1. After feeding, clothing, and sheltering my children, there is no more important task that I have in life than to introduce them to Jesus. Why don’t I follow the Sunday school answer to everything and put Jesus first here? Because God has given my children to my care, and caring for their needs in a loving, self-sacrificial way is one of the most prominent ways that I can show my children who God is and how much He loves them. This, in turn, helps me to communicate with them how Jesus is the ultimate image of God’s love.
2. Play is the great bridge that crosses all other barriers between a father and a child. There have been times, especially with my son, where the kids don’t want much to do with Daddy. This most often happens when I am researching and working long hours or after I have taken a long trip. There are some hurt feelings upon my return, because I wasn’t there when they wanted me to be. There are also those times following discipline, or hurt feelings, or booboos when it is especially hard to talk with a child. It is at these times, in particular, that the act of playing can bring a child out of gloominess and into the joy of life. More than that, play is one of the greatest ways to bond with your children. It shows them that they are important, that their daddy (or mommy) wants to spend time with them, that their imaginations are good and wonderful, and that family time is some of the most enjoyable time of our lives. There have been many times when I did not play with my children, because I was distracted or feeling unwell. I regret every missed opportunity to play with them, and pray that God will give me the energy and “fun-lovingness” to play with them at every future opportunity.
3. Being right is less important than being real. I am an “answer man.” I like to figure out why things work, how they came to be, and why it matters. It’s what makes me enjoy my research. However, I have found that when it comes to my children there are times when an answer man is needed (like when my son asks me what various animals eat), and there are times when I should keep my mouth shut, even when my urge is to correct something that is wrong. For a child who is growing and learning, it is more important for them to know their daddy is listening to them and learning with them than it is for daddy to have all the right answers.
4. Discipline should always be conducted out of love, and never in anger. Discipline administered in anger damages relationships. It is often too harsh (and uncontrolled), too swift, and too dismissive of your child. Loving discipline has at its heart the well-being of your child. Discipline doled out in anger is more often seeking retribution.
This post is adapted from Practicing Fatherhood: 20 lessons from a young dad by Isaac N Hopper.