After raising four energetic, athletic, competitive children (now ages: 22, 26, 27, 29), my respect for the importance of fathers has significantly increased!
Fellow dads — our sons and daughters need us. Let’s take seriously our role and the great opportunities we have to impact their lives.
From one father to another, I offer five encouragements for effective fatherhood.
1. Love your wife —
One of the best gifts a father gives his children is the love he shows to their mother. “Rejoice in the wife of your youth” (Proverbs 5:18). Of the three social relationships in the family; (husband/wife, parent/child, and sibling/sibling) the most important is husband/wife.
I agree with the counselor who suggested that, “The relationship between a husband and wife is the foundation on which kids build their sense of security, their identity, and learn to relate to others” (Jay Kessler).
Men must be intentional in this area. It’s too easy to drift into complacency. Reflect on this great calling: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Do you love your wife intentionally and sacrificially?
2. Be flexible
Creatures of habit and routine, dads sometimes resist the changing patterns of fatherhood. Don’t miss the opportunities to fully invest yourselves in each phase of life. Children move quickly from infants to toddlers; toddlers to young adolescents; young adolescents to teenagers; teens to young adults. These stages can be demanding and frustrating but each one is valuable and calls for special involvement from dads. This will mean change. We cannot always do the things we enjoy. Don’t resist the natural rhythm of life. Invest yourself! Enjoy the bright spots while enduring the more stressful seasons. By doing this, we will minimize painful regrets. Always remember that we can never recapture these phases once they pass.
3. Help with the children
Wives often say, “I just wish my husband was more involved with the children.” Dads, let’s not assume that God gave mothers the responsibility of raising children. The scripture says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). One of the qualifications for being a church leader is that a man “must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect” (I Timothy 3:4). That sounds like involvement!
Ask your wife what you can do to help more with the children. Better yet, surprise her and think of a few things on your own (only be sure it will help!). I know how demanding and stressful work can be, but sometimes we men are too often inclined toward an idolatrous longing for success in every place but home. Sometimes we tie our ego so tightly to our work that family only gets the leftovers. Being successful at home might not offer public reward, but there are far too many men who wish they could trade their business empires for more meaningful family relationships.
4. Discipline with love
Our nation is suffering from lack of discipline in the home. We must be true to our children by giving them the gift of consistent, firm, loving discipline. Proverbs says: “Discipline your son while there is hope” (Proverbs 19:18). Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). “Fathers do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21).
Ways that fathers discourage children:
- Verbal abuse: Harsh criticism, a sarcastic and demeaning tone of voice, name calling.
- Physical abuse: Excessive discipline, fits of rage leading to slaps or punches.
- Moodiness: Irritability, emotional distance, bitterness and vengeance, constant complaining, mental preoccupation.
- Inconsistency: Uneven discipline, broken promises, hypocrisy, unspoken expectations, irregularity of rules, fluctuation between unreasonable strictness and unpredictable permissiveness.
- Favoritism: favoring one child over the other. (Fathers sometimes unknowingly do this to their daughters when preoccupied with their son’s sports activities.)
These approaches to discipline wound the spirits of children. Be honest with yourself. Keep your heart and head at home. Take time to communicate and grow close. Be in touch verbally and physically. A word of encouragement or praise, a hug, pat on the back, wink of the eye — each help communicate to our sons and daughters their importance to us. Men, our nation itself depends on us!
5. Love God
Be a man who loves God. The greatest commandment teaches us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love is a verb — an action. It’s also a value word. We love what is important to us.
As a nation, we desperately need “… to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children” (Luke 1:17). When men turn to God, they also turn their hearts toward home. Help your children reach beyond the temporal world by showing them a deeply committed relationship with the eternal God.
Lead your family by your example of worshipping God. God speaks to us through the Bible — do you know what He says? Be the leader in getting your family involved in the life of your Church. Our children need a solid moral and spiritual foundation and your example is immeasurable in providing it!
I challenge all fathers to aim for “no-regret fatherhood.”
- Love your wife.
- Be flexible in the phases of life.
- Get involved with the children.
- Discipline with love.
- Love God.
More for Dads: 20 Quotes from Father Hunger