How to be a Better Father
By Terence Chatmon
Ephesians 6:4, "Fathers,[b] do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."
Since I recognized my own shortcomings as a father about 15-20 years ago, I’ve been doing a lot of research and study of the fatherhood crisis in America. One thing I’ve discovered is that, more than anything else, and no matter the kind of father you are, there is never a time in a child’s life when he or she doesn’t crave a father’s love.
You may not be able to spend much time with your child because of a broken marriage or business travel, or whatever it may be, but I think the number one way to be a better father is to make sure that in every single interaction you have with your child, you are assuring him or her of your love. Maybe it’s just an email or text once a day if you’re not able to see them in person, but they need to lay their head on the pillow every night assured and confident in their father’s love.
After assurances of their father’s love, the next thing children need to hear is their father’s belief in them. No matter what their friends or their teachers or even their mom says to them about what a capable and special person they are, it never carries the weight that it does coming from Dad. If you express your belief in your child, regularly and specifically, it serves as a great deterrent to the doubts that can creep in and rob them of their self-confidence and positive outlook about themselves.
This is vitally important in the older elementary and middle school years, where we are seeing so many tragic instances of bullying and social media shaming. No matter what the world says about them, if a child knows inside “my father believes in me and sees value in me, no matter what anyone else says,” they are more able to filter out and put less stock in those external negative opinions.
Finally, while we need to reassure our children of our love for and belief in them, we also need to be clear that while we love them, sometimes we cannot condone their behavior. Our children need to know their boundaries, and that because their father loves and wants to protect them, there will be consequences for going beyond those boundaries.
Children can understand, even if they can’t verbalize it, that you can love and accept them without loving and accepting all of their behaviors. They can even recognize it is love that wants to protect them from the harm that comes from disobedience. If they are not given boundaries and discipline, they realize there is something lacking in the love they receive. True love loves unconditionally, but comes with accountability. Children need to know they are loved, and loved enough to want what’s best for them, which means the occasional course correction. Fathers who are absent may be afraid to punish, believing it will drive their children from them, but that could not be further from the truth, as long as the children know the discipline comes out of love.
Intersecting Faith & Life: So, this Father’s Day, let’s all resolve to step-up our fatherhood game, by making sure our children know of our unconditional love for and belief in them, and by not being afraid to hold them accountable, as they will recognize this as part and parcel of a great father’s love. Love Well.
Terence Chatmon is the author of “Do Your Children Believe? Becoming Intentional about your Family’s Faith and Spiritual Legacy.” He is also president and CEO of the FCCI (FCCI.org), a network of executives spanning more than 100 countries that equips and encourages leaders to see their companies and careers as powerful tools for community transformation.