Many texts on the Internet deal with questions on how to find the right course or school, how to pick the right trainer or mentor, but there aren’t many texts on whether we are the right students… for whatever we would like to learn.
‘It’s easier to look for the perfect solution than to look yourself in the mirror.’
Along with a bunch of examples of me being a bad student, there is a couple of them when things turned out well. Here is one of them.
At one point, twelve years ago, I started doing an activity related to people with specific problems, which at the time surpassed my engineering logic, knowledge and skills. For several months I had been looking for ways to improve that job. I read texts on the Internet and books, talked to experts and people who had overcome the problems that the people I helped faced, but it didn’t help me much.
Then, after a long search (when the student was ready), I learned about the book of our well-known psychotherapist and after having read it in one night, I learned about the counselling and psychotherapy school that this man organizes. Bingo!
As I learned about it, when the course at the time was half-way done, and I didn’t want to wait half a year to start a new one, I convinced the administration to let me join the group and later to make up for the classes I missed with the new group. Also, after a month, in the group we discussed if it would be good to attend the second year of studies simultaneously (yes, I was the loudest on the issue) and after a bit more negotiations with the administration they let us do it. In less than a year I finished two years of studies.
Together with the majority of psychologists and few doctors I was the only engineer. Many of them had already worked with people and surely I wasn’t the best student, but undoubtedly I was the fastest to make progress. It’s better to say I worked my fingers to the bones. I read all the books I found and talked to all the people, who I thought, could help me in any way possible. I have attended this school for several years and during the time I made a couple of significant psychotherapy theories which I presented at the Congress of Psychotherapists. I took part in a work group of the late Claude Steiner, held courses of business psychology and offered counselling services in psychotherapy, business and educational context.


When I say this to someone, they are fascinated by it and they ask for school’s phone number. Which brings us back to the beginning of the text…
‘What is more important: a good school or to be a good student? ‘
Now, when I go back to that case, even though I still believe it is an excellent course and awesome people work there, I believe I was more of a decisive factor in this. If I took the classes because I was forced to do it, I wanted to meet someone or I didn’t know what to do with myself, no matter what kind of course it could be, it wouldn’t work.
Programs that we organize in the community Prvi put s ocem involved dozens of parents, who just like us, who made the programs, tried to be better parents. Our job is to try to be good teachers. The teacher is the whole community. In it a father learns from other fathers, learns from his kids, learns by watching how other fathers treat other kids, how their kids treat other adults. He learns from other kids he has to teach something. He learns from nature. He learns from river. He even learns from himself because in a new environment and outside the comfort zone, he has to engage his old, atrophied skills and learn new ones in order to fit in and function.
The question of motivation in learning to be a good father, as well as in any other learning, includes numerous factors while each of them has a different effect. Motivation may come out of father’s identity, a wish for children to be successful, and maybe from fear that children don’t become bums. Fear is surely a worse motivator than wish and love, but life puts us in various situations and sometimes we don’t have a choice.
Unfortunately, motivation sometimes shows up when the damage has already been done. When a son comes back home with a wound on his head or when a drunk daughter vomits all over her father’s shoes. It’s not even late then, but it is a lot better to start when a child is 16 months old than when he/she is 16 years old.

It’s been 16 years since we started working on programs for fathers and children. Since then several times more parents applied than those who actually participated. People, who only call, first compliment what we do and then, without being asked, start justifying themselves – we would join you, but: we work a lot, children are small, they aren’t used to nature, wife is afraid of grasshoppers, we have never spent the night in the open, I can’t fall asleep if it’s not completely quiet, children study a lot, children have their training on weekends, children can’t be without their video games… This is all valid, but just like every excuse, it seems there’s something more to it. Maybe I should paraphrase our famous commander:
‘The one who dares may succeed, the one who doesn’t dare finds an excuse’
So, I am ready to learn how to be a better father if:
*I can afford it – I think the least of money here. Learning takes time, renouncing small pleasures, changing your old habits, also you need to set aside money to provide your children and yourself with the opportunity to be at places and in a community where it’s better to learn.
*I am mentally ready to learn. If I surrendered myself into my teacher’s hands (whoever or whatever that may be) full of trust, without thinking of his hidden agenda, his profit or wish to assess his work. If the teacher wishes to take things more slowly, OK. If they wish to to take things faster, also OK. It is up to them.
*I’m not afraid of the struggle. Whatever change we wish to make, everything around us will resist it by the order we’ve been establishing for years, rituals and habits. What do you think, what kind of resistence will you encounter if instead of going for a beer with your friends, you wish to stay at home and help your daughter with her homework? Or if you wish to take your children to the park on a Sunday afternoon and years before that you haven’t done it, then you wife says: it’s raining / we haven’t had coffee / it’s better if we take a nap after lunch, it’s been a hard week… or you say these things to her if she wished to do it. Of course, you’re the one who will resist it the most.
Whatever change you plan, get ready for struggle. And if you are a good student, any school will be good!

For portal Prvi put s ocem, Mirko Mitrović

Translated by Jelena