“What’s with the attitude?” Ever says these words to your children? Lately, I have been saying this a lot. I don’t recall asking for attitude. I know that a “sounds like a great idea, Dad, I would love to clean my room,” is asking too much. How about an “okay” – still too much?
I thought to become a father was simple; boy, was I wrong. No one ever told me what it takes to be a father. What it means to manage a house, a family and to do so in a way that is respectful and honors God.
It is a great responsibility, the role of fatherhood. These 5 approaches have strengthened my relationship with my family and helped me to be a better father.
Make your Presence Seen and Felt
Simply stated: be there; as much and as often as you can. It starts with you, so make your family a priority. A father needs to be available for his children, at the big moments in life and the small everyday moments.
Big moments are once in a lifetime events you never forget. Their first day of school, a starting a game and graduation are a few examples. Don’t be the dad that missed out, don’t watch it later. We always seem to remember the time’s people are not there. Do your best not to give your children those stories.
To give my children special memories, I go on dates with them. I take my kids out for one-on-one time. We have breakfast together, or go to the library, we have even gone grocery shopping. It is not about the activity, it is about quality time. Use the time not only to have fun but find out how they are doing in other areas, school, friends, etc. It is also a great opportunity to offer your wisdom and share your stories.
I have learned to enjoy the small moments in life; like reading books with my children, nestled next to me in the hammock, spreading Legos on the floor and building whatever comes to mind, or twirling them till we all become dizzy.
It is hard to be there, for everything, life happens. So find creative ways to be a part of their life in that moment. Live streaming and messaging can be great, just don’t overdo it.
Plan a day off and have fun, go to the park, visit a museum, or just stay home and play. Don’t be afraid to be spontaneous, too. On occasion, I like to leave work early and show up unannounced for an afternoon full of small moments.
You Be the Role Model
Ever hear this- “Do as I say, not as I do” or this- “actions speak louder than words!” Which one do you think is right? When you tell a child not to do something, but they see you do it, you are sending them a mixed message. Is being a role model easy? No, sometimes we don’t follow our own advice. Yet, we should strive to show our children how to lead a good life and when we fall short, be honest about it. You can even ask them to help keep you accountable.
If there is a behavior that you want them to learn, show them, first. Then tell them why you do it and why it is important. I feel children should see their fathers:
- Treat their mother with respect and show her affection
- Treat everyone as equals and with respect
- Be fair and kind to others
- Read the Bible
I am sure there is more. If it is important for a child to learn, then it is important for you to show the way.
Teach your Children Well
Being a good role model is the first step, but do not miss opportunities to teach. Teachable moments surround us; from positive to negative and even the mundane. Try teaching while reading a story, watching a show, or through interactions with others. Be on the lookout for teachable moments. Don’t leave all the teaching to their mother. This should be a joint venture.
Teach them life lessons, teach them morals, and teach them good behaviors. Teach them about what God says in the Bible. After you teach, then apply it to life.
We recently started using scripture to strengthen our lessons. Each week we print out a Bible verse and post it on our wall. Then I remind them of those verses when the need arises. So when I get an attitude, I remind them that “a soft answer turns away wrath.” Proverbs 15:1 NKJV
Foremost, teach them that Jesus saves us and why we need Him.
Man Provides for His Family
As head of the household provide the necessities: shelter, clothing, and proper food. This is the place men often succeed, but provide more. Provide priceless gifts: love, confidence, imagination, determination, resilience, hope, guidance, and discipline.
Set Expectations to Succeed
To be a good father does not mean our children will always like us. To be a good father we must set rules, boundaries, and expectations. We must discipline. This is the worst and hardest part of the job. I would rather be the fun dad, all the time, but I also want my children to grow up and become responsible adults.
Rules need to be fair, consistent and must have consequences. Our house has written and unwritten rules and expectations. Some rules are non-negotiable, some are flexible and sometimes we have to break one. We have rules for safety, rules on how to treat others, and everyday expectations. We have quite a few rules with frequent testing.
There should be a balance between love, fun, and discipline. Just like a game is not enjoyable without rules, so a house is not enjoyable to live in without rules. It may seem like fun for a little while, but it will backfire. Do not be abusive in power.
These expectations bring order to our house, keep people safe and respected. These expectations will help our children succeed.
The greatest, most rewarding role a man can have is that of a father.
The role of the father is changing in society, married couples are now a minority in America. Yet, the need for a father (or father figure) has not changed, no matter the lifestyle. Each household is as different as a father’s personality. The way each child needs and receives love is different. The need for a father to be there, to be a role model, to teach, to provide and to guide, a child is universal.