How to be a good dad as a Christian

John Delony

Being a dad is the greatest, hardest, most exhilarating and most exhausting adventure in the world. 

Having kids, raising them well, loving them—it is the most profound joy you can possibly imagine.

Fatherhood is also a massive responsibility. 

From suicide to behaviour disorders to homelessness to dropping out of school, children without fathers are much more vulnerable than kids who come from a supportive home. There are also fathers who are physically present in the home but absent in spirit.

Surround yourself with male role models.

Becoming a good father is not something you automatically know how to do. It is something you learn and practice. Most of us learn by watching our own father, but the problem is that many of us had a bad example of a father figure (or no example at all). But hear me on this: Your past is a context, not an excuse. If you did not have a great dad, you get to choose to paint a new picture for your family and your future.

Find a man you respect as a dad and spend time with him. 

Love your kids’ mom (whether she’s your wife or not).

Love your wife, this goes way beyond just telling her you love her. You have to show love and treat her with dignity, respect and kindness. Children are tuned into their parents’ relationship, so if it is tense and chaotic, the child’s behaviour will reflect that. If the parents’ relationship is warm, safe and connected, children are more likely to try hard things, learn resiliency from failure, and believe they can succeed.

If you and your children’s mother are separated, resist the urge to talk bad about her. As their parents, you two are the most important model of relationship for your children. They’re watching how you treat each other.

Take care of your own mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health

As men, it takes courage to admit when we need help. You may not have even acknowledged it to yourself, so let me help you out: If you find yourself angry, disappointed or exhausted all the time, you are not well. If your wife and kids avoid you when you are home, you are not well. 

Be a steward of your health for the sake of your family and your own peace of mind. 

Be present in your children’s lives.

Fathers have this uncanny ability to hide in a crowded room—at the kitchen table, behind their phone, or in front of the TV. They isolate. Of course, you need your alone time to pursue what you love to do, but do not let those spaces and those hobbies take priority over being present and connecting with your children.

Choose quality time with your kids

Given the choice between a video game console and you, your kids will choose you. Kids would rather wrestle with you than watch the television programmes. Your kids need your eye contact, your approval and your connection.

Know the details of your kids’ lives

Work hard to know your kids. Who are their teachers? What are they studying? Learn their rhythms. Get off work early on occasion to pick them up from school. Showing interest is one of simplest and greatest ways to show how much you love them. 

Give physical and verbal affection

If you want to grow in your journey to being a good father, be affectionate with your kids. Even if it is uncomfortable. When your kids are little, hug and cuddle often. Touch their hands and face and feet. As they get older, you will have to balance respecting their autonomy with still being physically affectionate. 

Tell your children you love them. Tell them you are proud of them. 

Model a healthy relationship with money

Few things add more stress and anger to a home than money. As a father, you are responsible for looking down the road to provide for your children. Take on the responsibility of meeting your kids’ needs and setting them up for success.

Eat together as a family

Eating together is a super important way to bond with your children. Meals are a safe—even sacred—way to create rhythms of connection. Children who regularly share meals with their parents demonstrate higher academic achievement and fewer high-risk behaviours, like substance abuse, sexual activity and violence.

Involve your kids in creating rules and discipline

Learning how to be a good father includes learning how to discipline with love. This means setting and enforcing healthy boundaries as the authority figure. Instead of imposing discipline through power trips and “Because I said so” language, involve your kids in the creation of discipline. Decide as a family what values are important to you and what the consequences will be for not living up to those values.

Additionally, spend time catching your kids doing good and praise them. We spend so much energy correcting disruptive or disrespectful behaviour that we often miss when they are doing good things. 

Don’t over parent.

Part of being a good father is allowing your kids to take appropriate risks. We have to choose to let go of our anxiety and let our kids learn from experience as they gain autonomy in the world. – ramseysolutions.com

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