Two things I know about being a Dad
1. It’s a great privilege. Yes, Proverbs tells me that, but I also know it from experience.
2. It's a huge challenge. It can be tough to balance the many things that Dads are supposed to do, along with everything else that is expected of us.
It seems that our lives as Dads often seem to be at their busiest, just when we need to be most focused on being a Dad. I don’t know if that is the way it has always been, but it certainly seems that way to me right now.
As I thought about the number of demands on me as an average Dad, I came up with this list:
- I want to be a good and faithful servant of God
- I want to be a great husband to my wife
- I want to be fully engaged with my church family
- I want to be a good friend to my friends
- I want to be a great worker
- I want to be an excellent Dad
Unfortunately, I know it is too easy to let some of these areas slip. And so, as we reflect on Father’s Day, I wanted to share 10 things that I try to do to keep the ‘Dad’ job under control. To be honest, I don’t do these things all the time, so maybe this is better described as a list I would like to do more of. Either way, here are 10 things – in no particular order - that I have learned along the way that when I do them, I tend to be a better dad to my boys.
10 ways I try and stay on top of Dad duties
1. Make regular time, just me and God
I think it is crucially important that my boys see me spending time with God on a very regular basis. For me, that time is early morning, before the day goes crazy. What this does is tell them that God is important, that I want to read his word and talk with him. On those odd mornings when the boys are awake enough to get curious, it helps us to have a conversation about things that really matter. Most significantly though, it ensures that the relationship that I most want to model to my boys is on track.
2. Love my wife
This is a great one because being a better husband is also central to my being a better Dad. When I demonstrate to my boys that I love, value and cherish Emma, I do a number of things: I demonstrate what marriage should be like; I increase their sense of security in our family; hopefully I model what a good husband and dad does. One day, with God’s grace, I hope they will do the same.
3. Stay fit
Friends who have known me for a long time may chortle at this, but I have found as I have increased my fitness over the last year (a turning 40 resolution) I have had more energy to do more things, including being a Dad. That’s not just physical play (though I am definitely more able to do this), but I find I am simply more alert and energised at home. It makes the exercise worthwhile.
4. Be devoted to church
I want to model that a Christian man puts God first, so church is a total priority. This means we try to get to church early every week, we prioritise it over nearly everything else, we hang around afterwards and share in community. It means turning down sport, parties or other events that might clash. It sometimes even means using my big voice on a Sunday morning to make sure we are all in the car on time, but only sometimes (though my wife Em might disagree!).
5. Prepare myself when I come home from work
After a tough day at work, I am sometimes not in the right frame of mind to be a good dad. So I have gotten into the habit of trying to sit in the car for an extra minute outside the house and pray that I might remember I am about to step into my most important job of the day. Often, I find it makes a difference. Prayer is answered, I am refocused and I can go in and love my wife and my boys.
6. Choose to spend time with my boys
I envy those blokes who seem to find it easy spending lots of time with their kids. I have to make it happen. I find it too easy to do what I need to do, tick it off my list, lock myself into various chores, or simply have selfish ‘me time’ (me time is good and necessary, but I can overdo it). I need to remind myself (or have Em remind me), to choose to do things with my boys, even if it is just sitting on their beds at night and hearing about their day. Older dads tell me these opportunities will soon pass and they won’t be back, but I just need to make the time now regardless. The list can wait.
7. Treat each of my kids differently
As a kid, I remember thinking that being a Dad must be soooo easy. Obviously I was wrong, and nowhere was this more apparent than in my approach to my boys. I learned fairly early on that each of my boys are different, so I had to treat, and treasure, each of them differently. While one likes to be directed, another wants to be shown. One loves to sit together on the couch, another wants to rumble outside. It should have been obvious I guess, but I still surprise myself with my tendency to think that one size will fit all.
8. Tell my kids that I love them and am thankful for them – together and individually
I want my boys to grow up knowing they are loved, and this is one area I simply don’t believe there is any risk in over-communicating. I tell my boys that I love them - a lot!. I tell them as a ‘pack’ – that I am so thankful for all the fun there is in these four boys being part of our family, but I make sure I tell them individually as well. When I tuck them in at night, when I say goodbye in the morning, whenever I can. Let me say, I still get a huge kick when my oldest responds with the “L” word as well – long may it last!
9. Read the Bible and pray with my boys
I didn’t grow up with a pattern of Bible reading and prayer, and so I find ‘shared’ devotions hard work. But I don’t want the same thing to happen to my boys, so I need to discipline myself to read God’s word with them and to teach them how to pray with others. We also work hard at praying meaningfully – finding out what is on their minds and hearts and sitting with them and bringing those things before God together. One of the best moments of the last few months was when one of my boys said to me as he drifted off to sleep, “Dad, will you pray for me?” Made my heart sing.
10. Ask for God’s help
As I said above, the nine prior items are all things that I find help me to be a much better dad. However, I rarely do all of them at once, and I often don’t do them well. As with all things in my life, I need to carry this to God and ask for His help to do my Dad role better, for His Holy Spirit to guide me to make wise and good choices, as I father my boys.
And ultimately, for my heavenly Father to shape me to be more like Him.
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