My friend, Bill, and I were visiting recently about a meeting he had with about 15 younger fathers and fathers-to-be. Each of them was attending the meeting to learn how they could be or become the father they wanted to be and knew they were supposed to be. The common request in the meeting was, “Just tell me how to do that.” In other words, “What are some concrete steps or actionable items I can take to make me a better dad?” As I thought about that, the logic makes sense. Men, by and large, take action. We are here to provide and to protect. We crave stuff to do. With that in mind, here is your “to do” list as fathers – 10 things you can do, 10 steps you can take to ensure that you are indeed the dad that God wants you to be.
1. Tell your children that you love them. “I love you, son” or “I love you, sweetheart” are some of the most affirming words your son or daughter can hear from you.
2. Be affectionate with your children. Sometimes, just a pat on the shoulder or a hug when you see them is all it takes. The human touch is powerful. Determine right now that each time you see your child, you will give your son or daughter a meaningful touch.
3. Project a vision for your child’s life by telling them that God has a special plan for them. You don’t have to know what the plan is, but your child does need to know that there is one. Simply say, “Son (or Sweetie), God has a wonderful plan for your life, and I can’t wait to see what it is.” They, in turn, will begin to seek that plan out.
4. Commit to helping your son or daughter find out what God’s plan is for him or her. That’s as easy as saying, “I am for you, and I am in your corner, and I am going to do everything I can to help you discover God’s plan for your life.” Then, encourage them to pursue those passions God has laid on their heart. You do that by telling your son or daughter those qualities and talents and gifts that you admire in them.
5. Tell your children that you are “well pleased” with them. They will never outgrow the desire to please their father. Hearing from you that they have done that is life giving.
6. Be present. Show up. If you are allowed to be at one of their events, be there.
7. Love their mother well. Hug her. Tell her you love her. Do the dishes. Tell her how much you appreciate her. Thank her. And do all of that in front of your children.
8. Keep good company. Surround yourself with men like the man you want your sons to become and like the man you hope your daughter grows up to marry. Surround yourself with men who have wives like the woman you hope your daughter grows up to be and like the woman you hope your son grows up to marry.
9. Attend church with your children.
10. Pay attention to who is teaching your children and what is being taught to your children in school. Children spend more time with their teachers than anyone else. If you don’t agree with what is being taught to your children, do something about it. Don’t wait.
By doing these things, you are following Deuteronomy 6:4-9 where God also gives us some instruction as parents on how to raise and encourage our children. As Moses makes his farewell address to God’s people, this is what he says: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
You never stop being a father. And even when your children have children of their own, they still long for your approval and your affirmation. They long to hear from you these words: “I love you. I am well pleased with you. I am for you. God has a plan for your life, and I will do whatever I can to help you get there.” These along with the other actionable items above are a wonderful start to becoming the dad that God wants you to be.