I am the father of an adult son and daughter and the grandfather of a granddaughter and grandson. Am a practicing Licensed Clinical Psychologist of 40 years and founder and president of Christian Psychotherapy Services. I provide marital and family therapy as well as training on how to improve parenting skills from a Christian perspective. In this article, I want to emphasize how important Christian fathers are in raising up their children.
A Father’s Role
As a Christian I believe the Bible is very clear about a fathers role in parenting their children and how important children are to their parents. In fact, in Psalm 127:3-5 declares that children are a blessing and a gift from God and to be cherished by their fathers. However, we live in a society that research sadly points out that today there are more children growing up in families with absent fathers than any other time in America’s history.
Many of these children grow up not feeling cherished or very important due to the lack of involvement from their fathers. I think God teaches us that both parents are important in the parenting process and has created mothers and fathers with different specific innate characteristics to accomplish that task as taught in Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way they should go; even when they are old they will not depart from it.”
A father likewise provides discipline to children (Proverbs 3:12). Mothers tend to be more nurturing, verbalize more and offer more words of affirmation. Fathers tend to have higher expectations and encourage them to deliver on those consistently. Fathers tend to be more direct and use fewer words and seem to be tougher from a disciplinary standpoint in order to prepare them for the real world. This does not mean that all moms and dads are like this and most are capable of learning some of each others parenting styles..
CHRISTIAN FATHERS RESPONSIBILITIES
The number one and greatest responsibility is to teach their children about God through Scripture. God uses the Christian father as an instrument for Discipline (Guidance, Direction and Correction). Ephesians 6:4 states “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” A father with wisdom seeks to make obedience desirable and attainable by love and gentleness.
The second most important responsibility is to be a role model for your children. They learn by observing and copying the good and bad behaviors. Daughters will choose husbands that are like you and sons will treat the wives they choose based on the way you treat their mother. Show respect to others. When you mess up admit your mistakes and use them as a teaching opportunity. It is extremely important to take your children to church to show you love the Lord and increase common beliefs between you and your children about God.
One of the greatest virtues is Humility. My father demonstrated this virtue many times in my life but it wasn’t until I was a father that I recognized all of them. One example that had a profound impact on my life when I was a teenager and had an argument with him. It was very heated and I felt that my dad didn’t care about me at that point in my life. I decided to just leave and not come back.
So, I stayed out the entire weekend without letting my parents know where I was. I eventually came to my senses and returned home. My dad was sitting in the backyard as I drove up. I thought for sure I was going to get the riot act and be grounded for the rest of the year. Instead, my dad said in a calm voice, “I was so worried about you and prayed you were ok” as tears streamed down his face. I never expected that and I immediately felt shame for my behavior but genuine grace and love from my dad. I often tell fathers that story and let them know that Real Men shed tears over their children in difficult times and joyous times.
Make Time for your Children
It is essential that you allocate time for your children. This begins in early childhood when you help bathe them, dress them, put them to bed, read bedtime stories to them, play with them one on one, helping with homework, going fishing, going swimming, going to the beach, etc.. Go to all of the events that they are involved in at school and church. I have so many patients tell me that their dads never went to any of their events while growing up and it felt like their dads cared more about work, friends or hobbies and didn’t love or care for them.
Be A Good Communicator
Listening is the first step in being a good communicator. If you listen to them without interrupting or being impatient or angry you will show them that you are genuinely interested in them. They are more likely to share their thoughts and feelings with you. It is important to communicate at least 3 positive things to your children every day. This can take the form of Exhortation or encouragement.
Examples are , ” I really like the way you completed your homework, “I am so glad you are my son or daughter”, “I had a great time playing that game with you it was so much fun”. When you are giving encouragement or praise be sure to point out something that is true. Don’t tell your child he is really smart when he just failed a test that he studied for.. Instead, say “I know you really studied really hard for that test and I know you are disappointed you didn’t pass it. I really appreciate your effort. I am sure you will do better next time. Maybe I can help you in your studies next time if you like.”
Give Loving Discipline
Discipline includes advice, correction, education and boundaries or rules. Children really thrive when they have routines. This helps them to know what to expect. For example, routines include set bedtimes, bath times, when to get up, when to eat, daily chores. When children don’t have routines and boundaries they experience symptoms of anxiety and insecurity. On the other hand, to much control or rules takes away the sense of security as well. Try to find a healthy balance. The primary role of parenting is to raise up their children so they can become independent. Independence means they are able to make appropriate decisions based on self-confidence, faith, and logical thinking.
Discipline requires that fathers need to be in control of their emotions and not have temper outbursts with their children. This is emotionally destructive to the child. In my professional experience, I have found that parents will parent the same way they were parented. In many cases, this may not be a healthy choice if you were parented by dysfunctional parents. Instead, I recommend taking parenting classes that emphasize how to discipline children with love and respect. This can include training on Logical and Natural consequence, Communication, Spiritual Interventions, etc.. Many churches offer these classes on a regular basis.
In closing it is obvious that there is more involved in being a father then what I presented here. Realistically, even when you try your best to be a good father you are not going to be perfect. However, to the extent you apply the above noted responsibilities in a loving and caring way you can truly be a great Christian father.