1 “Father” and “friend” are two different words. Kids need a dad. Let children their age be their friend. They need someone to bring order in the house (eating together, communicating, doing chores, having family devotions). Fathers who do not do these things should not be surprised if there is more chaos than peace in the home.
2 Be a child first. You are a son of the Father. The more you understand sonship, the better you will get fatherhood. The closer you are to the Father, the better you will father your children.We have been adopted into God’s family, chosen by the Creator, and we will always belong. We will never be alone, never without purpose, never without a future. Translate those realities to your children.
3 Understand vulnerability. I wish all fathers could have a meeting like we had a few years ago. It started with Andrew writing an email to his siblings, acknowledging his shortcomings as an elder brother. It continued when Gabriel, second brother in line, asking forgiveness of his siblings for sometimes arguing and joking. The atmosphere in the air led to a meeting that changed the way we did life at our house. When parents are vulnerable, they release grace into the air, making it easier for their children to share their struggles and failures. I wish my dad and I had talked more about hard issues. Dads, how about asking your kids to share with you where you have failed them as a father?
4 Serve your wife. The children will know if you are laying down your life or primarily going after a career. If the kids see that you are not in unity, they will play one off against the other. Unity at the top brings unity to the family. The best marriage advice I received came from Jesus, not about marriage–about life: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34). It took me a long time to learn how to lay down my life, but when I got it, things changed. Marriage is not about doing your own thing.
5 Discipline with love. The discipline that comes from heaven is deliberate, not reactionary, and is given to strengthen character, purposeful rather than punitive. God doesn’t go from a 2 to a 7 in ten seconds. He is slow to anger. You don’t ever need to raise your voice. My dad didn’t–ever. We grew up knowing we were loved and cherished.
6 Be present. Many children have father wounds because of absentee fathers who have convinced their children that the job environment is more important than the home environment. They seem to say to the wife, “You raise the kids; I will raise the money.” Family does not work that way. We worship a Father who is the most accessible person in the universe. “I called–He answered.” Be available to your children and especially in their times of greatest joy and greatest sorrow.
7 Emotions matter. You want more than the facts. Find out how your kids are feeling about you, life, school, themselves, God, the opposite sex. Probe. Where are they struggling, hurting, questioning? What are they afraid of, hoping for? Wish I had done more of that.
8 Focus more on identity than behavior. If you focus primarily on behavior, you will not get the behavior that you are desiring. My dad said often, “Remember who you are.” Identity drives destiny!