I believe the breakdown of the family is the single greatest contributor to the challenges we currently face in our society. That’s a topic for another post, but perhaps the greatest factor in the breakdown of the family is poor leadership by fathers. I am amazed at the truth to the statement by John Maxwell when he says “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” Whether it is our President leading the country, a CEO leading a business or non-profit, or fathers leading a family…God designed the “organization” to be led well.
When it comes to leading a family, I will say from the start that I am no expert. However, I’ve learned some things along the way through experience and observation that I think can be applied in any family. I also have a great Dad that I learned from every day…and who I still learn from even though he’s now 80! Here are a few things I’ve learned:
5 Ways Fathers Can Lead Their Children Well:
1. Love them.
I know, I know…seems kind of obvious, doesn’t it? But can I tell you, as a Children’s & Family Pastor for 20 years I saw way too many instances where I honestly could not tell that Dad loved his wife and kids.
I believe that a father’s love – or lack of it – is one piece of childhood that makes the most profound impact in shaping us in to the people we become.
And it’s not only if a father’s love is present, but it’s how a father loves. In a word, our love for our kids needs to be unconditional. That’s easy to say, but too often I think we Dad’s don’t really understand what that means.
Here’s what it means:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
That’s how we are to love our children unconditionally.
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2. Like them.
There’s a difference between loving and liking someone. In my view, loving someone means we are “all in” in every circumstance. Regardless of whether it’s good, bad or ugly, we’re committed to them.
Liking, to me, focuses on the good.
We focus on good when we choose to focus on their strengths.
We focus on good when we strive to provide for their best interest.
We focus on good when we know what makes them smile, and seek to initiate it.
We focus on good when we take every opportunity to have fun and make life enjoyable with that person.
When we like someone, we focus on the good that they offer, and the good that we can offer them, in our relationship.
Loving unconditionally plus liking by focusing on the good is a powerful way that a father can lead his family.
3. Limit them.
When my boys were young, we lived in a more rural setting. There were snakes (which we learned from, by the way…see that story here). It got really dark at night. There was a road nearby that cars liked to speed along way over the speed limit.
There were lots of things that could harm kids.
We loved it. And we embraced it by going on hikes and occasionally finding those snakes. We looked at them (from a safe distance) and enjoyed being near them. We went out at night a looked at the stars. And we drove that road everyday to come and go from our house.
The snakes, the darkness and the road were all good things. But they could also be dangerous. A snake could easily bite and kill my young sons. The darkness could easily lead to getting lost if they wandered off by themselves at night. And the road, well, we saw more than one vehicle not make it around the corner right by our house – we needed to keep the boys with us instead of allowing them out there by themselves.
In other words, we limited them when appropriate.
Limitations bring freedom in many ways. They protect us. They teach us. They guide us to growth.
Of course, limiting children from rattlesnakes, darkness and speeding cars is just the beginning. We also need to limit them in other areas. Technology. Friendships. Exposure to ungodly philosophies. And so much more.
The hard part is knowing when to move or lift the boundaries, and how to expose them to enough within the boundaries that their growth isn’t stunted. But that’s for another post.
When a father provides boundaries and limit our children appropriately, he leads them well.
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4. Labor with them.
There are few things a Dad can pass on to children than a strong work ethic. But that’s not the only thing I’m referring to when I say “labor with them”.
Being a Dad takes a lot of work. Work with your child(ren).
Running down the road 40 times next to the child trying to learn how to ride their bike is hard.
Sitting day after day listening to them read can be excruciating (just being real here!).
Being consistent with discipline day after day is laborious.
Being a Dad takes work! And it takes work with our children.
Day after day. Year after year.
Leading our children well means putting in the work with them in the things that matter, throughout their life.
5. Learn from them.
I have two amazing young men as sons. I love them both dearly and, honestly, could not be more proud of them.
But they are different.
Very different. They think different. They act different. They express themselves different.
And if I tried to raise them exactly the same, I would have failed. I needed to learn how to raise them the way they need to be raised.
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.
Now first of all, too often we focus on the latter part of the verse, thinking that this is some sort of guarantee that we can raise them in such a way that they will never fall away from the faith. It’s not.
Rather, emphasis should be focused on the first part of the verse: “Train up a child in the way he should go…”
What this means, simply put, is that we are to raise children according to who they are. This might take into account their personality, their learning styles, their strengths and weaknesses, their circumstances, etc.
When we do this, we equip them for living life successfully.
But we can’t do that unless we know them. And we can’t know them unless we learn from them.
A father leads his children well when he learns, individually, how to invest in the life of each child.
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What have you learned about leading your children well?
(please share in comments below)