Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
This past Sunday we celebrated Father’s Day. Being a father of two young sons, I don’t feel qualified to say much about being a father to daughters, other than the obvious, that daughters need their fathers just as much as sons do. Having adult female friends who had a bad or even non-existent relationship with their fathers as children and seeing the long-term negative consequences that had on their lives has convinced me of this.
But in this blog I want to talk specifically about the relationship between a father and his male children. Although my sons are still very young I have learned some things which I hope will be helpful to other fathers as they attempt to raise functional, well-adjusted children who will hopefully grow up to be God-fearing, productive members of society who are equipped to be father’s to their own children someday.
Because, simply put, if a male child grows up without being properly mentored and taught by his father (or some other male role model), he will almost certainly grow into a dysfunctional adult, even if he is blessed to have an amazing mother who does her best to raise him herself. If ENOUGH boys grow up without a father-figure to teach them how to be fully-functional adults, an entire society can become unstable and begin to disintegrate from the inside out.
Is this ringing any bells for anyone yet?
Moving on, the most important thing that a father can do with his sons is to simply spend time with them. There’s all kinds of ways to do this, and they change as the seasons of life change. When my sons were still crawling around on the floor, I got them a set of wooden blocks so we could play with them together down there. It was tough on my knees and sometimes it got really boring, but I’m glad I did it.
As they got older they lost interest in the blocks so I gave them to a young couple in my congregation who had a newborn and asked that they pass them along in the same way when he lost interest. Then I went out and bought some magnetic blocks, LEGOs and more sophisticated toys for the indoors and a small soccer ball to kick around with them outside. This progression continued until I got my sons bicycles and other outdoor toys, including some baseball gloves and balls.
This is a good place to mention that not all boys are the same nor do they necessarily need or want the same things. I enjoyed playing baseball when I was a kid and my father helped coach my little league team. My sons enjoyed passing the ball around with me, which I took as a good sign, so as soon as they were old enough I signed them up for the little league baseball program here in Jerusalem and volunteered to help coach it, thinking I’d follow my father’s example and that my sons would naturally follow mine in our respective rolls.
But that’s not what happened.
Although I did my best to coach them, neither one of my sons enjoyed going to the baseball field very much and I’m not prepared to force them to stay with it if they don’t like it. So, now I’m contemplating what other “father-son things” we can do together and finding to my horror that my older son’s favorite toy is a basketball. I’ll take him and his little brother to the park in the evenings and he’ll spend an hour trying to toss that little ball up into the hoop. I hope this is just a passing phase because I never played basketball and I don’t enjoy watching it. But I guess if that’s the sport he picks as his favorite I’m just gonna have to deal with it.
My sons and I also enjoy more cerebral pursuits such as coloring together, playing board games, arts and crafts with clay, construction paper, glue, etc. and many other things. This is not just “family fun” for its own sake, because we also do family devotions every evening before bedtime. This consists of my wife reading the Bible to everyone, then leading us in a worship song or two before I (Dad) lead them in bedtime prayers.
They are willing and eager to do these family devotions every evening in part because I spend so much time with them during the day. If I had ignored them all day and then come into their room late in the evening to do bedtime devotions, that probably wouldn’t go very well.
It is VITALLY important for you to remember that if you want to pass your faith on to your children, they need to feel loved by you and the only way they’ll feel loved by you is if you spend time with them. It won’t always be enjoyable to spend time with your children, but I can GUARANTEE that something you WON’T enjoy is the results of failing to spend time with them. If you don’t raise your children, someone else will, and you probably won’t like the results.
Another way to to do something good for your children is to love their mother well. A failure to do this will make them feel insecure, and insecurity is toxic to a child’s mental and emotional health. Beyond that, your sons will get their model for how to treat women from watching how you treat their mother, and your daughters will get their idea about how a woman should allow herself to be treated from watching how you treat their mother.
Last but definitely not least, you must never forget that children form their first impressions about who God is and what He’s like from observing their biological father. Those first, childlike impressions will have a profound influence on them all their lives, whether they realize it or not. So if you want them to reject God, it’s very easy. Just provoke them to anger and wrath by treating them badly, neglecting them, hurting their mother, or otherwise being a jerk.
If, however, you want them to WANT to have a good relationship with God, than you have to make the effort to have a good, warm, loving, disciplined yet gracious relationship with them yourself. It’s a big responsibility, but the downside of failing to live up to it is even bigger.
So Happy Father’s Day to all the father’s out there. I hope reading this blog blessed your life.