BE BOLD DAD
The holy grail for helping youth remain religiously active as young adults has been at home all along: parents.
Mothers and fathers who practice what they preach and preach what they practice are far and away the major influence related to adolescents keeping the faith into their 20s, according to new findings from a landmark study of youth and religion.
Just 1 percent of teens ages 15 to 17 raised by parents who attached little importance to religion were highly religious in their mid-to-late 20s.
In contrast, 82 percent of children raised by parents who talked about faith at home, attached great importance to their beliefs and were active in their congregations were themselves religiously active as young adults, according to data from the latest wave of the National Study of Youth and Religion.
The connection is "nearly deterministic," said University of Notre Dame Sociologist Christian Smith, lead researcher for the study.
Other factors such as youth ministry or clergy or service projects or religious schools pale in comparison.
"No other conceivable causal influence ... comes remotely close to matching the influence of parents on the religious faith and practices of youth," Smith said in a recent talk sharing the findings at Yale Divinity School. "Parents just dominate."
Several studies have shown that the religious behaviors and attitudes of parents are related to those of their children.
In research using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, sociologists Christopher Bader and Scott Desmond found that children of parents who believe that religion is very important and display their commitment by attending services are most likely to transmit religiosity to their children.
This is the fourth wave of the NSYR, a comprehensive national study first conducted in 2002-2003 among teens ages 13 to 17 and their parents. These early findings add powerful evidence of the importance of mothers and fathers as the study traces the path of young respondents, who are now ages 24 to 29.
One of the strongest factors associated with older teens keeping their faith as young adults was having parents who talked about religion and spirituality at home, Smith said.
Other key factors included having parents for whom personal faith is important and who demonstrate that faith through attending services. Teens whose parents attended worship with them were especially likely to be religiously active as young adults.
Among related findings, parents from religious traditions that in general promote greater commitment and encourage discussing faith outside the sanctuary also were more likely to have children who remained active in their faith as young adults.
For example, two-thirds of teens raised by black Protestant parents and half of adolescents with conservative Protestant parents had high or moderate levels of religiousness as young adults. On the other end, 70 percent of teens raised by mainline Protestant parents had minimal or lower levels of religiousness as young adults.
In interviews, many Mainline Protestant parents said they "feel guilty if they think they are doing anything to direct their children toward their religion as opposed to any other possibility. There's a sense of like should you tell your child that what I believe is right," Smith said.
Yet if parents and faith communities are not able to communicate their beliefs, Smith said later, "The game's over, already."
The role of parents is even more critical today as trust in institutions decline and many children with more demanding schedules are spending less time in congregations, Smith noted.
Yet, he said, there are some powerful "cultural scripts" that discourage parents from taking an active role in the spiritual lives of their teens.
Among those scripts:
• After age 12, the role of parents recedes, and the influence of peers, the media, music and social media take over.
• Cultural messages that encourage parents to turn their children over to "experts." In the case of faith formation, many parents consider that to be the responsibility of clergy, Sunday schools and youth groups, Smith said.
Religious groups can help parents realize their key role in transmitting faith to the next generation by working with them from the births of their children to empower them to take on that responsibility, Smith said.
That includes involving them in congregational activities, making sure pastors and youth ministers work cooperatively with parents and encouraging parents and children to worship together, Smith said.
For their part, parents need to realize a hands-off approach to religion has consequences.
"Parents, for better or worse, are actually the most influential pastors ... of their children," Smith said. "Parents set a kind of glass ceiling of religious commitment, above which their children rarely rise."
This post was written by David Briggs for the Huffington Post. You can find the original post here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-briggs/the-no-1-reason-teens-kee_b_6067838.html
Niels Bohr said, “An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field.” If that quotation is true, I must be getting pretty close to being an expert father by now. Hopefully though, I’ve learned from the mistakes I’ve made. The mark of a good leader and a good father is just that—the ability to learn from mistakes. The man who doesn’t is doomed to repeat them over and over again. The following areas are some tips about fathering that I’ve discovered over the years. I list these not because I’ve perfected these areas, but because I finally recognize them for how important they really are.
Tip #1 – Emphasize Strengths not Weaknesses. As a father I have a tendency to focus on the things my children do wrong instead of the things they do right. But as a coach I tell my players to focus on their strengths not their weaknesses. Help find your son’s and daughter’s strengths–their gifts from God. Focus on those instead of being overly critical of their weaknesses.
Tip #2 – Give Plenty of Physical Affection. As men we are uncomfortable with too much physical affection–especially from another male. But our kids (in fact all of us) have a craving for healthy masculine affection. When our children have it, they are blessed. When children do not have healthy masculine affection, they will accept unhealthy masculine affection in its place. Hug and kiss your kids—even your son. Give them plenty of physical love. Even as they get older, continue to show them physical affection.
Tip #3 – Give Them Your Time. It’s almost a cliché to quote the song by Harry Chapin, “Cats in the Cradle,” to illustrate the consequences of a father being too absorbed in his work when his son is young. The reality is that most of us men are given the vision that in order to be a success in life we must be successful in our work—that our career is more important than anything else in life. Time is the most valuable, and the most limited, resource we have to give to our children. Your kids need your time more than they need your money—just ask any fatherless child.
Tip # 4 – Heart over Performance. Too often, I have a tendency to judge my children’s efforts by their performance. The reality is that an individual can do his personal best in an area in which he is not gifted, and still fall short of average performance. Likewise, a person can be gifted and do well in an area while applying very little effort. Which scenario should they be applauded most for? I think the kind of heart they have is what should be encouraged.
Tip # 5 – Have Fun. It’s so easy to get caught up in the complexities and stresses of everyday life. This is especially true for those who take responsibilities seriously. But part of a dad’s charm is his ability to have fun. Let yourself go and remember the all the goofy things that make life worth living. Have fun with your children while they’re still little. Take some time to just goof-off. There will be plenty of time to be serious and somber. One of the things kids appreciate most about their fathers is his sense of humor. When Dad has life under control, he values the humorous side of life and shows it to his kids.
Tip # 6 – Don’t Fear Failure. I spent much of my life avoiding anything I wasn’t perfect at because I was afraid to fail. This has caused me to have a number of regrets. The regrets I have in life are mostly of things I didn’t do–not what I did do. Oh, I regret some things I’ve done over the years (I’ve done many things I’m not proud of), but I don’t regret my sins of commission like I do my sins of omission. Missed opportunities, an apathetic attitude, and not seeking significance were all choices I made which I regret deeply. I was raised to believe that failure was the worst thing of all. But it’s not. I’ve come to understand that true failure is never reaching out to attempt something great, to try and reach your full potential. You only fail when you don’t try or when you quit.
Tip # 7 – Understand Your Power. Several years ago, during a rare bout of brutal self-honesty, I discovered that I treated my employees better than I did my wife and children. I heard myself saying things to my family I would never say to my employees. If another man had made those kinds of statements to my wife or kids, I would have physically confronted him. Why did I feel free to verbally wound those I treasure more than anything else in the world with words that I would never dream of saying to a stranger? God has given us men great power that can be used for good or evil. Just look around at some of the problems men have created in other peoples’ lives. Then look at some of the great things men have accomplished to benefit others. It’s an awesome power. But with that comes the need to understand it and use it responsibly. Former U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammerskjöld said, “Only he deserves power who every day justifies it.”
Tip # 8 – Develop Friendships. Most men in our country have acquaintances, but no real friends. The pressures and time constraints of work and supporting a family often take away the opportunity to build masculine relationships. But to be the best father possible, you need other men in your life to hold you accountable and to lift you up during difficult times. Another man’s experiences are invaluable when we try to navigate some of the uncharted waters of fathering.
Isolation is death to a man’s character. Perhaps that’s why our culture, seemingly bent on the destruction of positive masculinity, continues to promote the rugged individualist as the model for men to look up to. But real men need other men. We need the accountability, comradeship, support, and the help, that other men can provide.
Tip #9 – Be Consistent. Being consistent is one of the strongest traits a man can bring to fathering. Kids rely on you to be consistent in your responses no matter the circumstances. They rely on you being dependable, a rock in the face of adversity. When life throws a curve ball, they need Dad to be there to tell them it’s okay. Think about how scared you would be if the leader you were following–maybe someone you thought was strong or even invincible–were to suddenly become very frightened or to exhibit erratic, out-of-control behavior during a stressful situation. Would you want to follow that person again? I wouldn’t. Your emotional stability, especially in stressful situations, provides your kids with the security they need in order to grow into a healthy man or woman. A father’s wrath can be very frightening to his children. You can’t keep stressful situations from happening, but you can control how you react to them. Teach your kids that a man keeps his head while others around him lose theirs.
Tip #10 – Overcome Complacency & Passivity. Complacency and passivity are two of the biggest enemies that hinder our fathering abilities. Many men think they do not matter. But one man does matter. In the movie Schindler’s List, Liam Neeson stars as Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist during World War II. In an effort to capitalize on the war he acquired a factory in Poland which he ran with the cheapest labor around—Jewish labor. At first he seemed like every other greedy German industrialist, driven by profit and unmoved by the means of his profiteering. But somewhere along the line, something changed. He succeeded in his quest for riches, but by the end of the war he had spent everything he made on keeping 1,100 Jewish men and women alive. He literally bought their lives by having them work in his factory.
As a father you are not perfect, but you’re just good enough to be irreplaceable in the lives of your children. You have the power to lift your children up to more than they could ever be without you, or the power to crush them with just a word or by your absence. Use that power responsibly.
This post was written by Marcus Brotherton. For the original post, go to: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/afewgrownmen/2012/07/10-tips-for-better-dads-2/
OAKLAND, Calif. – The family of a teenage girl who was declared “brain dead” by doctors last year following a tonsillectomy and other throat and nasal procedures claims that the child has regained brain activity and seeks a court ruling reversing her declaration of death.
As previously reported, the matter centers around 13-year-old Jahi McMath, who underwent an operation at Children’s Hospital and Research Center in December, as doctors had recommended the operation to help alleviate her sleep apnea, irregular weight gain and urination issues.
But her uncle, Omari Sealey, said that the girl was apprehensive even before going under the knife.
“The worst thing about all of this is that Jahi told my sister, ‘I don’t want to get this surgery; something bad is going to happen. I’m not going to wake up,’” he told CNN.
McMath reportedly asked for a Popsicle following the procedure, advising that her throat hurt. But soon after, the girl’s family knew that something was terribly wrong.
“When she got moved to ICU, there was a 30-minute wait until any family member could go see her,” her grandmother, Sandy Chapman, told reporters. “Upon entry, they saw that there was way too much blood.”
“She had to have four blood transfusions. She had two liters of blood pumped out of her lungs, not including what was in her stomach,” she continued. “There was an enormous amount of blood, and we kept asking, ‘Is this normal?’ Some nurses said, ‘I don’t know,’ and some said, ‘Yes.’ There was a lot of uncertainty and a lack of urgency.”
When McMath’s oxygen levels then began to fall dangerously low, Chapman called for help. The girl later went into cardiac arrest and was declared brain dead. Days later, doctors pronounced her legally dead and sought to take her off life support.
McMath’s family has been fighting the matter in court ever since. Natasha Winkfield, McMath’s mother, reached an agreement with Children’s Hospital and Research Center, to allow the girl to be transferred out of the hospital. She has been receiving care at an undisclosed location ever since.
But the family says that McMath has made improvements as her MRI shows neurological activity, and that the girl is able to respond to commands. As her body is also functioning, including the onset of puberty, McMath’s family is asking the court to overturn its ruling declaring the girl brain dead.
“This court, having made such a determination, must consider the change in circumstances presented by plaintiff’s evidence which shows Jahi’s condition is now one in which Jahi now has brain function,” a petition to the court states. “There is simply no case, other than Jahi McMath, where a pediatric patient has been diagnosed as brain dead but has continued to receive medical treatment and survived this long.”
International Brain Research Foundation CEO Phil Defina, PhD, and neurologist Calixto Machado spoke at a press conference about the matter on Friday, and video footage was played for the media showing McMath responding to simple requests.
“It took me some months to fight with [the decision to conduct further brain scans], because if she doesn’t [show signs of brain activity], what will I do?” Winkfield stated at the event. “But I knew because I’m her mother, and I talk to her and she responds. . . . I will never give up on her.”
This post can be found on the Christian News Network at: http://christiannews.net/2014/10/04/christian-family-who-fought-for-brain-dead-teen-claims-girl-has-regained-brain-activity/
Yes, we know this an ad for Cheerios. But, here at Ironstrikes, we appreciate how this commercial places us Dads in a positive light.
Julie complained that her four-year-old son, Chad, is very responsive and cooperative with his father about going to bed, but when she puts him to bed and tries to leave, Chad yells for her to come back and wants her to lay down with him. Every time she tries to leave, he cries for her to come back. Julie feels exhausted and resentful that she can’t have the evening to herself or enjoy time with her husband. She wonders why she can't get the same cooperation from Chad as Dad does.
Why is it that children behave one way with one parent and differently with another? Because, parents behave differently and children quickly learn what “works” with one parent and not the other. They learn which parent they can manipulate and which one they can’t. So, what is the difference between what these parents do when they both want to use Positive Discipline? (Children who “cooperate” out of fear of punishment are not being cooperative, they are being compliant.)
Parents sometimes believe that giving children what they want and not burdening them with rules will show them that they are loved. We want to stress that permissiveness is not the way to help children develop initiative—or any other valuable social or life skill. If you say it, mean it, and if you mean it, follow through.
Children know when you mean what you say and when you don’t. It is really that simple. Say it; mean it; and follow-through.
Parents who say what they mean and mean what they say do not have to use a lot of words. In fact, the fewer words used, the better. When you use a lot of words you are lecturing and children tune out lectures.
One reason you may use a lot of words is that you are trying to convince yourself, as well as your child, that what you want is okay. If what you are asking is reasonable, have confidence in your request.
Some parents lack confidence because they feel guilty. They are afraid their poor little darling will suffer trauma for the rest of his life if his every desire is not met. Children will suffer much more throughout their lives if they develop the belief that love means others should take care of them and give them whatever they want. They will suffer when they don’t learn they can survive disappointments in life—and discover how capable they are in the process.
Christine shares what happened when she learned to mean what she said and to follow-through.
“Not too long ago, my daughter knew she could get away with very little with her father. She went to bed for him like a Saint. When it came to me, she knew she could push me to the ends of the earth, and get whatever she wanted, even if the whole experience was negative. We spent hours, at night with her making requests such as, rub my back, put cream on my leg, fix my blankets—all just part of a power trip she was taking me on. I felt guilty and so I continued the long and drawn-out bed times that left me exhausted and unable to finish my nightly duties.
Since reading the Positive Discipline books, I learned that much of her self-worth comes from doing things for herself, and feeling accomplished. That opened my eyes. I cut out all the special services knowing she can do things herself, and it was my job to encourage her to do so.
We follow the same bedtime routine every night. I read her a book and then I remind her that she is a big girl and she can put herself to sleep. If she gets out of the bed, without saying a word, I walk her back to her bed. If it happens more than once, I remind her that I will no longer put her blankets back on nor will I refill her water. She knows I mean what I say. After two nights of doing this, bedtime has changed all the way around. I am so thankful for what I learned in Positive Discipline. What was once a dreaded time, is now a nice, quiet time to wind down from the day.”
This post was taken from the Positive Discipline blog. You can find it at: http://blog.positivediscipline.com/2012/04/follow-through-with-children.html
One of the best traditions our family has had over the years is the father and sons campout. We have traditionally gone up to the mountains with my sons and my sons' friends and their dads every spring for a Friday and Saturday to camp out, cook out and just talk around the campfire. Some of my best teaching moments with my sons have happened in the father and sons campout setting.
Fathers have a vital responsibility to teach their sons how to be strong and responsible men as they grow up. It is clear that in the absence of a father, or at least a positive father figure in a young man's life, he struggles to learn what it means to become a good man - one who shoulders responsibility, one who values hard work and determination, and one who will one day take on the responsibility of becoming a father and supporting a family.
But teaching a young man how to become a man involves more than just being there. It is a conscious process of mentoring, training and connecting that creates a desire and the skills needed for a boy to become the kind of man we all hope he becomes. It starts with understanding the key principles associated with being a great man and a great father and then both teaching them and living them in your own life.
So, having raised three sons, and having talked with lots of dads who raised successful sons, and having talked with some who think they didn't do all that they could have, here are some suggestions for things to know and do to raise boys into good and responsible men.
Be the role model. There is no more important aspect to raising responsible young men than modeling the behavior you hope that they embrace when they become men. As they watch you in action, they learn what being a man is all about. You have to demonstrate commitment, sacrifice, self-control and responsibility in order for them to want to be the kind of man you hope they become. Sometimes this can be the toughest assignment of all, but it is critically important. Your sons will learn more from watching how you react and behave in given circumstances than they will from everything you tell them.
Teach them about planning. Too many men seem to go through life just reacting to what is happening around them. We all know that little boys tend to be reactive to the moment, but part of becoming a man is making choices based on key values, even before the situation arises. For example, help them develop a personal budget and savings plan so they don't just fall into the lifelong trap of impulse buying. Help them think about their careers and emphasize the need for planning and preparation. Take time in your family nights to teach about scheduling and time management. As they begin to see the impact of thinking ahead and planning, they will develop an essential skill of manhood.
Teach and model respect. Men in our popular society seem to be most valued when they rebel against authority and do what they want, regardless of the impact on others. But living together in a day to day society and culture requires that we behave differently than that. Help your young men learn respect for authority, to show respect for women and girls, and to be gentlemen. Help them learn to work well with others and show respect for differing points of view.
Teach them to be trustworthy. Successful men live up to their commitments and live ethically. If they are just watching examples in the popular media, they may see role models who are dishonest, unfaithful to commitments and who put their conveniences and comforts ahead of anything else of value. But real men keep their promises, are honest even when they aren't being watched, and are worthy of trust. Be that kind of dad to them, and correct them when you see an evidence of a lack of trust.
Help them learn accountability and self-discipline. One of the core differences that distinguishes a real man from all the others is his ability to control himself and make choices that may be contrary to the feelings of the moment. The epidemic of obesity or the lax moral values of our day can be traced to a lack of self-control and self-discipline. Help you sons learn that they can make choices and sacrifice for something of greater worth. Getting them involved in a sport or music or some other activity that requires some sacrifice and self-discipline is an important step in that process. When they learn that mastering the piano takes many, many hours of practice, often sacrificing other less important activities, will teach them the value of self-discipline. And holding them accountable for responsibilities like chores or music practice will help them learn to hold themselves accountable later on.
Set up some rules and impose consequences. Sometimes as adult men we rebel a bit at all of the rules and consequences in our lives and long for younger days when we had more freedom. Living in a world of rules and consequences is a reality we have to help our sons embrace. If you are consistently late for work or leave early, you will eventually face discipline at work, or will at a minimum lose trust with your employer. So help your son commit to live by rules at home and impose consequences when he makes choices to not live by the rules. If you don't teach this principle now, your sons will learn the hard way later and leave a wake of problems behind them.
Teach your son compassion. The perception that a man has to be emotionless and conceal his feelings is very real, but is harmful to quality relationships. Teach your son about the importance of little kindnesses, of showing compassion for the disadvantaged, of demonstrating love to his family members and friends, and of protecting the environment. These feelings, in their proper place and in balance with the rest of his life, will serve him well as a responsible and strong man.
Teaching by precept and example are critical roles of fathers. Neither the example nor the teaching can be ignored if you hope to raise sons who will be real men, who will be responsible and productive, and who will raise the next generation of young men to do the same.
This post was written by Wayne Parker. For the original post, go to: http://fatherhood.about.com/od/sonsanddads/a/How-Fathers-Can-Help-Boys-Become-Men.htm
It has been my privilege over many years to work with fathers who are devoted Christians and who try to bring their faith and their spirituality to bear in their role as a husband and father. My own experience as a Christian father has led me to believe that there are many ways fathers can use solid, Biblical principles to be better fathers. Even if a dad is not a devoted Christian, these principles are timeless and will likely resonate with any father committed to be better.
These seven scriptures and the principles they reflect have had a huge impact on my approach to fatherhood. As you read and ponder, I hope that you will find meaning in them as I have and find ways to apply them in your life as a dad. The references are to passages in the King James Bible.
Ephesians 6:4 - “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” The Apostle Paul in this verse speaks directly to fathers and offers some key principles. Often as “natural man” fathers, we provoke our children to anger. If we respond to situations with anger, we often “provoke” an angry response. If we fail in some way to love and show respect for our children, they may respond in anger. Paul suggests that the way we avoid angry circumstances is to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We may think of nurture as a role primarily for mothers, but fathers can also be nurturing, providing a safe environment for children to express themselves and learn from our teaching and their experiences.
Joshua 24:15 “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord , choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Every father makes choices in how he believes and how he behaves, and the importance of a father’s example on his family cannot be overstated. When we choose to espouse and live principles like charity, respect, devotion, service and faith, we can lead our family in the right direction. And while we as Christians may see this as primarily serving the Lord, they are timeless principles regardless of our faith tradition.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 - “And these words , which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Teaching is a never-ending responsibility for fathers and this passage in the Old Testament is a good reminder. We are to teach diligently, meaning that we never stop and that we are deliberate about the opportunity, ever watching for teaching moments. And this passage also suggests that we are teaching in every situation - walking, lying down, and getting up. Sometimes we teach by precept, sometimes by our example and more often in both ways. But we need to always be teaching.
Matthew 7:9-11- “Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread , will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” This teaching of Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount reminds us to follow God’s example in how we interact with our families. We need to be sensitive to the needs and feelings of our children, and always try to provide for them in a way that blesses them. I don’t interpret this principle as giving children everything they ask for, but in giving them things that bless them and don’t harm them. God doesn’t withhold love from us and we need to not withhold it from our families.
Isaiah 52:7 - “Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.” The message of the prophet Isaiah is that we should be clean and that we should focus on the things of God and not on the things of the world. Men who are faithful, avoid pornography and keep their promises to God are strong in the Lord. And as fathers, we in one sense “bear the vessels of the Lord” as we have stewardship for His children that have been entrusted to us. Both we and they are vessels of the Lord as we strive to be more like Jesus.
1 Corinthians 16:13 - "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong." More counsel from the Apostle Paul suggests that we as men, and more especially as fathers, stand fast and act with courage and strength. Too often as men, we choose to “go with the flow,” when as Christians we are called to a higher standard. In this verse in King James, the word “quit” means behave or act. So, as my nephew often says when things get tough, “zip up your man suit and get going.”
Luke 15:20-24 - “And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” This passage from Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son reminds us of the importance of never giving up. In this story, the younger son of the father took his inheritance, spent it riotously and was lost to his family and to his God. The fact that the father saw his son returning while “he was yet a great way off” suggests that he had been watching for his return. And when he returned, he was welcomed like a prince and his return was celebrated by his father and others in the household. Christian fathers never give up on their children, and use their influence to keep them strong, and work with them when they stray.
This post was written by Wayne Parker. You can find his post at: http://fatherhood.about.com/od/fathers-faith/fl/Seven-Key-Biblical-Principles-for-Fathers.htm?nl=1
BE A MAN.
15. It is okay to cry in front of your kids. If you never cry in front of your kids, they won’t think you are strong and powerful, they will think you are careless and cold. Teach your children that there are things so important to you that they bring you to tears. But make sure those things are really worth it.
16. Don’t hold on too tight, but don’t let go too quickly. This is the catch-22 of parenthood. Work hard to raise your kids in such a way that they can make good choices on their own and live healthy lives dependent on God. But never, under any circumstances, let them think that they are no longer your baby girl or boy. I want my children to always feel safe when they return home.
17. Learn about your children’s favorite things. Want to really strengthen your relationships with your kids? Get to know what they love and learn to love it too. This is not in any way disingenuous; rather, it shows how important they are to you. I don’t feign interest in the things my kids like. Instead, I cultivate genuine interest in those things by spending time doing them. For example, my daughter loves to play board games. At her age, most of these games don’t pose a huge challenge to parents. But, because I love her, I spend time playing those games with her, and have done so enough that I now love to play them with her.
18. Splurge on your kids to teach them responsibility. Don’t be a tight wad! Not all fun things cost money, thank goodness. But sometimes they do, and you should occasionally splurge on your kids, even if it means putting off the purchase of something else you think you need. Doing this teaches them that they are important to you; that good behavior should be rewarded; and that God has called us to lives of generosity. Along with the occasional splurge, if you are going to eat out at restaurants, make sure you tip well. Few things damage our witness for Christ (for our families and others) more consistently than stinginess, and believe me, when you go out to eat after church and leave a ten-cent tip on a fifty dollar total, the servers are equating your tight-wadiness with your Christianity.
19. Being a daddy is more important than anything else you will ever do in life. If you think your main legacy should be anything other than raising your kids to love Jesus and experience confidence in who He created them to be, then you are wrong.
20. Pray with and over your children. If you have any hope of all these other things, then your first step should be to pray regularly with and for your children. Commit their care to God, ask Him to guide you as a parent to be Christ to them, and teach them to speak with their heavenly Father often and intimately. God will answer these prayers and will bless your family abundantly for the asking.
This post is adapted from Practicing Fatherhood: 20 lessons from a young dad by Isaac N Hopper.
5. Saying sorry isn’t just for kids. I tell my kids when I am wrong, and I ask their forgiveness when I have wronged them. I had a talk with my daughter recently about the wrong way and right way to deal with disappointment; one way can lead us to sin in anger, while the other leads us to patience and contentment. I openly used an example of my own sin of losing my temper as a way to talk about what God would have us do, and what we can and should do when we have taken the wrong direction. You are your child’s most important role model. How can they model you well if you don’t ever talk about your failures?
6. Say “I love you” often, and mean it every time. You simply cannot say “I love you” too much to your children. They will have many voices vying for their attention as they grow. Let the dominant voice be your voice, echoing our heavenly Father: “You are my beloved child, in you I am well pleased.”
7. It is okay to let your daughter paint your nails and brush your hair. Dads, get over yourselves. If letting your little girl paint your nails makes you question your masculinity, you have much bigger problems to deal with. Let your daughter lavish you with her love the best way she knows how.
8. Answer every question your children ask with utmost seriousness. One sure way to tear down a child is to treat them as though they are not important. If your child asks you a question, do everything in your power not only to answer it, but to answer it well. This shows your kids that they are important to you, that the things they have to say are worthy of your attention, and you might just learn something along the way.
9. Don’t shy away from talking about “big things” with your kids. Some of the most challenging conversations I have ever had with any person (adult or child) I have had with my daughter and son. We have talked about death, heaven and the resurrection of the dead, the Trinity, the Crucifixion, you name it. Don’t underestimate your child’s capacity for understanding. Talking to your children about important things will challenge you to communicate well, using language that is accessible without diluting the content. And who would you rather they hear this stuff from? Society is already telling your child what they should think about big questions. Are you?
10. Be your child’s biggest fan. I am unashamed in my overwhelming support of everything my kids do. We try to praise all of our kids’ accomplishments, big or small. I’ve heard the argument that this makes praise cheap. I disagree. I think it makes praise a precious commodity. When we praise our children often, we not only instill in them a sense of confidence, but we show them the proper source of affirmation is the family. They will be less likely to seek that affirmation elsewhere in destructive relationships or behaviors if they receive it adequately at home. There is a caution that comes with this, though. Praising your kids for their accomplishments does not mean giving empty praise. That leads to the phenomenon of the “American Idol generation” where people with no talent whatsoever can’t understand their failure, because their mom has always told them they were the best at whatever they pursued.
11. Embarrass yourself often. My kids will come to loathe this, I am sure, but I have no qualms whatsoever about embarrassing myself for their sake. If I can do something ludicrous (but safe and legal) that will get a smile out of them and endear me to them in any way, you better believe I will do it.
12. Fight for your kids (and their mother). Never allow anyone or anything to come between you and your family. If there are other things vying for their attention that cause stress in your relationships to one another, fight with all your might against those things. Part of fighting for your family is loving them extravagantly. Part of this fight is also waging war against those things that can tear a family apart. Dads (in particular) this means workaholism, sexual misconduct (including pornography), friendships with the opposite sex, sports fanaticism, etc. If what you do threatens your family in any way, flee from it!
13. Be present for what matters to your kids (i.e., birthday parties, concerts at school, etc.). I have had to learn this lesson the hard way. At the end of my life, my children will not remember or care all that much about the things I have accomplished. They will not care how much money I made, how many letters I have after my name, what my research focus was, or how good my golf game was. They will care about and remember the time I spent with them. Be present for every important event in your child’s life, if at all possible. And when you miss such an event, make it up to them by spending extra time with them, doing something you both love. There were times growing up when I told my parents I didn’t care if they came to this or that event. No matter what your kids tell you, they notice and care if you aren’t there.
14. Learn to dance, especially if you have a daughter. For many Dads (myself included), this goes hand-in-hand with #11 above. I don’t know why this is so, but believe me when I tell you that your daughter (and probably your son) loves to dance with you. Dancing always leads to joy and laughter.
This post is adapted from Practicing Fatherhood: 20 lessons from a young dad by Isaac N Hopper.