The Ten Lessons of Fatherhood
As we approach Father’s Day, I thought that it would be fitting to write some lessons to all new fathers out there, but also some lessons of reminder to seasoned fathers as well. I am writing this as a reminder, but most importantly as a challenge to every father out there that has been given the greatest blessing and responsibility any human can have. Life has a way of throwing many distractions and many things that can slowly detach and distract us from our role.
The role of a father is like no other. A father's role has the power to cement both negative and positive things in a child's life and future. So, dad's, here me out as I take just a quick second of your time. I promise it will be worth it. Let's get started.
Lesson # 1: Love your wife (significant other). Ephesians 5:25
This may seem obvious, right? So why is it that time and time again husbands seem to put their wives on the back burner? One of the greatest lessons your children can learn is found in the love you have for your wife, there mommy. When was the last time your kids saw you give mommy a kiss? When was the last time you hugged and embraced your wife in front of the kids? I am not saying to show off or even to have a make-out session in front of them, but by you displaying affection and love to mommy, you are also showing them how to honor and love her. I heard a great a great quote the other day that said this, "The best gift you can give your children is to love their mother". This may not be your thing, but you will be surprised how your children will pay attention.
Lesson # 2: You are the example
For fifteen maybe eighteen years plus you are the only person your children see day after day. So, what are they seeing? What example are you showing on a day to day basis? Have you ever heard the saying, "Show me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are"? Well my interpretation is something like this, show me who you are and you will show me who your parents are. I know it is a bold statement to say, but it is true. Your children are watching your every move, hearing your every word, following your every step. So, let everything you do bring life, encouragement, confidence, love and blessing to them and your family.
Lesson # 3: Responsibility falls on YOU
Our children's future is in our hands and that is a huge responsibility. It is something that cannot be taken lightly or missed by any angle. Your actions, or even inaction's, words, decision all dictate the course of your children's future. Your actions are there lessons. Before any book your child reads or any school your child attends, your actions are there first lessons in life. You are the example that they model and will follow.
Lesson # 4: Give sincere effort and countless amount of time
In my article that I wrote early last year titled, "Balancing Act [Fatherhood Edition]" I said, "Set up a day and time every week to devout strictly to your family. No emails, calls, work, etc. Just you and your family." This may seem obvious, but needs to be done on a consistent basis. Key words with this lesson is SINCERE and COUNTLESS.
Regarding sincerity, your kids will know if your heart is fully invested in them. They will know if you are genuinely with them or not. The worst thing you can be is a father that was there, but not there. You may get away with it now, but not for long.
Regarding COUNTLESS, you should never put a limit to your kids' time. I understand that there are exceptions, but don't let your children feel like you are giving them the scraps of your day and energy. Be sincere and be genuine. Your children will thank you later.
Lesson # 5: Establish principles, morals and BOUNDARIES
Set principles. Establish boundaries and non-negotiables in your family. Create daily habits that consistently establish these boundaries and principles and commit to them. For me and my family we have many principles and boundaries. One of them is prayer and reading of the Bible. Our family always begins our day in prayer and finishes our day in prayer. We pray before every meal and we pray for any boo-boo. Every night before we go to bed we read the Bible. It has become such a habit that our children will not go to bed without reading the bible, not matter how late or how tired we may be.
A boundary that we establish is respect. In our house, we will respect one another. We will not talk back to mommy or daddy and we will not be treat our brother or sister disrespectfully. This boundary has been one that we have had to continue to enforce even till this day, but we believe that every day we stay consistent our children are being built up and will learn. Check out what the bible says in Proverbs 22:6 "Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it."
As a father if we don't teach our children the right principles, morals and boundaries now someone else will teach them the wrong principles, morals and boundaries later.
Lesson # 6: Allow creativity to flow
Let your children be children, but most importantly let your children be themselves. This is a topic that has been heavy on my heart for a few months now and is one that I want to write in more detail about. I posted a picture on IG last month of my children wearing costumes as we went grocery shopping. When they asked me to wear them, I immediately said no, thinking it would be silly and not fitting for what we were going to be doing. They cried, and I eventually gave in and allowed them to wear it. As we walked down the aisles of the grocery store there was not one person that did not stop and compliment them. All the kids thought they were so cool. When I saw this, I felt so selfish. I felt like I was holding them back from truly expressing themselves.
Through our eyes this world may be dull, dangerous, unloving and some many other negative things, but this world through the eyes of a child is the most exciting, loving, innocent and beautiful place they have ever seen.
Don't let your children fall victim to your view of life or to your past. Let them have room to be creative and to explore the world the way it should be, so that it will create a beautiful future in their lives. Learn from your children. You will be surprised how much your children will teach you.
Lesson # 7: In all you do, let your family be your focus
In a world that is pulling you from every angle and demanding more and more from you and your time, let your family always be your focus. Let your family be your what and why. Ask yourself before taking on more, will this benefit my family? Of course, many opportunities will sound very good when presented, but not all are healthy for your family. Remember that opportunities come and go and so does money, but your kids being four or five years old won't come again. Keep your focus on your family in every decision and action that you take. They will thank you later.
Lesson # 8: Be firm, be corrective, but be gentle
Your kids need a firm hand in their life, that's why you are their dad, but they don't need firmness 24/7 365. Learn how to be gentle. Learn how to be gentle in your words and gentle in your actions. I have been privileged to have both boys and girls in my family and of course my girls love gentleness, but so does my son. We tend to think that boys need firmness all the time, but they also need gentleness just as much as the girls.
Know when it is a time for correction and know when it is time to give a hug. I tend to give my children about 2-3 warning before I discipline them. When I do, I do my best to do it either in the bathroom or in a room in private. Once I discipline them, if we are at home, I leave them in their room to think about what they did. After a few minutes of crying I come into their room, I get on my knees and I have them tell me why I disciplined them. Once they tell me what they did wrong, I embrace them and re-enforce the rules, but I do it in love and gentleness.
Your children just cannot just see firmness and that is it. They need to see a healthy balance of both firmness and gentleness.
Lesson # 9: Give counsel, but also listen
Not many fathers I know are good listeners. The bible says in Ecclesiastes 2 talks about there being a time for everything in our life. There is a time for us as fathers to give counsel, but there is also a time for us fathers to give a listening ear.
My daughter always exposes this weakness of mine to me. She knows when I am not listening to her and she will flat out yell, daddy right to my face to get my focus and she surely does.
You might have an older child that needs you to stop giving counsel and just needs you to listen.
Do it. You will be surprised at how much of an impact listening to your children can be.
Lesson # 10: Learn to let go and let your children fly
This lesson can also be tied into lesson six, but I wanted to write this to the more seasoned father's out there that have teenage, college or adult kids. I am not at this phase with my children nor want to be just yet, but I understand that the day will come that I too will have to let my children go. I can only imagine how difficult this can be if you are in this phase, but I also understand that it must be done.
As a father, you must trust that all you have instilled and placed in your children's lives and hearts will come to flourish in.
When you let your children go, understand that they might fail, but that doesn't mean that they are failures. Let them learn from there process and if they need you, trust me, they will come because they know daddy will always be there.
I love this poem titled, Footprints in the Sand. I think it exemplifies this lesson and everything it means to let go, but not be gone.
One night I dreamed a dream. As I was walking along the beach with my Lord. Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, One belonging to me and one to my Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that at many times along the path of my life, especially at the very lowest and saddest times, there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it. "Lord, you said once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life, there was only one set of footprints. I don't understand why, when I needed You the most, you would leave me."
He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you Never, ever, during your trials and testing. When you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you."
Don't hold your children back from what is driving them. Fuel their passion. Prepare their path and watch them fly.
(BONUS) Lesson # 11: Love God
I know I titled this, the ten lessons of fatherhood, but consider this lesson the cherry on top. This is the gasoline that makes the car run. This lesson can easily be lesson # 1.
This lesson is so important that even Jesus spoke about it in Luke 10:27 "He answered, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
Do your children know that you love God? Do your children see your love for God? Or let's go even further, do your children see the love of God through you? You can spend your life preaching to hundreds and thousands of people, but none of those people will know you the way that your children will know you.
How are you a reflection of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to your children? The greatest gift that you can give your child is Jesus. No money, career, education, fame, etc. can amount to the eternal value that Christ will bring to their lives.
So, I encourage you to show and express your love to God in front of your children. Let them see you pray. Let them see you read the bible. Let them see you serve. Let them see your love for God.
At the end of the day when this life has past, we will stand before the father and he will ask us all one question, what did you do with what I gave you? He gave you your children for a reason, so that you can be there leader. So, step up and be who your children need you to be.
You can search the world, but you will never find the perfect father. We all make mistakes. We all fall short, but let's be thankful that we have a great father up above that will never leave us and that will lead us to becoming the best father's we can be.