As I have said in a previous post, I like to wait to post this that many would deem New Years Resolutions for the simple fact that we tend to fail at resolutions. Whenever you step into a new year the top 10 lists abound. Many of them are a waste, a few of them are helpful, and some are even harmful. My hope is not that this list would simply become a good thing you read at the and then forget all about it. That is one reason I didn’t post this right away but waited until February
As a dad of four kids, I find myself frustrated with my fathering skills more than I find myself pleased with them. These ten things don’t grow out of a sense of arrival at the mecca of fatherhood, they grow out of a recommitment to attempting to do these things in my own life.
- Pray over, for, and with your children - one of the greatest things you can do for your children is to pray. What this means in my life is my children and I spend time praying together. I also have a 3X5 card for each of my children and have Bible verses on them that I pray for my kids, and things I know they need me to be praying for them. Finally, pray over your children. This can be silent prayers when you are hanging out, or when they are angry or frustrated. Often I will go into their room after they are asleep and pray that Jesus would save their souls or pray for their hearts to delight more in Jesus.
- Get on the floor more - I have a 7-year-old, 5-year-old, 2-year-old, and 1 month old, so floor time is the best. This means not sitting on the couch watching them play, but actually getting on the floor and playing legos, dolls, or whatever it is they would like to play. If your kids are older, this will look different. It might mean getting on the basketball court, the bike, the weight room, or whatever it is they like to do.
- Know them better - My five-year old doesn’t really like toys (other than legos). What he likes is tools and grown-up things. So to try to make him play with blocks is not going to work. However, my seven-year old could care less about tools, he likes video games, legos and monster trucks. Dads, we need to know what it is that our children like to do, each of them, and do that.
- Read scriptures with them - Our children need to see us read scripture on our own, but they also need to hear us read it to them. There is a great little book called Our Home is Like a Little Church. It rightfully argues that the dad is like the pastor (shepherd) of the family. Dad, you are to lead your children to treasure God’s Word. I do not see how you can do this if they do not see you reading it and hear you reading it with them (not at them!)
- Show them you love their mom - One thing my dad always did was show us that he loved my mom. I have heard different people say that the Cousineau boys know how to treat their wives, and I would say if there is a shred of truth to this, it is because my dad always showed us that he loved my mom. If you want your sons to be good husbands, show them how to love their mom. If you want your daughter to marry a great God-fearing man, you better show them what one looks like.
- Take them out alone - I have four kids (three of whom are old enough of go out), and I try to make sure that I take them out alone. Usually this means letting them pick a coffee shop, a game, or a book and heading out for an hour or two to just chat and drink hot cocoa or, for my five-year old, a latte – he has good taste!
- Turn off the screen(s) - If your family time is in front of a glowing object, I am going to be blunt with you, it is not family time. Now I am not saying renting a family movie every now and then is bad, remember point 3 you need to know your kids. However if your hands are glued to your iPad, smart-phone, or the remote to change the channel, then you are failing at your role of leading your kids!
- Ask forgiveness - If you are like me, you lose it with your children. You say things or do things you should not have done. The worst thing you can do when this happens is to simply brush it off or act like it didn’t happen. I can’t count the number of times I have sat down with my kids, held their shoulders and looked into their eyes, often with tears in my own, and asked them to forgive their dad for the sin I had just committed to them. You are not perfect, don’t make your kids think you are.
- Live on Mission - Your children need to see that you live your life for more than yourself, your wants, and your hobbies. Your children should see you pick up a hitchhiker and invite neighbors to cookouts and parties at your house. They should go to bed and have other people sitting on your couch who are there to chat. They should see that you spend your money on people who have real needs.
- Watch and care for your soul - One of the best things you can do for your family is care for your soul. Who is discipling you? Who are you intentionally discipline? What are you planning on reading this year to become a better dad, husband, or follower of Jesus? For many of us, if we would spend 1/10th of the time on our soul as we do our hobby, the change would be astounding. This means we need to be students of the gospel, and growing as a father.
What else did I miss? What could I add to this list of ways to be a better father?