There is a simple truth when it comes to doing something consistently well: Make sure you’re taking care of the basics. Being a good dad is no different. Regardless of our past efforts, there are some fundamentals that we can all pursue to help us be better fathers. Here are four of those essentials that will make a huge difference in the lives of our children–if only we put them into regular practice.
1. Express and share in the delight of your child.
This is one of the most important ways we can show love to our children–to let them know the joy they bring to us. Unfortunately, there are too many sons and daughters that never knew the delight of their father. Sadly, in my years of serving in prison ministry, this was one of the most prevailing commonalities with the men and women I visited. They never experienced the delight of their father–typically, it was just the opposite.
In the same way a plant thrives when it receives a steady supply of water, a child’s self-esteem blossoms when he or she knows the acceptance and joy of their father. As dads, we need to communicate to our kids just how special they are to us on a regular basis.
2. Be a sequoia tree for your child.
Regardless of what pop-culture “experts” may say, our young kids need us to provide protection over their lives. They need to see us as a stalwart sequoia that provides shade, safety, and an enduring presence of fortitude around life’s greatest challenges. Regardless of what life throws at our families, we’ll be there for them.
Our children deserve to grow up in a safe home. One increasing threat to our kids is through technology. If we’re allowing unfiltered access to the internet, we’re inviting the enemy into our very household. Children are naturally curious and cannot be afforded a responsibility that most adult men cannot handle. If bad company corrupts–and it does, the what and who around our children’s lives need to matter to us. Simply put, boundaries need to be in place. There is an epic battle raging in our culture for their hearts and minds. From teaching sex education to 5 year-olds, to now wanting to have grown men share bathrooms with our daughters, our kids need us to stand up for their best interests.
Over time, as our children grow into adults, they need to be able to see us holding fast to life’s most important principles, i.e. the love of God and others. They need to see how a marriage can last a lifetime and know that with Christ–all things are possible. Even grown children benefit from having a dad that perseveres and walks the talk.
3. Cultivate their hearts, souls and minds for Jesus.
Only God can truly be an anchor for our children. When the waves of life come, and they will, our children–young and old, need to know that they have a Savior God that will never leave them or forsake them. While making time for family devotions is a big part of this basic, as important is the day to day activities that afford a bridge to engage their hearts and minds for the Lord.
I believe the “by the way” principle is one of the most powerful tools when it comes to cultivating your child’s heart for Christ.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
Inherent within this principle, is the need to spend time with your children. Include them in your day to day activities as much as you can and take advantage of the many teaching moments that life serves up. God designed kids to be sponges that look to their parents, with the intention that we saturate them with His love and truth. We must always be looking to cultivate our kid’s hearts for Christ, and never stop praying for their spiritual development.
4. Humble yourself before God and your family.
For #3 to happen well, this needs to take place first. Dads–we can’t effectively build Christ into our kids’ lives unless we have first afforded Christ to build into our own. This is a daily pursuit that begins with the simple precept found in James 4.
As we come near to God, God comes near to us…as we humble ourselves before God, He will lift us up (James 4:8, 10).
Two realities of this principle are spending time in God’s word and devoting ourselves to constant prayer. As God pours His grace and truth into our lives through His word and prayer, that same grace and truth will overflow into the lives of our children. Our children are wired to follow us–the lives we pursue will often become the basis for the life paths our children will choose.
While there are many more parenting basics for both dads and moms that we need to implement on a daily basis, these are four that have helped many dads be a positive influence over their children’s lives.