Gentleness. It doesn't sound like the most manly of traits. But gentleness is actually an incredibly manly characteristic, and an incredibly important one when it comes to fathering. Kids often love a bit of rough and tumble, and it’s a really good thing that blokes tend to take more risks than their wives when interacting with their children. But our kids are still vulnerable and delicate. And we must take great care as we seek to raise them in the Lord. One of the few commands to fathers in the New Testament tells us: 'do not exasperate your children' (Ephesians 6:4). One of the quickest ways to fail in this command is to lack gentleness.
Want to grow in gentleness? Here are three habits to help you move in that direction.
Firm, not fierce
Something that is important for dads to do is to ‘lay down the law’ in the house. We need to clearly establish right and wrong in our homes and maintain godly standards. This comes from a place of strength. However, we can be either brutal or tender in the way we maintain these standards. We want our kids to learn that we care about the good and the true; but we don't want them to be so afraid of us that they grow to hate the truth. So working on how to be firm but not fierce is important. The tone of your voice will be a huge indicator to your kids: aim to remain calm while holding the line.
Get down for a chat
Particularly when disciplining your kids, it makes a big difference if we take the time to get down on their level (physically) and hear from their perspective. If you are able to stop and listen, your kids will feel understood, even when you still hold your position. It will show them that you care about them, not just about the rules. It will be a beautiful display of uncompromising gentleness. And it will also mean you get to know your kids better! This habit is totally worth the time and effort.
The tender touch
If you can, try to work a moment into each day to give your kids a physical expression of your tenderness towards them—some kind of gentle touch. It might be cuddles when they are younger or a shoulder squeeze as they grow up. Doing something that says, 'I love you and I'm here' can go a long way. As dads we are often not the most physically affectionate people, but some gentle touch will make a big impact on our kids. It makes them feel safe in a range of different ways when their strong dad shows that he will protect and care for them.
Gentleness is not weakness. In fact it comes from a place of strength. Gentleness is using strength to love, care for and protect others. Jesus claims that he is 'gentle and humble in heart' (Matthew 11:29), and he shows this most incredibly by laying down his life to release us from the heavy burden of sin. Men, we can follow in the footsteps of our great king, our older brother, as we seek to be gentle with our kids. Not only will we be a great model of Jesus to them, but it will enable us to connect with them more deeply. Rather than exasperate our children, we will build a relationship of love and trust where we can 'bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord' (Ephesians 6:4).
This article originally appeared at Parents for Eternal Life.
Dale Brown lives on the Mid North Coast of NSW with his wife, Amy, and their two boys. He has been telling kids and youth about Jesus for over 15 years. He also enjoys blogging about Christian parenting at www.parentsforeternallife.com.
For more articles from Growing Faith, subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter.
To hear about the latest books and resources from Youthworks Media, subscribe here.