Advice from dads who have walked the road before
My first-born child is due in November this year, and I’m excited like you can’t believe! I take every moment I get to talk to my wife’s belly and I don’t care how weird it looks… even if we are in public!
However, I’m also nervous. I don’t know what to expect.
These are some of the fears going through my head as I’m writing:
1. Will I break her?
2. Will she love me?
3. Will my parenting be an obstruction in her path to knowing Jesus?
4. I don’t know how to raise a girl!!! They’re from a different planet!
5. What if she’s a really tough child?
6. What if I don’t discipline right? How do you discipline right?
Having this in mind, and knowing that Father’s Day is around the corner, I asked some men in our church for advice. This is what they responded with:
The things I have found most striking about fatherhood is the realisation that you can’t make your children into Christians, but you can turn them into Pharisees. As a father, you need to reflect Christ to your children in an honest – not hypocritical way; pray (a lot) that they come to know Christ as their ultimate treasure; give guidance but also give your kids space to make choices (even wrong choices) so that they can learn from their mistakes.
Most importantly, never assume that they are Christians. Be aware that gospel bubble wrap does not protect from the sin that comes from the heart (Jer 17:9). Authentic heart transformation of your children is your greatest desire.
We are all given 24 hours per day. How we spend it is what makes the difference. We all need to sleep, work, eat, and so on. What do we do with our discretionary time?
It has been said that a teenager spells ‘love’ like this: TIME. Time is precious to us and to those we interact with, so how we use it reflects where our heart is.
Christ has called us to a life of service. This is often easy to say but hard to live out, and nothing tests my unwillingness to serve more than being a parent. I feel like I’ve been stretched, dragged and sometimes left thinking if sleep is necessary for human existence. However, it has been the most joyous adventure of my life! I see now why serving has far greater worth than being self-centred.
As a child (and even now as an adult), I often heard parents bark the old adage of “Don’t do as I do, do as I say!” at their children. As a father, I can think of few things further from the truth. Children exercise “behavioural modelling”, which means that they are more likely to do and emulate what they see being done, than do what they are told.
So, whilst it is critical to ensure that we follow Ephesians 6:4 to “… bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”, the method by which we do this as godly fathers, is to ensure that we show and model our own dependence on our heavenly Father to our children. The role of a dad is to point our children to the ultimate hero, the Lord Jesus!
- Always, especially if the child is very young, put your child on your chest for attachment purposes. It helps form the bond between father and child.
- Always talk and relate to your wife in a godly manner in the presence of your child – even when you think the child is too young to understand. They learn a lot by how you act.
- When they start talking, always pay attention to their questions, and don’t just pass it off with a quick one-liner. Give thought to your response.
- Don’t always allow your child to have his/ her own way. Even if you have what they want, it’s good to teach them self-control.
What a privilege to have had a generous loving father (and father-in-law!) who was always involved in the life of our family and backed me continuously.
What a delight to be the father of 4 wonderfully created, uniquely different children.
What a blessing to be a Dad and to be actively involved in the lives of my children.
What a joy to have a heavenly Father who has redeemed me by his Son, indwells me by His Spirit and promises me eternal life in His presence.
What a pleasure to point my children to such a perfect heavenly Father: life goes so quickly so always have an eternal perspective.
You are going to make many, many, many mistakes. Even your idealism is a mistake. You are going to sin against your daughter; sin against her mother; sin against others while she is watching. So be ready to say you are sorry, often, and mean it. And when she says sorry, be ready to forgive, quickly and freely. She doesn’t just need to hear you speak about repentance and faith in Christ – more than anything, she needs to see you live it out. So be ready to say you are sorry.
That… and learn something about tying hair before your wife takes her first holiday.
- Be prepared to sleep less.
You’ll have less sleep all-round and some sleepless nights. It’s incredible how one little person can cause so much tiredness.
In the midst of all this, do not forget to give your wife the break she deserves – offering yourself to burn the midnight oil is a good suggestion as it allows her to get rest. She has to be able to nap during the day whilst you bond with the little one… it’s a team effort.
- Love your wife enough to ensure that she does not feel like she is second choice.
It’s your job to make sure she rests as much as possible and doesn’t feel a lot of pressure to take care of stuff around the house. You pick up the slack wherever possible so that she is able to rest.
BE INVOLVED – FATHERHOOD IS A JOURNEY- enjoy the ride.
A few thoughts…
- Pray for your children every day. Show them that Jesus is the centre of your life.
- Live in such a way that they will be proud to be your children. The fruits of the Spirit must be evident in your life. Resist sin and temptation.
- Spend as much time as you can with them, even if it means giving up TV, sport etc… and enjoy it. Don’t just pretend to enjoy it.
- Tell them you love them every day… 2 or 3 times a day… or more.
- If you have a spouse, love him/her, have fun together, be together. Sacrifice your own desires and ambitions in order to spend time together as a family.
- Provide for their needs, not their greeds.
- Find the balance between love and discipline. Set and maintain the boundaries, as best you can, bearing in mind each child is unique. Always be fair.
Get in there fast. Young kids watch you so closely without you noticing it. Live your love for Jesus overtly so they can learn a love for Him through what you do and not just what you say. Don’t leave the parenting to Mom. Develop a bond with your children where you can foster a love for Christ from the get-go. If you wait till they are ready to leave home, it is probably too late to have a profound influence. Even then, keep up talking to them and praying for their love for Jesus.
Most importantly, a godly father has to accept the authority of Christ and of the Bible. The Bible is very clear that daily the husband and father must strive to not break the relationship with his wife and kids. Otherwise his prayers just bounce between the floor and the ceiling. So he has to clear things with his peeps including his children. He must also be forgiving as he is also forgiven. Put bluntly: a great father knows that Christ wears the pants around the house and he bows to His authority. This is the foundation for great fatherhood otherwise one becomes a man whistling in the wind with absolutely not principles and direction which is dangerous and toxic.
Erik Van Den Top
1. Listen to your wife as she’s always right.
2. You and your wife need to be on the same page in terms of discipline and parenting. Children tend to play their parents off each other. It’s good to come across as a united front.
3. In a family, the wife comes first and then your kids. Don’t forget that!
4. You are a parent until they are an adult. Prepare for this from the start. When they leave the home, you can still help sometimes, but you have to let them go. You are not accountable for their actions.