How does a man learn how to be a Father? I grew up with a hardworking German father. He was great with math though he only went to the fourth grade. Unfortunately, he could not understand why I was not good at math. He learned two trades in his life time, millwright and pipe fitter, and could not understand why I did not want to be a tradesman. He was a strong union man and could not understand why I was not. He was a Democrat and could not understand why did not want to be a party man. He was 43 when I was born and in order to earn a good living for us he worked long hours. The other men in my limited exposure during the teen years were not good models of fatherhood. They were a variety of first or second generation men of European decent providing me with a very mixed perspective on manhood.
At twenty-nine, with the birth of my daughter, I was confronted with the question, “How do I learn how to be a father?” Perhaps one of the good things I had going for me was the fact that I knew I did not know the answer to this question. The second good thing I had going for me was the fact that my wife came from a great family and a great church where she saw good fatherhood modeled. I will always remember the day when my wife knelt down in front of my five or six year old son, placed her hands on his shoulders and said to him, “Son, look me in the eye” and very firmly but gently explained to him how his disobedience was displeasing to the Lord and her. She walked him through the consequences of his thinking that under lied his behavior. She was not attempting to instruct me, but she did.
So, Father, or perhaps Mom with a husband like me, how do you learn to be a father. Let me make some practical suggestions. First of all, become a good Christian man. This raises another question. What is a good Christian? I certainly cannot answer this question with any depth here, but I can give the fundamentals. Being a good Christian man begins by putting your faith in Jesus Christ to forgive you for your sin. Being a good Christian man continues by spiritual exercise. Meditate your way through Bible passages several times a week. Pray daily using this simple process: adoration, confession and petition. Attend a Christ-centered Bible believing church and adult Sunday School every Sunday. Participate in a small group Bible study weekly. Share your spiritual journey with your wife daily. This is how you learn how to manage and transform your humanity (selfishness, anger, values, etc.).
Second, love your wife and lovingly lead her! There is little that will impact your children more than being a good Christian man who loves his wife. An affectionate, respectful and engaged relationship affords security that in turn provides a framework for open honest communication.
Third, read solid Christian books like Shepherding A Child’s Heart (while your have small children), and The Age of Opportunity (when children enter teen years). In my opinion these two books should be handbooks to which you refer with great frequency. Ask your pastor to recommend others. If you tend not to be a reader you can find pod casts from Family Life Today or Focus on the Family. Again, seek assistance from your Pastor.
Fourth, seek a mentor. Look for men in your sphere of influence who have good relationships with their adult children who are also successfully negotiating life. Approach one or two of these men and offer to treat them to lunch periodically because you would like to tap into the wisdom that enabled them to be father’s of godly adult children. My spiritual father who was my mentor on many fronts was certainly a great help to me. I also watched men whose children were unsuccessful and would ask myself, “What he is doing or not doing as a father that is contributing to his children’s choices?”
Fifth, be humble. When you sin before your children, humble yourself to admit your sin and ask for their forgiveness. Let them know that you have already humbled yourself before God, owned your sin (for disrespecting them by screaming at them and calling them names) and sought forgiveness from God. You will be modeling responsibility, humility and courage. You will be teaching them the art of forgiving—something many children find very difficult. You will also be creating a teaching moment in which you can cite a passage from Scripture that convicted you of your sin.
Have a great Father’s Day! Rejoice in the Lord for affording you the wonderful privilege to love your child and to train your child to carry the gospel to the next generation.