7 Steps for Effective Fathering
February 17, 2017
This article is courtesy of ParentLife magazine.
Children form a great deal of their understanding of God as Heavenly Father by what they see and hear from their earthly fathers. A father’s tasks are numerous and sometimes quite difficult. Fathering requires tremendous attention, discipline, and self-control. Deuteronomy 6 is a fundamental chapter for fathers who want to be effective. Seven steps for effective fathering can be found in this passage:
- Fathers are to initiate action.
- Fathers are to teach.
- Fathers are to discipline.
- Fathers are to communicate.
- Fathers are to be available.
- Fathers are to be aware.
- Fathers are to be involved.
A change has occurred in American families over time. Children have fathers who live in one city and mothers who live in another. Families are being separated geographically, emotionally, and spiritually. But God has given the father the responsibility of keeping his family anchored in Christ. When the father leaves, abuses, or neglects his wife and children, the family begins to drift.
Understanding your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to concentrate on improvements you need to make. All fathers are strong in some areas and weak in others. Thank God for the strengths He has placed in you and ask Him to help you make improvements in your areas of weakness.
1. Initiate Action
Deuteronomy 6:1 says, “These are the commandments, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess.” God has placed on parents the responsibility of teaching their children.
The responsibilities of fatherhood in Deuteronomy 6 revolve around taking initiative. That means you cannot wait for something to happen before you decide what to do. It means you give your children a moral base on which to stand. You teach them how to deal with temptation and how to control their anger. If you can maintain an attitude of anticipating and heading off problems, you will help your children embrace a godly life. God desires that you lead your children just as He leads you.
When you take an active role in the life of your children, you will find that your main task is to teach. All of life is an education, and you must take the lead role in what your children are taught.
Teaching is done through actions more than words. You will teach your children by what you do or by what you do not do every day of their lives. Your children will remember your example long after they forget your words. As a teacher, your first priority is to practice what you preach. Your children will follow your example regardless of what you say. The habits that you teach them now will manifest themselves for the rest of their lives.
A nation is only as strong as the families that live in it. God chooses to work through fathers to raise righteous children. If you are absent emotionally or physically, your children will suffer the consequences.
Teaching your children will give them a foundation by which they can succeed in life. It is giving them a heritage and reason for living in a world that is full of people who feel disconnected and meaningless.
Fathers are not only to initiate and teach, they are to discipline. Discipline is a form of teaching that sets proper boundaries that guide behavior. In other words, discipline is rules and regulations for living. Discipline involves praising children for correct behavior and lovingly applying consequences when rules are broken.
What is the purpose of discipline? Deuteronomy 6:2 says, “So that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord.” The goal is to instill respect for authority and accountability for personal actions.
Too often men leave all the discipline to their wives or are the “heavy” disciplinarian at the end of the day. The result is a child’s lack of respect for the father. The “rod of discipline” (Proverbs 22:15) is that action from the parent that provides consequences for a child’s actions. If a parent has an attitude of love and self-control, those consequences will be effective but not harmful.
Discipline is not abuse but rather the establishment of boundaries and consequences that teach appropriate behavior.
Fathers are to communicate. Deuteronomy 6:7 says, “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Fathers are to communicate the Word of God to their children in all aspects of life. This does not mean you can only teaching can be done anytime, anywhere.
Pray and read Scripture when you face difficulties from day to day. This does not mean that you are a walking seminary, but it does mean that your words, attitudes, and actions reflect Christ.
Communicating with your children can be a daunting task. Often it may be easier to talk to them rather than with them. Talking to them may be interpreted as preaching or nagging, and they may tune you out. Talking with them is the work of entering into their lives. It communicates caring and concern. Talking with them involves knowing the world in which your children live. Ask what your children are thinking and feeling. Never dismiss your children’s thoughts and feelings as unimportant. Communicate your love for your child often.
5. Be Available
Availability is a rare commodity for most men. You have work obligations that demand time and attention. You have personal interests that are necessary for relaxation. You have a relationship with your spouse that requires time and attention. Unfortunately, your children are usually the ones left out of the picture.
To father your children properly, you must make time to be available to them. They must know that they are a priority in your life, or they will look for the attention they need elsewhere. Both sons and daughters need your time. Boys see their fathers as examples of what men should be. Sons will relate to their wives the same way you relate to your wife. Daughters see in their fathers the type of man they will look to marry.
6. Be Aware
Fathers are to be aware of the needs and interests of their children. Awareness requires focused, undivided attention on the things your child considers important. In this age of cell phones, beepers, and wireless Internet, it is increasingly difficult for a father to leave work at the office.
When you are spending time with your children, focus your attention on them. Ask questions. Ask about their thoughts, likes, dislikes, and feelings. Take precautions against distractions. Let your child choose how to spend your time together.
7. Be Involved
Involvement with your children may require a sacrifice of your time. If you want to teach and mentor your children, encourage them to tell you about their days, spend individual time with them, eat meals together, and do homework together.
Involvement also includes knowing what your children are reading, watching, and hearing. Can you name your children’s favorite television shows, radio stations, movie stars, musicians, or sports celebrities? Can you name your children’s teachers and friends? If not, find out by asking questions that reflect interest without judging. If you hear something from them that displeases you, gently lead them to other activities or interests.
The reward for this kind of fathering is found in 3 John 4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” A father’s job well done is a child’s life well lived.
The material in this article was adapted from Steve Farrar’s Men Leading the Charge (Nashville: LifeWay Press, 2000).
Steve Farrar is the founder and chairman of Men’s Leadership Ministries. Steve speaks to thousands of men each year at his Men’s Spiritual Leadership Conferences, which are specifically designed to equip men to become more effective spiritual leaders for their families. Steve and his wife, Mary, have three children and currently reside in Dallas, Texas.