Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them…
In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve. The first institution that God established was the institution of marriage, and the first thing He did in Genesis 1 after their creation was to bless Adam and Eve and command them to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). This means that the first mountain of culture that God established and intended for us to steward was the family mountain. Our Father, God, is the best Dad in the whole world. Is it any wonder that God would have wisdom for us to learn as earthly fathers, so that we may lead our families as He leads us, His children?
As a father to 4 amazing adult children and the grandpa to 5 delightful grandchildren, I know that my role as a father is important in modeling the heart and ways of Father God to them. This is just one of the reasons why as a society we really must reverse the trend of diminishing the significance of fathers in raising happy, healthy, and whole children.
On Sunday we celebrate Father’s Day. There is a tremendous need in our world today for godly fathers (natural and spiritual fathers) to come forth and instill identity in this generation. Fathering isn’t easy, but it is beyond worth it and God gives us grace and wisdom to lead our families well, when we seek His guidance (James 1:5). In over 37 years of parenting I have learned that there are certain foundations to godly fatherhood, and while this list isn’t exhaustive, it’s a meaningful starting place for building a godly legacy, as a father.
1. how Children spell “love”: t-i-m-e
Spending quality time with your children is essential. Various studies on trends in the American family have repeatedly found unfortunate statistics, which state that fatherless children, or children with absentee fathers, have higher rates of incarceration, poor academic performance in school, poverty, and emotional distress. Consistent quality time with your children is the building block for a healthy and strong relationship with them. When our children feel loved they grow in trust and we are better able to speak much needed truth into their lives. It isn’t enough for us to just put a roof over our children’s heads, we have to spend time with our kids to speak identity into them as young men and women of God.
It is through the investment of your time that your children are discipled in the ways of the Lord, learn godly values, and grow in their self-esteem and character. We live in a world that is constantly grabbing and working for our children’s attention. If we don’t invest quality time in our children the culture, media, and the world around us will have more of a say in how our children develop and grow than we will. A sign of Kingdom revival is the unity of the generations, specifically fathers and children. It is important for us to have the hearts of our children and the only way we are going to have that kind of access to our kids is through time.
And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers…
2. AFFECTION IS ESSENTIAL
Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.
One of the ways that we, as fathers, lead, train up, and set the course of development for our children is through the affection we demonstrate to them. Our affection and affirmation bring security to our children from the very youngest of ages. Healthy affirming touch has been linked to brain development in infants and child experts generally agree that children need a certain number of touches a day to make a positive impact in reducing anxiety and help the child construct a healthy sense of self.
One of the ways that we reflect to our children how we see and feel about them is through our affection, and that doesn’t only include touch. Our emotional and physical affection can greatly impact how they develop their identity. A son develops his security and identity as a man from his father’s affection and a daughter her femininity from her father’s affection. Past generations of fathers were less affectionate with their sons, leaving the emotional and physical affirmation to the mother, focusing on sports and other activities that they thought would build them up as men. But the opposite is true. With each of my children I’ve made it a priority to spend personal time affirming them, and demonstrating love tangibly to them. One thing I did was taking our children fishing, especially with my eldest, Gabe.
In fact, Gabe and I are going to go fishing in a few weeks. Although Sue and I are empty-nesters and all of our children are adults, you never stop parenting and being there for your kids. The roles are different now that they have grown up, but affection, and quality time are still essential to having a voice and place in their adult lives.
3. Speak life
Verbal affirmation is so crucial to us walking in the calling and destiny God has for us that even Jesus received the verbal affirmation of the Father before beginning His earthly ministry at 30.
16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
In terms of identity, a father brings clear identity to the children and reflects the Father God. When the Father spoke over Jesus He stated affirmation (“beloved”), pleasure (“I am well pleased”), and identity (“Son”). So we see that the father’s voice in a child’s life is so important to launching them in life. That means, for instance, I tell my daughters, “You are beautiful, smart, and talented.” And I say to my son, “You are so brilliant, handsome, and I’m proud of you.” When you praise your children be specific when they do something good.
4. discipline in love
My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline,
and don’t be upset when he corrects you.
12 For the Lord corrects those he loves,
just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.
Disciplining your children is one way that you show that you love them. Children naturally want healthy boundaries because they create a sense of safety and care for them. As the head of our household I didn’t just delegate the disciplining of our children to Sue. I chose to lead our family in the manner in which we disciplined our children. An important part of discipline is to be specific about what they are being disciplined for, and to always do it in love. I would never spank or correct in anger. Sue and I would use a neutral object, such as a lightweight wooden spoon (not meant to hurt), so that the hands that caress and hug are not the ones that spank. Then we would pray with our children and coach them to ask Jesus to forgive them for disobeying mommy and daddy.
Parenting in this manner teaches your children that is is important for them to take responsibility for their positive or negative choices. Ultimately, godly discipline is meant to set your children up for success and good character. We disciplined our children to help protect and guide them for their future. The father needs to take leadership in their area as part of the responsibility for being the head of the home. Godly discipline communicates to your children, “I love you and I care about your destiny.”
5. love their mother well
The best thing you can do for your children is demonstrate love to their mom. Through honoring, loving, and serving in your home you are creating a godly example of what a marriage and a family should be like. Another way that you model godly relationships to your children is to ask for forgiveness in front of your children when you make mistakes with your wife. It is important for our children to see their father practice humility and repentance. Some men feel like it is a sign of weakness to admit mistakes, but in fact it demonstrates strength. The father has the responsibility to represent Christ to their family.
25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word… 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself.
When fathers love their wife as Christ loved the church your children will get to see your marriage as healthy, happy, and loving and they develop a tremendous sense of security, and will be more likely to get married themselves. Studies show that children of divorced parents are less likely to marry. Providing finances, protection, and essentials are natural things that many men think of when we think about what a father needs to do, but loving your wife well, and these other foundations for fatherhood are the very things that many of us need to be reminded of in order for us to have a healthy family.