Perhaps you are now facing the somewhat scary prospect of being a father. There may be many questions and concerns swirling around in your head. You were not prepared for the awesome responsibility of being a dad. This wasn't a part of your immediate plans for your future. That's okay. In fact, even those men who father children in planned pregnancies admit that they don't "feel ready" or up to the challenge of being a dad. So take heart!
We want to be here to help and encourage you in this important new responsibility in your life however we can. (To contact the center nearest you, click here.)
One of the things we want to provide for you now is some helpful advice on how to be a good father, as well as some biblical wisdom regarding this all-important role in the life of your child. The last piece of information is a list of what the Bible tells us God is like as our heavenly Father, and what he does for us and how he behaves toward us in that supreme role.
Five Ways to Be a Good Father1
1. Develop a Soft and Tender Heart
It is important that fathers have soft and tender hearts toward their children. Fathers do need to guide their children in learning right from wrong, but more than anything a child needs to know that he or she is loved.
A soft and tender heart allows a father to feel as his child feels, not just from his own personal viewpoint. It will make a father a person that will draw his children to him. There are times when fathers need to apply tough love, but more often children need to know a soft and tender father.
2. Listen to Your Children
As your children begin to communicate allow them to talk with you. Get down to their level or bring them up to yours and have conversations with them, no matter how simple they may be. Take the time to listen and live in their worlds for a while. It will be a blessing to you and to them, as it will allow them to know that you care. There are certain things they will say to you that will stay with you forever.
3. Affirm Your Children
This means to tell your children you love them and tell them good things about themselves. You also need to touch your children in appropriate ways, because young children that are not cuddled and lovingly touched actually have their development stunted in various areas.
The affirming words and touch of a father is of unsurpassed valued to the life and development of a child. Look for ways to pay compliments to them or give them a hug, high five, or pat on the back. Even before they are old enough to understand what you are saying, tell them you love them and that they are wonderful in your eyes.
4. Be Involved in Your Children's Lives/Activities
When children are very young, they are not involved in many activities except family events, but they still need your involvement in their lives. Once they do start to play sports, sing in their school programs, or participate in any activities, be there! It will make all the difference in the world to them.
As a father you have the opportunity to give one of the most important gifts to your child—the gift of presence. Your presence with your child, just being there, is worth so much to him or her. This is especially true at those significant moments in their lives such as holidays, games, recitals, plays, etc., but it is also important that you are there with them in the day-to-day events as well.
It is important for children to have times when they receive your undivided attention. Giving them undivided attention does not mean just being in the room while their mother or others are holding them. It means taking time to be there to do feedings, change diapers, rock them to sleep, etc.—investing the time to hold and begin to build a relationship not as a stranger or distant provider, but as a loving and compassionate father.
5. Be Humble and Teachable
It is a good thing to be teachable—open to learning and growth—in every area of our lives. This is especially true when it comes to being a father. Look for other men who are (or have been) good fathers and seek to learn from them.
Humility is the opposite quality of pride and arrogance. A humble man is open to criticism and demonstrates a selfless attitude and servant's heart when dealing with people.
As a father, it is vital that you allow the wisdom of others to influence your behavior. Do not be threatened by the input of others who are trying to help you—we need each other in this life. Just because you are a figure of authority in the lives of your children, does not mean you are any less responsible to serve their best interests and seek to do them good.
The following acrostic is a helpful tool for remembering what qualities a father is to express to his children:
F – Faithful
A – Affectionate
T – Tenderhearted
H – Honorable
E – Enduring
R – Ready
Obviously, the mother is an essential ingredient to developing and growing healthy and well-adjusted children. The important thing to remember about being dads and moms is that each plays a unique role in the life of a developing child. They both must seek to contribute to the care, training, and discipline that are needed to raise a child. The difference is in the way these elements are embodied and manifested both in the mom and the dad toward the child.
Because men and women are different they will relate to their children differently. Children need to see and experience the love and caring of both a mom—in a healthy feminine way—and a dad—in a healthy masculine way—to get a well-rounded perspective on life.
Both the role of a mom and a dad are equal in importance, and so, essential in the life of a growing and developing child. Neither is greater than the other. They only differ from each other in their function and role. (If the biological parents are unavailable to raise the child for whatever reason, a mother or father-figure involved in the life of the child can perform the same irreplaceable role.)
1 Adapted from “Five Ways to Be a Good Father” (Lancaster, PA: Loving & Caring, © 2001).