I am now approaching my 44th trip around the sun, and I must confess: I still have much to learn. Fathering has been a special joy of my life, but I continue to fall short of being the perfect Dad. However, I do have some experience and wanted to pass on some thoughts and lessons I’ve learned over the years. No doubt, in ten years, I’ll have more to add to the list.
- Introduce your son to the Son—Jesus. Let him know who Jesus is and what He means to your life. Don’t just leave this task to your pastor or Sunday school teacher or youth leader.
- Make sure he sees you reading your Bible. Do you take notes during the sermon? Do you talk about God?
- I always remind my children that I’m not perfect and that they should look past my imperfections and follow the heavenly Father.
- Quantity time creates room for quality time. Quality time isn’t something that can always be scheduled, so spend as much time as you can with your kids. Special memories and a precious relationship will result.
- Fathers and sons connect by doing things together. My son and I have had some of our best conversations while working on a car, fishing from our boat or sitting on a deer stand.
- Know the difference between willful disobedience and plain childhood development. How many times I wish I could take back episodes where I got angry over a glass of spilled milk. But these were not incidents of intentional wrong doing—just high-energy, clumsy children. Only punish for those wrong behaviors that are intentional and malicious.
- Never let the sun go down on your anger. I’m the adult, and I should never hold a grudge with my children. Grudges only result in bitterness and broken relationships.
- As kids reach adolescence, they may challenge you more, but realize they are growing into adults. We should give them the right amount of room and guidance as they become more and more independent.
- Create structure in your son’s life. For seven years, Caleb and I participated with the Boy Scouts. One year, another Dad and I spent about 6 months doing a discipleship study with our boys.
- You should be the primary person who initiates him into manhood, but others can help. Place him in a position to observe good role models. Thank God for scout leaders, Sunday school teachers and youth leaders. High school teachers, coaches and other parents. I so appreciate godly grandparents, aunts and uncles. All of these have exercised a tremendous influence on his life. In several cases, these people exhibit qualities I don’t possess.
- Teach your son well. Talk with him about aspirations, present challenges, goals or future temptations. Don’t preach or lecture. Remember, more is caught than taught. You can be the best example for your children.
- Listen, listen, listen. Observe, observe, observe. Love, love, love.
Just about everything I’ve listed applies equally well to my daughter. But she and I connect differently. I claim no monopoly on parental advice—just passing on some things I believe are helpful.
What about you? What advice would you add to the list?