally, I think of 2 times during my life that were significant. 1 is going off to Dartmouth College and having success on the outside, but emptiness on the inside. And I'll tell you, you know, I was in an Ivy League school getting good grades, had a lot of friends. We won the Ivy League title for soccer, and I couldn't figure out what's happening on the inside. Why do I feel so empty? And I like to say there's the outside story.

Jesse Bradley [00:28:17]:
There's the inside story. People see the outside story like on social media. You post some pictures, they see you at work, they have a a sense of who you are. But the inside story, people might not know what's really going on. Now your child might have a sense of it. But for me, at that time with that emptiness, I took a class. It was introduction to world religions. I read the Bible for the first time.

Jesse Bradley [00:28:38]:
I started to learn about this is relationship, not religion. I was an atheist. In my family, Baskin Robbins, 31 flavors. We love each other. We're very close. A lot of different views and beliefs, and we have great conversations. But for me, I reached a point where I went from thinking there's no God out there to there's a personal God who loves me. And that is like an anchor for the soul.

Jesse Bradley [00:29:00]:
And all of a sudden I, on the inside, felt this joy I'd never felt. I felt like I'm not alone. Anxiety went down. Like, there were just so many shifts that happened through that. So faith is one thing for everyone to really consider. And, of course, as a parent, you might be thinking, what do you want to pass along to your children? They're gonna make their own decisions. But how do you want to introduce them to the spiritual life or to faith or talking about God? That's an important consideration as a parent, and you might think back to your own childhood. Again, maybe some things you saw and didn't like in church and you wanted them to stay away from those or some things were really valuable and foundational for you that you wanna pass along.

Jesse Bradley [00:29:43]:
And that can be a great gift for a child. Also for me, I played professional soccer and then there was tragedy. In Africa, I took a prescribed medication to prevent malaria, built up toxic levels in my system. I was fighting for my life for a year, and it took 10 years to fully recover. And during those dark moments, sometimes the greatest experiences can come out of those painful times. And for me, one of the shifts that I needed to make is that I had a performance based identity. And I was always thinking, what can I do better? How do I do it better? And my sense of worth and value was linked to my performance. And that wasn't challenged until I physically couldn't do anything.

Jesse Bradley [00:30:24]:
And at that point, I had to make a shift because if you're performance based identity, you're going to be on a roller coaster ride of pride and shame, inflated, deflated, And ultimately, you're gonna pass it on to your kids. And yes, it was positive in terms of my athletics and my academics. But when my parents got divorced at age 7, that was something that was so deep and painful and I couldn't control that I looked at life and thought, well, what can I do? And how can I do it better? And I didn't really enter in emotionally or grieve, but instead I tried to achieve. And you can't achieve everything in life. You can't if your identity is linked to achievement, it's a cruel trap. And I never realized that until my twenties. And that shift right there freed me to a grace based identity, and I'm already loved. And that was one that was so profound and hit on so many levels.

Jesse Bradley [00:31:16]:
And I highlight these things to say we're growing. And as an adult, I continue to grow. There's shifts I make with gratitude, where I'm intentional. I call it a gritty gratitude, giving thanks when you don't feel like it. You know, that's a habit. But it's an important one. I was someone who fought emotions, didn't wanna enter in. I thought grieving.

Jesse Bradley [00:31:38]:
Who wants to do that? That's not fun. And and I tried to avoid that. And maybe it's grown up in Midwest. Maybe it's my family. Maybe it's me personally. But I had to learn how to go there. And I'll tell you, maybe that's if you're listening to it and you're a dad, maybe that's something that is still new to you. But how important is that as a dad to identify how I'm feeling, to be able to talk about it, share it, work through it, receive healing and that process right there.

Jesse Bradley [00:32:08]:
See, if my focus or my approach to emotions is that you just keep them all away and you stuff them and you put them in the trunk. Well, then what am I gonna bring to my daughter when she has emotions? Like, am I gonna coach her to say, no, you can't feel those. And and I'm gonna try to solve all the time right away. And I'm gonna try to compartmentalize. And I'm gonna try to stuff it. It's like, no, that's gonna backfire. So I had to figure out how to work through my own emotions and not be in denial. And that might sound simple as a concept, but I'm telling you practically, I didn't know in prayer how to give my burdens to God.

Jesse Bradley [00:32:49]:
I didn't know how to let people in. I had a view of God that He's only interested in things that are going well. He doesn't want to come into my, you know, doubts or my despair. And when I started to let people in and and receive that love, and when I started to work through my emotions, it brought a level of health personally for me, but then also changed my parenting because now I can help my kids with the emotional side of life. And we call it big feelings. We all have big feelings. So what are you gonna do when you feel angry? How are you gonna handle it? I can't take my kids to where I don't go personally. So if I don't know how to work through anger, then how am I gonna guide my kids? If I don't know how to work through grief and sadness, how am I gonna guide my kids? And I think that combination of that transparency, when I'm transparent, vulnerable, like you said, with my kids, and they can see that, you know, in an age appropriate way, And then I can share how that affects me, but then how I respond and what's true about that, but then also how I walk through that.

Jesse Bradley [00:33:56]:
When I can do that with my kids, now that's gonna set them up for success, and they're gonna have that coaching in a way through their own emotions. And so as a parent, don't stop growing and then help your kids to walk through the intense challenges emotionally, spiritually and relationally. That to me, that section right there in life where it's emotional, it's relational, it's spiritual, that intersection, a lot of parents don't go there. And I can't tell you how valuable it is to go there. And I didn't have that a lot of times as a kid, but that's maybe create a passion for me as a parent. That's what I wanna help my kids navigate. That space right there. And so that's a longer answer, but I'm so glad you really touched on it because if we think parenting is just answers for a program, we've missed it.

Jesse Bradley [00:34:53]:
We are human beings and we are intellectual, emotional, relational, spiritual. And the more of that fullness that comes in personally as you grow and then you connect with your kids and you share that together, that's the richness of life right there and the richness of parenting.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:35:11]:
Now we always finish our interviews with what I like to call our fatherhood 5, where we ask you 5 more questions to delve deeper into you as a dad. Are you ready?

Jesse Bradley [00:35:18]:
Right on. Let's go. Christopher, I like the way you do this.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:35:21]:
In one word, what is fatherhood?

Jesse Bradley [00:35:23]:
It's love because I don't think there's anything greater in this world. I don't think there's a close second. It's love. And what they need more than anything is your love. Yes. Love does include truth. Love has setting good limits and boundaries and accountability and all that. But deep down, does your child know that they are loved and how loved they are? There's something about kids that pick up on that.

Jesse Bradley [00:35:46]:
And if they feel second rate, they just know where love's coming from. And that's the most important thing you can bring, authentic love.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:35:54]:
Now when was the time that you finally felt like you succeeded at being a father to a daughter?

Jesse Bradley [00:35:59]:
Wow. I guess in some ways I feel like this is a marathon. And so it's too early to celebrate because I'm going to be her dad all my days. And I don't think being a parent stops at age 18. I mean, for some kids, they certainly want more and need more beyond that. But what does success look like? How do I measure that? That's a great question. And that's a deep question. I've said before in this conversation that she enjoys spending time with me.

Jesse Bradley [00:36:29]:
She feels a deep connection with me. She also can talk about anything with me. Those are maybe milestones. Those are things to celebrate. And I've heard it said this way. Here's the road trip test. Would you like to get in the car and take a road trip across the country and then come back with someone? And I would say this, I think both my daughter and myself, if we said, should we do a road trip across the country together? We both said, like, yeah, let's do it. And that enjoyment of each other, I can just see that look in her eyes.

Jesse Bradley [00:37:05]:
It's just like that endearing tone. She's like, Oh, dad. We I do dad jokes and it's a fine line between dad jokes and dud jokes. But just that in her voice, that tenderness, that look in her eye, that fun we have together, and we both just really enjoy each other.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:37:21]:
Now, if I was to talk to your kids, how would they describe you as a dad?

Jesse Bradley [00:37:26]:
Well, that's a great question too. We should almost include them and bring them in for that one. It might embarrass me. There's a phrase, yum, you're embarrassing me, and that's playful. But it's like, if I ever embarrassed them, they can just say yum and we don't have to give you a long discussion. You know, it's just yum. So they might have some funny ones with me. My daughter likes to poke fun.

Jesse Bradley [00:37:47]:
Like, I like Greek yogurt, and she thinks it's the worst smell in the world. So, you know, so you might say dad likes Greek yogurt. So point to some of the idiosyncrasies. I'm bald, so I probably wear, you know, a hat more often and to stay warm. But I think my daughter would say that I'm passionate about Jesus. That the ultimate compliment, I'm thinking back of the ultimate compliment is is she would say, dad, I wanna marry someone just like you. You know? Dad, I wanna find someone just like you. And so I think she feels like I'm a good conversationalist.

Jesse Bradley [00:38:20]:
There's the overall how I treat people and my faith and that I'm the same person, whether I'm at home and no one's around or, you know, I'm out in public. I think those are the things she might highlight. But goofball. I'm probably a goofball more at home than I am professionally. So she enjoys that side of it. And, yeah. When she's thinking I wanna date or marry someone that's like you, dad. It's like, what better, you know? Could could you celebrate than that? So, sports, playful, goofy, fun to talk to, loves people, that kind of stuff.

Jesse Bradley [00:38:56]:
That's probably what she'd say.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:38:57]:
Now who inspires you to be a better dad?

Jesse Bradley [00:39:00]:
Overall, I think it starts with me. I say God, my heavenly father, and then, like, how does he treat me? And that really becomes the basis of how I treat other people. Like, God's forgiving. God's patient. God's kind. And I I know there's mentors, and I've had a lot of them. Seen it. My one guy, Doug, it was like I remember thinking, okay, watch him interact with his kids.

Jesse Bradley [00:39:25]:
Like, he loves them so incredibly much. It was Saturdays were pancake Saturdays with dad. And, you know, he was just one of those guys that without even trying it, it wasn't like, oh, I'm gonna mentor you here. But I saw how demanding his work was. And then I saw what he's like at home. And the people that inspire me most are the ones that are doing it behind the scenes when no one's looking, they're doing it. No, one's covering their story. They're doing it and they're heroes.

Jesse Bradley [00:39:53]:
And they're doing it consistent. They're doing it on a daily basis. They're doing it in a sacrificial way. They're doing it in a genuine way, and they know how important parenting is. They know how important their kids are. And I'm constantly challenged by that because my work is demanding, and I gotta be careful not to bring leftovers home. And it's like I've given all my best at work, and now I'm just, well, dad doesn't have much left. That's easy for me to fall into that trap.

Jesse Bradley [00:40:18]:
But it's the dads that I've gotten a glimpse of behind the scenes. And no one else really sees it. And it's not the spectacular. It's more, again, of the consistent. And they show up the same way, non anxious presence. They're having fun with their kids. They've created some ways to make memories together. Those are the ones, and I don't have that down.

Jesse Bradley [00:40:42]:
I miss out on opportunities. I'll just say that, and then I'm aware of those. So I have to really be intentional. Now Now

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:40:59]:
you've given a lot of piece of advice today, a lot of things for all of us to think about as fathers and how we find hope in our worlds around us, how we instill that hope to our kids. But just in general, the experiences that you've had and things that have worked and things that you've been challenged with. As you think about dads out there, all dads that that are out there, what's one piece of advice you'd wanna give to every father?

Jesse Bradley [00:41:22]:
On the one hand, I would say don't try to be too controlling. And all my kids have been very different than me. And I realized early on, if I try to make them just like me or my dreams for them, my goals for them, it's just not I was up at about 2 o'clock with 1 of them talking about online business because they're so motivated to try to figure all that out. Like, I personally don't have any interest in online business. But rather than try to put a ton of limits and try to redirect or try to say this isn't as good, like, you've got to get excited about what they're excited about in the way that they're bent, their personality, their passion, their talents, like don't try to over control that. So here's, I guess, a summary. Tender and tough. Know when to be tender.

Jesse Bradley [00:42:12]:
Know when to be tough. And I find that the dads that are trying to be over controlling, it's like on the sidelines. It's embarrassing how they're talking to the referee, like, after the games, like, what they say to their kids. Like, I almost feel like they're living vicariously. Does the kid even enjoy that sport? It's like, no, no, no. The tough, being tough as a dad is not controlling your kids. You've gotta loosen up that grip and let them be who they're designed to be. I like to say, ultimately, my kids are not mine, they're gods, and that helps actually bring freedom that I don't have to try to call all the shots in their lives.

Jesse Bradley [00:42:47]:
But instead, how do I set them up for success? And then the tenderness. There's gonna be some really incredibly important times to be tender, and the kids are gonna need it. And if you're always strong and harsh with them, they're not gonna grow and develop. They're gonna resent you. So when to be tough, when to be tender, that figuring that out right there is incredibly important. And I would say just notice during the week, like there might be some times when you're way too soft and lenient. You kinda know your own bent. Right? And if you just let them have endless devices, I mean, that's easy for me sometimes hey, let's talk about physical activity.

Jesse Bradley [00:43:30]:
Let's talk about exercise. Let's drop hey, let's talk about physical activity. Let's talk about exercise. Let's drop that phone and let's go do it. So tender and tough, my encouragement is just to notice your patterns, which you naturally do. And there's probably some areas where you're either being tender or tough when you should be the opposite. And don't just do what comes natural. Don't just do what your parents did.

Jesse Bradley [00:43:56]:
You've got to make some shifts so that tender and tough are played out really well. And that, I think, is is really key. Another combination is honest and humble. Be honest and be humble with the kids. Bring love and bring truth. That combination. These are fruitful as parents. When you're honest and humble, when you bring the truth in love, when you know when to be tender, when to be tough, those are the things that I kinda come back to and just keep checking all the time.

Jesse Bradley [00:44:26]:
How am I doing in these areas? And that's what helps me.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:44:30]:
Well, Jesse, I just wanna say thank you. Thank you for being here, for sharing your story. If people wanna find out more about you, where should they go?

Jesse Bradley [00:44:36]:
The website, jessebradley.org, a lot of parenting resources there. So you can check that out. They're all free. And then on social media, Jesse j Bradley, love to connect with anybody, hear how you're doing, and let's keep learning together.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:44:48]:
Again, Jesse, thank you. Thank you so much for sharing your journey today, for sharing the highs, the lows, and everything in between, and I wish you all the best.

Jesse Bradley [00:44:57]:
Christopher, you love dads and you love daughters, and it shows. We appreciate it. You are giving so much to us. So keep up the good work. Don't slow down. And thank you for the community that you continue to build.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:45:10]:
If you've enjoyed today's episode of the Dads with Daughters podcast, we invite you to check out the Fatherhood Insider. The fatherhood insider is the essential resource for any dad that wants to be the best dad that he can be. We know that no child comes with an instruction manual and most dads are figuring it out as they go along, and the fatherhood insider is full of resources and information that will up your game on fatherhood. Through our extensive course library, interactive forum, step by step roadmaps, and more, you will engage and learn with experts, but more importantly, dads like you. So check it out at fathering together.org. If you are a father of a daughter and have not yet joined the dads with daughters Facebook community, there's a link in the notes today. Dads with daughters is a program of fathering together. We look forward to having you back for another great guest next week, all geared to helping you raise strong and power daughters and be the best dad that you can be.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:46:08]:
We're all in the same boat, and it's full of tiny screaming passengers. We spend the time, we give the lessons. We make the meals. We buy them presents and bring your a game. Because those kids are growing fast, the time goes by just like a the world to them. Be the best dad you can be. You're the best dad you can be.