Dads, there are some things only you can give your kids. And I’m not talking about basketball shoes or cell phones or bigger allowances or expensive vacations. These are gifts much more important than that—and much more valuable. Give your children these gifts, and you will reap the benefits for years to come. Withhold them, and you take the chance of watching helplessly as they head down the wrong road.
Gift #1—Love Their Mom
Communicate regularly and lovingly with your wife — especially in front of the children. Take an interest in her interests, do unexpected things for her, treat her the way you did when you were pursuing her. You may think that romancing your wife has little to do with fatherhood, but it is key to helping your children feel safe and loved.
Block out a night once or twice a month for a date night with your wife — just the two of you. I know, I know. You think you’re too busy or it’s too expensive. But it’s an investment you can’t afford not to make. Love your wife and show it. The best way to be a good father is to be a good husband.
Gift #2—Teach Your Kids Respect
Part of the growing-up process is to test boundaries: to see how much you can get away with; to see where the lines are drawn. Your children will push back. You need to be clear about what’s expected of them. Teaching them respect begins in the early years, and it must be reinforced by both parents.
Teach them simple lessons to undergird the importance of respect:
- Look people in the eyes when you speak to them
- The universe doesn’t revolve around you
- Express thanks with a grateful heart
- Dive in and serve
- Respond with obedience the first time you’re asked
- Treat your mother with respect and honor
Gift #3—Make Some Memories with Your Kids
Get in the picture. Create traditions together as a family. Don’t allow time or money to become an excuse. Let’s be honest, you will spend the money on something, so why not invest in activities that will deepen your family bond? Your effort to create memories will make a lasting impression.
But you don’t have to go into debt to make memories. Maybe you can start a tradition, an annual activity around a holiday. It might be a spur-of-the-moment surprise, game night or movie night, a trip to see the Christmas lights, tubing on the river, or a Memorial Day cookout. Making memories doesn’t have to cost a lot. It just has to be a priority.
Make memories with each of your children. In years to come, they won’t remember what you spent. They’ll remember what you did.
Gift #4—Give Spiritual Direction to Your Family
A father is without question the single most significant influence on the spiritual life of his children. The statistical data from three major studies in recent years is overwhelming. If the father is involved in a church and is growing spiritually, the likelihood of the child doing the same skyrockets. If Mom goes to church alone with the kids, the chances plummet.
Numbers don’t lie:
- If a child is the first person in a household to become a Christian, there is a 3.5 percent probability everyone else in the household will follow.
- If the mother is the first to become a Christian, there is a 17 percent probability everyone else in the household will follow.
- But if the father is first, there is a 93 percent probability everyone else in the household will follow.
Little eyes are watching. Little ears are listening. As Albert Schweitzer said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” If you want to produce the real thing, you must be the real thing.
Gift # 5—Encourage Your Kids
Your children need to know that you are in their corner. We are all busy and pulled a lot of directions, but when your son or daughter takes the stage, the court, or the field, that glance into the crowd is a subtle search for significance. Your absence deflates them. Your presence shouts that they have value. They can pick your voice out of a crowd with the precision of a piano tuner.
Dads play a key role in determining whether children venture outside their comfort zone or fearfully settle for a status quo existence. Your genuine affirmation provides a safety net for taking risks and stretching their confidence.
Gift #6—Invest Quality Time
At one time in my life, I was enjoying the climb rather than focusing my attention and priorities on my wife and small children. The ministry, like any other profession, can eat you alive if you let it. I gave at the office — sixty-hour weeks like an obsessed and driven workaholic.
All that changed one Father’s Day. Before my sermon a soloist sang a song with this refrain:
Slow down, Daddy, don’t work so hard.
We’re proud of our house, we’ve got a big enough yard.
Slow down, Daddy — we want you around —
Daddy, please slow down.
When she finished singing, I went to the pulpit to preach. I opened my mouth, but no words came out. The emotion and guilt left me speechless.
The congregation had to sing a chorus so that I could regain my composure.
God used the words of that song as a wake-up call. With the Lord’s help, I changed. I put my family back on the priority list. Ever since then, I’ve been in the picture. Sometimes a little fuzzy and out of focus, but there. And I plan to stay there. Forever.
Dads, be encouraged. You can do this. You really can . . . just not on your own. Invite the Lord and your wife into the equation. From this point forward, things can be different.
Things can be better.
Check your priorities. Be intentional.
Slow down. Step up.
Get in the picture.
When you look back years from now, both you and your family will be glad you did.
Get a free first chapter from Dave’s book, Building Family Ties with Faith, Love, & Laughter at www.PastorDaveStone.com.