How to Father

I wrote this piece for work as part of a campaign to encourage fathers to be more involved in the lives of their children.

Wouldn’t it be great if fatherhood came with an instruction manual? (Not that we would actually read the instructions …)

Your 6-year-old son has no interest in sports. Turn to page 13 to find out why.

  • YOU need to grow up. There’s a lot more to life than sports.
  • He’ll probably be an amazing scientist and cure cancer. Don’t worry.
  • You need to buy season tickets and take him to every game. What are you waiting for?

Your 16-year-old daughter isn’t talking to you. Turn to page 34 to find out why.

  • All she talks about these days is boys and music. Count your blessings.
  • She’s seeking independence. Keep loving her and be patient.
  • She’s gotten in with the wrong crowd. Ground her for six months.

A few people have written instruction manuals like this, but many fathers have found them lacking. No two kids are the same or deal with the same circumstances, so no two kids will respond the same way, no matter what parenting method we use. And even if we did everything right (which we don’t), kids have free will and often choose the wrong path.

So what are we, as fathers, to do? The Lord offers us help in the Bible. No, He hasn’t given us a step-by-step instruction manual. But He’s given us something even better — His perfect example to follow. How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1).

So, if God is our Father (and He is, once we’ve trusted Jesus Christ as Savior), and if God is love (and He is), it makes sense to look at God’s love to find out how to be loving leaders of our children.

God has given us a list of exactly what love looks like in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. It’s a lot to digest all at once. There are probably a few things on the list that will really grab you and make you realize you have room to improve. As the first point states, our heavenly Father is patient. He doesn’t expect us to be fault free or to become exemplary fathers overnight. But He does expect us to be disciplined to grow in what we know.

Pick one attribute of love from the list and concentrate on it for as long as it takes to become a habit. Then pick a second attribute. It won’t be long before you find yourself living in God’s strength most of the time.

Love is patient  Don’t respond with anger, even when deliberately provoked. Remain calm, even when disciplining.
Love is kind  Seek ways to benefit your children unconditionally. Work in a child’s best interest regardless of how the child responds.
Love does not envy Don’t seek to take any credit away from the children. Rejoice when your children succeed.
Love does not boast  Don’t focus attention on yourself or feel superior.
Love is not proud  Don’t use your children to boost your own self-esteem or stand with others.
Love is not rude Remember that your children are watching and behave in a way that sets a good example.
Love is not self-seeking  Don’t put your own priorities or interests above those of your children.
Love is not easily angered  Remember that you were once young and made your share of mistakes and went through your own rebellion.
Love keeps no record of wrongs Don’t hold grudges. Don’t demand payback for wrongs but forgive completely.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth Don’t be happy about the misfortune of your children. Don’t put them down or meanly tease them for their mistakes or weaknesses.
Love always protects Provide a strong foundation and a constant haven for your children in all their struggles and challenges.
Love always trusts Assume the best of your children. When they sin, discipline in love, but when there is any doubt, respond with grace.
Love always hopes Hope for the best, even when your children are making poor choices. Respond positively.
Love always perseveres Keep on loving even when your child is failing constantly or actively rebelling.
Love never fails Keep on doing these things. Keep in mind how often you fail to live up to God’s standards and how God always responds with grace, then model that love to your own children.

We can’t be perfect fathers, but by seeking to reflect God’s love into our kids’ lives, we can be good ones. And we can point our children to their perfect Heavenly Father.

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