CHECKLIST FOR FATHERS
By: John M. Drescher
“What should I have done differently? If your children were small again, what would you do?” These words burst from the heart of a father sitting across from me who felt he had failed.
They are not the words of just one father. In them are the questions which are uppermost in the minds of many fathers (and mothers), if they take parenthood seriously, I’ve pondered these questions and a few suggestions have surfaced.
First, If I were starting my family again, I would love the mother of my children more. That is, I would be more free to let my children see that I love her.
I would seek to be faithful in doing little loving things for her–opening the car door, placing her chair at the table, giving her little gifts on special occasions, and writing her love letters when I’m gone from home. I would take her hand as we stroll in the park. I would praise her in the presence of my children.
A child who knows his parents love each other has a security and stability about life which is gained in no other way.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. Ephesians 5:25.
Second, I would listen more. Most Fathers find it hard to listen. We are busy with the burdens of work; at the end of the day we are tired.
I would listen when my child shares his little hurts and complaints, and what he is excited about. And I would try to refrain from words of impatience at the interruption. Such times can be the best times to show love and kindness.
One evening a small boy tried to show his father a scratch on his finger. Finally, after repeated attempts to gain his father’s attention, the father stopped reading the newspaper and said impatiently, “Well, I can’t do anything about it, can I?” “Yes, Daddy.” his small son said, “you could have said ‘Oh.'”
I would try to understand what my child says because I now believe that the father who listens to his child when he is small, will find that he will have a child who cares what his father says later in life.
In listening I would pay more careful attention to my child’s questions. It is estimated that the average child asks 500,000 questions by the age of 15. What a privilege for every parent –unlimited opportunities to share something about the meaning of life and about your own dependence on God!
These commandments . . . are to be upon your hearts. 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. Deuteronomy 6:6-7
Third, I would seek more opportunities to give my child a feeling of belonging. When a child feels he belongs in his family and is of real worth there, it is not a big step to also feel accepted, loved, and of worth to others and in God’s sight.
A child feels he belongs when he is involved in the responsibility and work of the family. Celebration of birthdays, when the person rather than the gifts is central, creates a sense of belonging. That same sense is built into the child when he hears prayers prayed on his behalf. No part of child guidance is more important than assuring the child by action and word that he is important and that he has a place in the affections of the family.
Children are an heritage from the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is His reward. Psalm 127:3 (KJV)
Fourth, I would express words of appreciation and praise more. Many children seldom hear words of commendation and encouragement when they do a job well or exhibit good behavior.
Will Sessions, discussing the topic “If I Had a Teenager” says, “I would bestow praise. If the youngster blew a horn I would try to find at least one note that sounded good to my ear, and I would say a sincere good word about it. If the school theme was to my liking, I would say so, hoping that it would get a good grade when it was turned in . . . I would be vocal.”
Probably no other thing encourages a child to love life, to seek accomplishment and to gain confidence more than proper, sincere praise – not flattery, but honest compliments when he does well.
See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. Matthew 18:10
Fifth. I would spend more time together. A group of 300 seventh and eighth grade boys kept accurate records of how much time their fathers actually spent with them over a two-week period. Most saw their father only at the dinner table. A number never saw their father for days at a time. The average time a father and son were alone together for an
entire week was 7 1/2 minutes!
Arthur Gordon tells an interesting experience from his youth. “When I was around 13 and my brother was 10, Father promised to take us to the circus. But at lunch there was a phone call; some urgent business required his attention downtown. My brother and I braced ourselves for the disappointment. Then we heard him say, ‘No, I won’t be down. It
will have to wait.’ When he came back to the table, Mother smiled. `The circus keeps coming back, you know.’ ‘I know,’ said Father. ‘But childhood doesn’t.'”
Making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:16
Sixth, if I were to start my family again, I would laugh more. That’s right!
I remember when I laughed with my children – at the humorous plays they put on for the family, at the funny stories shared from school, at the times I fell for their tricks and catch questions. I recall the squeals of delight when I laughed with them and shared in their stunts on the lawn or living room floor. I know when I laughed with my children our love was enlarged, and the door was open for doing many other things together.
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22
Somehow we manage enough muscle to handle the big things of life but forget that life is largely made up of little things. A father’s faithfulness in the small things determines the happiness of his children . . . and, not just that, it strongly influences their spiritual direction.
The best father is the one who knows God as his heavenly Father. Only Jesus Christ can provide that relationship. Only He can say, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). When we place our childlike trust in Christ, when we believe that only His death and resurrection can bring forgiveness, then we become a part of God’s family. At that time we receive a new potential for fathering, for we have gained access to God’s unlimited resources.
(The above material was a tract published by the American Tract Society in Garland, TX.)
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