Joyeuse Fête des Pères
Feliz Dia del Padre
Alles Gute zum Vatertag
Siku ya Baba ya Furaha
Father. Simple to become. Really hard to be…at least in the fullest and best sense of the word: a critical constituent in the raising (bringing up, rearing, nurturing, looking after, caring for, taking care of, providing for, tending, protecting, cherishing, education and training) of a child.
The biggest mistake a father can make is to assume he has all the knowledge and tools to do the job. Given the knowledge of the former (which most Dad’s humbly/readily admit, they do not), the second mistake is worse: To do nothing about it and just wing it (or leave it to mom, a few coaches, and maybe a youth leader).
Most Dads I know have a sweet spot: a developmental stage they are favorably equipped for. But as you may know, our sons and daughters transition through a half-dozen stages, in which each requires different words, attitudes, connection and guidance. Think about your job. How often do your skills and knowledge need to be improved, adapted or completely updated in order to advance or remain in the work environment?
And think about this: If you were fortunate enough to have a father (even a good or great father) he was still inadequate in some way. Even the best dads have had short-comings and likely made multiple mistakes (if not outright screwed it up in a big way)
Confidently thinking, “I’ve got this,” is a dangerous starting point. We all need help! Even those of us who seem like we have it figured out. Read Chapter 3 in my wife’s book (shameless plug for Soul Healing by Dr. Tammy Smith 🙂 ) if you and your Dad had a rough go in any way. I’d also suggest Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp. While the writing is aimed at parents of younger kids, his insights are spot on and apply richly to life in general.
Want my two cents?
Be humble. Don’t power-up when you’re out of your depth or when you screw up. Own it. Admit your mistakes. Apologize first. Overly dominant, inflexible tough guys that are never wrong most often act out of fear. You want to be a good Dad? Teach your kids it’s okay to be wrong. Model for them how a man faces his fears honestly, vulnerably and head-on. The alternative is to attempt to control others/situations with bravado and threats to avoid exposing your own inadequacies. If you want to be a good Dad and help your child mature, you’ve got to do your own work moving across that continuum. And make sure you have a mentor. For that very same reason.
Be an authority. We are created to live under the authority of the One who created us. If you want your kid to grow up to be and do what God has designed for them, then they must learn to live with and under appropriate authority (as well as under the authority of basic civil law). We still have this sign displayed in our home: Because I’m The Parent, That’s Why. Who really likes to be told what to do? Our rationale is often reasonable. But the child that cannot learn to do/obey what is asked of them will suffer greatly in this life. I’m not suggesting you be an authoritarian dictator. YOU decide what obligations, boundaries and rules are good and right for the stage of your child. YOU clearly establish the consequences for non-compliance and YOU follow-through in a simple, consistent, firm and benevolent way. You have to pave the way before something big happens. You cannot let your child do whatever they want and then later ask them to do something they don’t like because you said so. Obedience is a skill that is learned over time by both of you! Here’s a great application (this illustrates how out of vogue learning to respect authority is): Stop yelling and complaining about the calls of referees, teachers, etc. Be a warm and firm authority figure in their lives not to oppress them but to free them to live as they are intended. You can ask either of my boys why we disciplined them…”because you love us and don’t want us to go to jail!” Here’s a second plug for having a mentor. (Don’t do it alone!)
Be a visionary. Help your kids visualize a good and beautiful future. One that requires good judgement, patience and some work to fully realize. I’m not suggesting you spearhead their dreams of being a celebrity. Keep it simple and focused on the values most important to God and a legacy.
Our family has a summer vacation tradition that’s been going on for 40+ years. It began with my original family of four (Mom, Dad, sister and me) and grew to include ten in the past 20 years (Mom, Dad, my family and my sister’s family) This year it will include 12 including our oldest son’s new wife (as of June 8th) and the long-time girlfriend of our youngest son. Every year my father asked me about my future and I’ve asked my boys to tell me about the same. What kind of women will you date and marry? What sorts of career do you imagine? Are you going to college? How are you going to treat girls? Are you going to be a leader or a follower? What will that look like? In the earliest stages and all through the growing up, myself and now my boys have continued to paint a picture of a good and beautiful life. I believe those pictures helped drive behaviors and decisions towards such things. Beginning with the end in mind is a powerful tool. Oh, and get a mentor. Everyone needs help, and experience is a great teacher.
Our God is a good, good Father – listen and learn from him and his Son. Be humble. Live under His authority. Tell him all about the good and beautiful future you wish to paint.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7
Give me a man of God – one man,
One mighty prophet of the Lord,
And I will give you peace on earth,
Bought with a prayer and not a sword.
– Henry Liddell
Anyone can father a child, but if you are blessed to be a child’s father, it is the toughest, most wonderful thing you’ll ever do. Thanks for stepping into those big shoes.
Happy Father’s Day!