Thanks to author Rob Tiegen for his insightful and encouraging ways to love on the dads in our lives. Be sure to check out our giveaway at the bottom for your chance to win.
As of this Father’s Day, I’ve been a father for 19 years. I have a son and three daughters (and a cute foster son), and being a dad is the most exciting, overwhelming, and challenging adventure I could ever experience. I’ve also become convinced that my relationship (and every dad’s relationship) with my kids is critical to their life and well-being. No matter how foolish and inconsequential society and the media can portray fathers to be, God knew what he was doing when he put a man and woman together to raise a family.
This is also the first Father’s Day I’m celebrating since my own dad passed away last fall. I’m feeling the loss and reflecting even more than ever on how important a father is in who a child will become. My dad taught me generosity. Loyalty. A strong work ethic. Devotion to God’s Word. That wedding vows are for life. That you can’t ever say “I love you” too many times. That families should celebrate life together. My dad loved me, my brothers, and my mom with all of his heart. What a contrast to the households without a father, where we see 63 percent of youth suicides, 71 percent of pregnant teens, 90 percent of homeless and runaway children, 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions, 71 percent of high school dropouts, 75 percent of all adolescents in chemical abuse centers and 85 percent of all youth sitting in prison. (Fatherless Generation by John Sowers, Zondervan, 2010, page 36). So do you think our kids need dads? I would say yes!
But just because I’m aware of how much my kids need me, that doesn’t mean I always know what I’m doing. I can feel like I’m stumbling in the dark as I try to cultivate a healthy relationship with each of them. Not only are they each unique and complex individuals, as soon as I think I’m getting them figured out they grow a year older and their needs change yet again. I find that the encouragement I receive from my wife, Joanna, helps keep me going when I lose heart in my fathering. Wives have a tremendous impact on their husbands’ motivation to invest time and energy in their kids. As we head into Father’s Day and celebrate the dads in our lives, here are a few ways you can be a support every day of the year.
First and foremost, let them know what great dads they are! It may seem obvious, but it’s so easy in the busy day-to-day to forget to say the words that build up your husband. I do this all the time with Joanna. We fall into our routine, and I act like the clean clothes, meals on the table, and kids who arrive on time at school and piano lessons just happen by some kind of magic or by pushing a button. But NO, my wife does all these things quietly, with little complaining and few rewards or accolades. She needs to hear how much I appreciate all she does, and dads need to hear how valuable they are too. When my wife reminds the kids that their new shoes were purchased with my hard-earned paycheck, or gives me a hug and hot cup of coffee after I’ve shoveled the snow off the driveway, or thanks me for tackling an attitude issue with our teenager, it inspires me to step up even more to serve and care for our family. So tell your husband what he’s doing right—be specific and make sure you build him up in earshot of your kids, too!
A second way you can be an encouragement is to carve out time for the kids and dad to spend time together. Let’s face it, life gets really busy. And when our schedules get full, we often lose time for the most important things–the people and relationships God has given us. Men can tend to be more focused on tasks and activities than connecting with others. It can take intentional effort to connect in meaningful ways with our kids. Since it’s often the mom who manages the calendar, help him by blocking out some time each week where he can spend quality time with the kids. When you make decisions about what after-school activities or church commitments you’ll sign up for, keep your family relationships in mind so they’re not placed at the bottom of the list. Give your husband freedom to take your daughter out for pancakes on Saturday morning. Or a couple hours one evening every week to play at the park and get an ice cream cone with your son. Set aside a consistent family night where you play games, go swimming or bowling, or stay up late and watch movies in your pajamas. I appreciate that Joanna supports my commitment to time with our kids. We are seeing it pay off in lots of great memories and connections with each other.
The third way you can encourage the dads in your life is to pray for them. If you have concerns about your relationship with your own father or the way your husband is interacting with your kids, take it to the perfect Father who is Lord of the universe. Invite God’s power into your home. Seek him for wisdom and insight, especially in how to talk to your dad or husband about what you’re feeling. Ask him to soften their hearts to receive what you have to say. Ask him to strengthen them when they’re discouraged or insecure as fathers. (Kathi has wonderful insights about prayer in her book Praying God’s Word for Your Husband ) Prayer works! And God can enable your husband to do more than you could ever imagine.
Maybe some of you are reading this and are frustrated because your husband is totally disengaged at home. You would love to tell him he’s doing a good job and help him make time to spend with the kids, but he doesn’t show any interest in connecting with your family. Some dads are physically present but absent in every other way. Maybe he’s running to the job, to sports, or to projects in the garage. Maybe he’s tuning all of you out by focusing on the computer or entertainment. It’s possible your husband feels like a failure as a father so he’s running to things that make him feel competent. If he’s the go-to guy at work or at his golf league, but he’s feeling insecure or devalued at home, he’s going to go where he feels successful. You can help so much in how you set the tone at home. He’ll respond to appreciation, respect, and affection. You might not see much you admire right at this moment, but try to find any small thing you can validate in him today. And like I said before, pray hard!
Finally, I will tell you that I’m a very different parent than my wife. While we’re unified in our main goals for our kids, the way we go about parenting and interacting with them doesn’t look the same. Mom is focused on nutrition, bedtime, and if homework got done. Dad is thinking about road trips, roughhousing, and how much ice cream I can cram into the cone! I like to get rowdy (and recently broke a vase playing ball in the house) and she likes to do crafts and read books with the girls. Over the years, though, we’ve learned to celebrate each other’s way of parenting. We can see that between us the kids have a fuller range of experiences and outlooks that we’re bringing into their lives. Give your husband room to parent with his own personality and perspective. If he knows he can be himself he’ll want to be in the mix more than ever.
I’m so thankful for the privilege of being a dad. And for having a wife to share in the journey with me.
Blessings to you and your family this Father’s Day.
Friends – Rob wants to bless you and the men in your life. Just tell us one way you are going to encourage the dad in your kid’s life this weekend, and we will randomly pick five people to win his amazing book 88 Great Daddy-Daughter Dates: Fun, Easy & Creative Ways to Build Memories Together (Or, if you need a quick Father’s Day gift, you can order the Kindle version here.)