I want to help you become a better dad and grow in your faith. First, let me encourage you for reading this; it means that you are seeking to improve in some way. It shows that you are making an effort to be the best dad and man of God you can be. I’ve heard it put this way, “Don’t compare yourself to others. Compare yourself to the man you were yesterday.” Whatever your reasons are for reading this, I truly hope you find something helpful; so let’s get to the list of how you can become a better dad this week!
1. Spend less time advising and criticizing, and more time loving and encouraging
Two months before my son went to college as a freshman, I put a sticky note on my mirror that said: “Reminders: Don’t criticize. Don’t advise. Just love and encourage.” That list really helped me in that season of parenting. I was spending too much time criticizing him and telling him what to do. Do I mean we should not give advice or direction or have rules as parents? Of course not. But during this time of our lives, as my son was getting ready to experience a big transition, what he needed from me was a dad that he could talk to anytime, without condemnation or judgment. He needed a dad that let him know he respected him and recognized that he was becoming his own man.
Does that mean I always agreed with what he said or his decisions? No. But I listened; I supported; I loved; I encouraged. He is still at college and, most importantly to me, he is still communicating openly with me. We may not always agree, but as long as there is open communication, I feel like we are making progress. While there are many times that we parents have to provide important direction, discipline, and advice to our children, I have found in my life as a dad that sometimes my kids just want to be heard, not “fixed.”
This week, I encourage you, when you’re about to fix a situation for your child or tell them how to do something (especially your older children), go to them instead with a supportive, listening mindset. Ask them to explain to their point of view, then really listen! Avoid the temptation to interrupt, debate, or drive home your point. Then you can work on the solution together, through discussion. Show them that you love them and encourage them.
2. Spend intentional time praying with your children
Praying together as father and child is a beautiful thing. It shows them that you don’t have all the answers. It models humility and surrenders to God’s way instead of your way. It shows that you respect God. It teaches them to respect God and it brings the two of you together.
It doesn’t have to be a study of the book of Leviticus, followed by a sermon podcast and thirty minutes of prayer by candlelight, but I’m also not talking about a simple “rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub” prayer before mealtime! Prayers before meals are great; we believe in that too. But I’m talking about a separate and intentional prayer time, even for five or ten minutes.
Don’t know where to start? Try asking the question, “What do you need prayer for?” or “What should we thank God for today?” Praying together can be a valuable relationship builder. Regardless of when or how you do it, it will bring you together and show your children that you value them and love them by spending time together. It also teaches them to value and love God by spending time with Him.
3. Increase time dedicated to faith-building
We spend time on things that are important to us. If we want to be fathers who are grounded in our faith in God, we need to spend time developing that faith. That means faith-building activities need to be moved up on the priority scale. Time with God needs to be moved up on the priority scale. This can include church, personal prayer, bible reading, or using worship music. If you spend time on your relationship with God, it will improve. You will increase your capacity to parent in God’s power. Your wife and children will see how you are being a role model for them. Remember, our actions speak louder than words!
4. Schedule a “date” with each of your children
One of the greatest days I ever had was a “date” I had with my daughter a few years ago. She was about 13 at the time. I scheduled it with her in advance and we had the whole day planned together. We went to an art museum, a botanical garden, and some other local attractions and enjoyed a great lunch out. That day changed and solidified our relationship–that ONE day–it was truly amazing!
That day also resulted in my favorite picture. At one of our stops, my daughter and I took a picture in one of those photo booths. The picture is all grainy and just printed on a regular piece of paper, but it hangs on my fridge and reminds me of how much I love her and what an awesome day we had. It also reminds me to intentionally schedule other dates with her, my son, and my wife. Try scheduling a date with each of your children. This will let them know that you truly value them and care about them.
So there you have it, four ways you can become a better dad this week. I encourage you to try at least one of them! Please help other parents by adding your own ideas, as you comment and share this post with others!
This post originally appeared on changedthroughfaith.com and was republished with permission.