When I was president of National Fatherhood Initiative, one of the most frequent questions that I got from fathers was, “What do I need to do to make sure that I am a good dad?”
Three Principles That Can Help Dads Become Better Fathers
Well, for starters, a father needs to avoid the eight “bad dad” mistakes that are discussed in my book, Bad Dads of the Bible. However, being a good father is not just about what you don’t do. It’s also about what you do. So to help you on your journey to be the good dad God desires you to be, I have outlined 6 things that every good father must do:
1. Good Fathers Affirm Their Children
A father must affirm his children. Why? Because one thing that we know for sure is the tempter will come — in one form or another. You may recall that I believe a child has a “hole in his soul” in the shape of his dad. Well, this is the exact place where a father’s affirmation is supposed to go. If a father is unable or unwilling to affirm his child and fill this void, Satan is sure to try and fill it with imitations of God’s goodness, just like he tried to do with Jesus.
2. Good Fathers Are Physically Present
Good fathering is less about the “presents” that money can buy than your “presence,” which no amount of money can replace. Kids spell love T-I-M-E, and they come out of the womb with an instinctive understanding that time is your most valuable asset. Providing a material good is necessary, but it’s not sufficient. Good dads, like our good heavenly Father, do more because they know kids need more. They need dads who don’t just give of themselves. They need dads who give themselves as well.
3. Good Fathers Are Emotionally Available
So what is nurturing? It means supporting and being involved in every aspect of your child’s growth and development. In addition, it means that you are in tune with the emotional well-being of your child. You don’t “outsource” this to mom. Yes, I know that the emotional world of children, especially as they move into the teen years, can be imprecise, complicated, and messy, but you have to “go there” if you want to be a good dad. Remember, there is no intimacy without vulnerability. And a father is never more vulnerable than when he is nurturing his child. After all, Malachi 4:6 makes it clear that God’s desire is for the hearts of fathers to be connected to the hearts of their children. This can only happen if fathers are nurturers.
4. Good Fathers Are Spiritually Involved
So if a father truly wants to be spiritually involved and guide his children, here are four key things that he must do:
- Develop a strong relationship with God. A father must “practice what he preaches” and be disciplined in spending daily time with God in prayer and reading the Bible.
- Pray daily for and with your children. A father must never forget that there is a war going on, and prayer is the most important weapon in his arsenal.
- Model the spiritual behavior that you want to see. That said, the most important behavior that you must model is love, not just toward your children and family, but also toward people that you may not like.
- Set spiritual “markers” to help your children stay on the path. I know a dad who actually buys stones and engraves them with important dates and occasions when God has met his family’s needs.
5. Good Fathers Love and Pursue the Prodigal Child
Years ago, a wise Christian told me something that I would never forget. He said, “You take care of the effort, and God will take care of the results.” From a fatherhood perspective, this means that a dad just needs to make sure that he is faithfully doing his best to follow Proverbs 22:6, training up his children in the way they should go so that when they are old, they won’t depart from it.
6. Good Fathers Reach Out to the Fatherless
It certainly stands to reason that if God, the ultimate Good Father whom every dad should use as a model, cares so deeply about the fatherless, any father who wants to be a good one should as well. Accordingly, God has impressed upon my heart that a good father provides for, nurtures, and guides his own children, and he must proactively seek to be a role model and mentor for other children who lack a father’s love and guidance.
I want to make sure you understand that “bad dad” mistakes don’t have to define you as a father:
Every dad makes mistakes. They are not who you are. They are what you did.
So, if you have made some of these mistakes, you should not lose heart. You should learn from your mistakes and commit to keep your “good dad” promise going forward. We serve a God of second chances who stands by to help us be the fathers that we long to be. You must always remember that your fathering can be transformed by the renewing of your mind and a renewed commitment to follow God’s principles.
Watch the Trailer for Bad Dads of the Bible by Roland Warren
Review the list of six things that good fathers do. Which of these things have you been doing well? Which have been the most challenging for you?