Six Keys to Good Fathering
- Dr. John King Author, Helping Guys Become Men, Husbands, and Fathers
- 2007 13 Feb
The following are six keys to raising kids. It's not a formula, but rather elements I have seen work and we have personally used successfully.
1. Have an affectionate and affirming relationship.
Growing children is like growing young plants. Every word we say is an opportunity to frame and shape their world. The most crucial thing you can do is speak words of affirmation and affection into their life from the time of their conception.
Be positive. And don't allow your kids to be negative, even though that's the way we all naturally tend to be. If your child speaks negatively about themselves, correct them, lovingly and firmly. Don't let it pass. The girl who's allowed to say she looks ugly will grow up believing it.
What causes children to act and think that way? They're simply repeating the kind of worldview they receive from other people. Watch your words. Do you call yourself fat? Does your wife say she's unattractive?
Instead, affirm and compliment your wife's appearance...and do the same for your children.
When my son Noah was young, he went through a stage when he stopped eating his food and would get really upset after meals. We had hurt him by commenting on the "pokey-out belly" he had when he ate. We thought it was cute, but he interpreted our comments and fond laughter as a judgment that he was ugly. How old was he? 12? 14? No. He was just 3 years old!
This really upset us and caused us to be attentive to what we said and how we said it. For our son, that could have been the start of an unhealthy association with food and a damaging eating disorder. The wonderful thing about children is they bend but don't break - just like young plants you can train to climb a trellis. Through our affection and affirmation we were able to correct our mistake and Noah's perception of his belly. Children are very forgiving of our mistakes! They give us the grace to learn and grow as parents.
2. Be open communicators.
Talk about anything, at any time. Continually communicate. I make Jessica tell me about her day. When she says, "Dad, I can't remember," I stop and make her tell me.
I insist that the channels of communication are open. I've done that since she could talk, because I want the channels to still be open when she is 20.
As parents we have to deliberately train and equip our children with the tools to express their emotions. If I am concerned about something they have done, I don't just tell them it is wrong. I sit them down and say something like: "Sweetheart, I am feeling a little upset about something you said/did and I need to talk about it." I have done this since Jessica began talking, even before she could understand. Now, years later; if she is upset, she says, "Dad, I need to talk to you about something that is upsetting me." Give your child their tools before they need them so they can draw on them in times of need.
3. Communicate clearly and specifically about sex.
Make sex normal. It's a normal, powerful, natural thing. Sociologists tell us that human beings have three major drives: food, shelter, and sex. We talk to our children about money. We talk to them about caring for their home. We need to talk to them about their sexuality. It's going to hit them one day and they need to be able to talk openly with us. Once again, give them the tools to cope before they need them.
We also have to prepare our children for a world that is preoccupied with sex. The Bible calls it lasciviousness, or a preoccupation with lewd sexual behavior; and sure enough, the world is preoccupied with sex.
The Bible also talks about modesty, and that's something we seem to have forgotten in Western church culture. Let me put it to you in straight talk: we are not meant to dress, act, talk, dance, joke in any way that could be seen as a provocative sexual "come on." That is lasciviousness. When you're with your wife, go for it. That's pure. But around your children, or allowing your kids to act out, dress, or behave in a sexual manner, is not acceptable.
All children - boys and girls alike - need to be prepared for this challenge. There is a statistic to the effect that 45 percent of all pornography accessed on the Internet is viewed by women. It's hard to believe, but it points to a change in our society. I've seen this change myself, in what we do. The sexualization of our society has affected both genders. With so many sleazy messages around for our children to imbibe, it's important that Dad is always on approachable (and proactive) source of good, clean wisdom on the subject of sex. It is not your wife's job to have "the talk." Both your daughter and son need to get a balanced, wholesome male perspective as well.
4. Be a good role model.
Where there's no model, there's a vacuum, and it will be filled. When "moral America" was decrying Marilyn Manson for his satanic and aggressively vulgar music, he said something to the effect that "if you will not raise your children, I will." Powerful point. You have to be a role model for your children and you have to be a good one. The most powerful influences children will ever have are their parents. Please, don't choose to abrogate your responsibility by transferring it to the school, church, or sports coach. It's not their responsibility; it's yours.
5. Stay tuned in to their world.
Always be aware of what your children are feeding themselves - their music, their friends, their movies, their life. Go to a movie with them. Watch the cartoons on TV. Read a book before you let them read it. Listen to their music - stop, listen, and read the lyrics. If your child is depressed, it may be because they're listening to songs with suicidal lyrics. Find out what they're plugging into their ego. You'll have to take responsibility for setting limits on it, too. Control that stuff.
If ever there was a "home invader;" it's the TV. A parent said to me recently, "We have a television in all the bedrooms and our son always goes to sleep with it on - it's a great babysitter."
Well what is little Johnny going to sleep with between the hours of 7:30 and 9:30 at night? It ranges from hard-sell advertisements to programs full of sexual and violent behaviors. You are giving this invited, non-regulated "guest" permission to enter your family and feed your children whatever garbage a pervert producer deems fit for so-called "adult" programming.
If your children watch TV two or three hours every night, that adds up to 14 to 21 hours each week. This box-shaped "guest" invades and influences the behavior and morality of your children - the internet is another familiar "guest" these days. Add 30 hours a week of school teachers and school kids and you have up to 51 hours of external influences on your children. How many hours per week of wholesome, loving parental influence do they get to balance out the others? It's your responsibility to set limits and be consistent about them.
6. Pray for your children and yourself.
It's vital that dads take spiritual responsibility by praying for their kids, their marriages, and their life. You should be constantly asking God for His protection over your family. He'll listen. He'll respond. It is absolutely vital.
If you don't know how to ask God's favor on your family and friends, give us a call. We'll put you in touch with someone who will help. I cannot overstress the importance of a father praying for his family. When Dad's praying, Heaven moves and hell shuts up.
One thing I'm constantly surprised by is the myth that women are more spiritual than men. People who make these sorts of comments must think the Bible is complete fiction. The Bible is predominantly about the spiritual journeys of men as they battle to establish the Kingdom of God and redeem their families.
God created you, a man, first, because He wanted to establish a divine order - you in close relationship with Him, prepared and equipped to take care of the family He has given you. Christ is Prophet, Priest, and King to the Church. A father is the same thing to his family.
Materials from Helping Guys become Men, Husbands, and Fathers, by Dr. John King, copyright 2006 used by permission of Destiny Image Publishers, 167 Walnut Bottom Road, Shippensburg, PA 17257 www.destinyimage.com