Thursday, June 18, 2009

How to Be a Great Dad

Don’t let the title fool you. I haven’t mastered fatherhood by any stretch. My kids will vouch for that. But, over the past decade, I have learned some things - mostly through making mistakes - that have aided in my paternal development. So, in honor of Father’s Day– here are five ways you can be a better dad to your kids.
  1. Love their mom. When you love your wife and show your affection to her, your children are much more secure. Flowers and diamonds are nice, but that isn’t exactly what I am talking about. Flirt with her. Hug and kiss her. Go out on date nights together, so your kids can see you have a thriving relationship. Great dads love their kids’ moms.

  2. Embrace your role as Leader. The man is appointed as the spiritual head of the household. That is not up for debate. Even if you never go to church, read your Bible, say prayers, or think of anyone but yourself, you (the dad) are the spiritual leader in your home. Just because you are the leader doesn’t mean you are an effective one, or that you are making the wise choice every time. But, you are the leader nonetheless.

    True male role models are scarce these days, and many guys simply hand the reigns over to their wives to raise the kids and be the spiritual influence. Research has shown that if the father is an active believer (in Christ), his kids have a 75 percent chance to also come to know Christ. If only the mother has an active relationship with Jesus, that percentage plummets to a mere 15 percent. Big deal. A dad’s influence continues to be more powerful than we imagine.

  3. Discipline your children. Proverbs 13:24 says, A refusal to correct is a refusal to love; love your children by disciplining them. (MSG) It’s easy to identify children who have little or no parental discipline. Now, discipline doesn’t mean “a whoopin’.” It means correction. It means privileges FOLLOW responsibility. It means making unpopular decisions that are in your kids’ best interest. And, it must start before they can talk. Almost always, a parent who attempts to begin to discipline their kids after age 5 or 6 will give up the fight because of the resistance with which they are met. Provide loving discipline at an early age, and watch your kids thrive.

  4. Get away. Not FROM your kids; WITH your kids. There will always be enough work to keep you busy. But, precious time with your family is something you won’t get back. Dads are divided. They have an obligation to their jobs, but a yearning to spend time with their families. Sadly, most choose work first and put off family time until later, “after I complete this business deal…or merger…or earn ‘this much’ money.”

    In his book, When the Game is Over, it All Goes Back in the Box, John Ortberg lists four regrets people have in their finals years on earth. Three of these regrets are profoundly affected by the amount of time one spends with family: I would have loved more deeply; I would have laughed more often; and I would have lived more boldly. It’s tough to avoid these areas of regret if your family plays second-fiddle. Work can wait. Believe me…it can.

  5. Be kind. This is probably the toughest one for me. When I spend all day working, I can sometimes come home in a rotten mood. The truth of the matter is that the best part of our day is often spent at work. For me, my best time of day is mid-morning. I’m at work, and the kids are at school. So, I have to work extra-hard to adjust my mind and heart to be kind and affirming to my kids when I see them each evening. Kids are excited to get to spend time with dad after he’s been gone all day. Don’t thwart that enthusiasm because you “had a long day.” Your kids love you, and can help you forget the stress and distractions of work, if you’ll focus on their needs.

    Second, we as dads need to be kind to others. Our kids’ character depends on it. If they witness you being kind to others, they are likely to treat people the same way. When parents have a short fuse or are overly critical, you can bet the kids will adopt a similar attitude. In the end, the apple will not fall far from the tree. Children will learn behavior from their parents – and their dads in particular. They are ALWAYS paying attention – whether you realize it or not.

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