Dads, if you're anything like me, you definitely prefer to be called ‘dad’, rather than something formal like ‘father’. And this is fine. We're blokes living in the 21st Century. We call our kids, ‘kids’—not ‘children’. It's part of our culture. But there is something that we need to be careful about. You see, the same cultural things that drive us to want to be ‘dads’ can also leave us completely missing the mark in our role as ‘fathers’. And this can have a significant impact on our kids.
Dads and fathers—aren't they the same thing?
Ok, yes the words ‘dad’ and ‘father’ mean the same thing in our language. However, I think they do tend to represent different things. When I hear ‘dad’, I think:
- mucking around
But when I hear ‘father’, I think:
Do you recognise some of these differences? ‘Dadhood’ seems more like a hobby or a volunteer role that is enjoyable, while ‘fatherhood’ feels more like a job that is hard work and one in which you need to be responsible. These are two different approaches to parenting, and they come about because of different goals we might have.
Goals of ‘dadhood’:
- a good, friendly relationship with your kids
- lots of fun times
- personal fulfilment
- kids who can make their own path in life without too much pressure from their parents
Goals of ‘fatherhood’:
- mature kids
- kids with great character
- kids who understand reality
I think seeing some of these differences can help us know what we want to aim for as dads. And (spoiler alert!) I reckon we need to shoot more for ‘fatherhood’ than for ‘dadhood’.
Dads—when we look at the Bible, it presents a picture of ‘fatherhood’ more than anything else. Check out a couple of passages that talk about it:
Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction;
pay attention and gain understanding. (Proverbs 4:1)
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children,
encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:11–12)
The Bible presents a picture of fathers who want to raise kids who are mature, full of character and follow the Lord, regardless of whether they end up as friends or not. One of my issues is that I often want to be a dad first. I want to have fun. I want to enjoy my kids. These things are good—don't get me wrong—but if they are what I'm pursuing first, I won't be able to achieve the goals of ‘fatherhood’. If I'm all about being a friend to my kids, they won't listen to my instruction. If I'm the cheeky dad first, they won't respect my character and want to follow in that way.
But if I pursue ‘fatherhood’ first, and my kids trust me as someone who shows them how to live and directs them in the paths of life and maturity, there will still be plenty of room for fun and friendship. But I need to keep reminding myself which one comes first. With parenthood comes great responsibility. And it is a responsibility to God and my kids—not a responsibility to enjoy myself.
Keep calling yourselves dads—I will. But let's work together to have a ‘fatherhood’ approach first, and not simply a ‘dadhood’ one.
Originally published at ‘Parents for Eternal Life’
Dale has been a Kids’ Pastor for 13 years, but since having children of his own, he’s realised how difficult it is in practice to raise kids in the Lord. He lives on the sunny Central Coast with his wife, Amy, and their two boys, and loves helping parents think practically about discipling their kids.
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