In our culture, when it comes to parenting, the role that fathers play too often been minimized. Typically, moms are more connected and involved in the parenting process. But this doesn’t mean that dads aren’t important (they are!) or that they shouldn’t give their best efforts to becoming the kind of father that God desires all dads to become. If you don’t know where to begin, here are some practical tips to get you started towards becoming a better dad!
1) Love and respect your wife! Dads, if you are looking for a way to strengthen your family, start by focusing on your wife. A quality marriage is the best thing you can do to raise secure children. It has often been said that the best thing you can do for your children is to love your spouse. Sometimes this means putting your wife’s needs before your children’s. If you are a single dad, for you kids’ sake, it is still necessary to show respect and support for their mother.
2) Commit to pursuing spiritual growth. One of the most important steps to becoming a better father is your commitment to growing in relationship with God. As you grow in faith and become more like Christ, you will become more of the father that God desires you to be. And, if you want your kids to have vital spiritual lives, then they need to see an authentic faith lived out in your own life.
3) Communicate with your kids. Sure, you don’t always want to talk and neither do your kids. Yet, you cannot have a solid, growing relationship (with anyone!) without communicating. Find a time when distractions can be held to a minimum and have a conversation with your kid. Don’t just talk about what you’re interested in. Talk about anything. Talk about everything. Ask your kids about their interests, opinions and feelings. Ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered yes or no. (Note: if you have not had a history of talking with your kids, getting started may seem a bit awkward to both you and your kids. Don’t let this get in your way. Share with your kids what you are trying to do (build stronger relationships/connect) and start slowly with reasonable expectations. Just keep at it!)
4) Listen. Listening is the language of love. Through listening, you demonstrate that you value your kids. Many fathers find it difficult to actively listen. Yet, when you take the time to really pay attention, show empathy, and listen–you are taking a key step in connecting with your kids. When kids know that their father will really listen (instead of immediately “correcting”) they will be more willing to talk. As noted above, good communication results in stronger relationships.
5) Let affection be the rule, not the exception. Dads, if it is your desire to build a stronger relationship with your kids, affection is a must. Not the affectionate type? Get over it. Learn to become affectionate. It is that important. Offer your kids genuine affection through words, affirmation, encouragement, small gifts, and appropriate touch.
6) Be intentional about role modeling. Your home is your child’s primary source for learning about life. That means your kids are always watching things like how you relax, how you have fun, what you say, how you deal with conflict, and how you treat their mother. Dad, what messages are you sending them through how you live your life?
7) Play. Play is necessary for a close-knit family. There is nothing like play to bring about family togetherness and communication. Play builds family memories, reduces family stress, and produces support and affirmation. Dads, understand that play doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as taking your child out to get an ice cream cone or throwing a Frisbee around in the yard.
7) “Be there” for your kids. Dads, one of the most valuable contributions you can make today to becoming a better father is to simply “be there;” involved in their lives. Your presence is a powerful affirmation and sign of caring towards your kids. Your presence provides your kids with a greater sense of security than almost any other quality a father can offer. Sometimes, this means being willing to make some tough choices; like choosing to be at your daughter’s volleyball match instead of attending another business meeting. But the value of being involved in your kids’ lives is more valuable than a larger paycheck.