One of my great joys is getting to observe and know many wonderful parents. Recently, I was thinking of how many men I know who are making an amazing impact on the lives of their children. I asked some of these dads if they would be willing to share a few secrets of their success so that I could pass their wisdom along to other men. What does success for a Christian father look like? I used these points as criteria for identifying dads who are successful in parenting:
- Their children show evidence of a desire to follow God.
- Their children have found or are finding the unique paths God has for them to pursue
- Their relationship with their children is marked by mutual respect, love, and enjoyment
Secrets of Successful Dads
Several dads, in various stages of parenting, have shared insights into what they consider to be the most important things a father can do. These responses have been fascinating! How I’ve loved reading their tips! What they have written has been especially meaningful for me since I know these men well and can tell you without reservation that the lives they live match the words they wrote. My promise to them is that their names won’t be used, but I promise you these men are worth learning from. From the practical to the profound, I believe you will find their insights valuable.
“Important Things for Dads” from an unnamed but successful dad:
The following is a list of things I strive to do and be, sometimes succeeding, many times failing. Many of these I saw in my own father, who was and still is the biggest influence on my life.
- Keep a proper perspective - things are never as bad or as good as they first seem. Do not over react - remember that God is truly in control of all things and will use events for good to those who love Him and are called to His purposes. When things are going bad, ask "God, please keep my heart and eyes open to see how you are working in this situation."
- Honor your wife. Be faithful to her in every aspect of marriage: love her, honor her, cherish her, and be loyal to her every day.
- Make your family a priority, Spend as much time as possible with the family. Enjoy the things they enjoy.
- Seek to honor God in every word and action while remembering that you are the biggest influence on your kids, particularly on your sons.
- Strive to live a life of integrity in every area of your life; the kids are watching you. Encourage the kids to want the first words they hear when they see Jesus to be (i) "Well done good and faithful servant ..." and (ii) "Behold, a Texan in whom there is no guile/no deceit/nothing false." (John 1:47)
- Set high expectations for your kids.
- Remind the kids that God is always with them, not watching them to see mistakes, but to lead, protect, and encourage them.
“What I Want” from another unnamed but successful dad:
I want my children to find God’s path for them, so…
I must accept the reality that each child is God’s unique creation. This means they will have gifts and passions that may not exactly match my gifts and passions. It is good to introduce my children to the things I have a passion for but I should not try to force my children to be like me or push them to pursue the things that I enjoy. I should encourage and help my children to find their own interests.
I want my children to know they are loved, so…
Children need to hear the words “I love you” come out of their father’s mouth on a regular basis starting early in life. My children will never get too old to hear this from me.
I want my children to value and seek Godly integrity, so…
My children need to witness their father living out the principles of God’s Word. This is how they will know their father believes what he says.
I want my children to develop self-control, so…
Boundaries need to be established for every child. The boundaries should get larger as the children demonstrate they can be trusted. When the boundaries are breached, it is up to me to be sure there are consequences. Every time.
I want my children to be successful, so…
I must give them enough rope to become independent and fail. When they fail—and they will—I must be quick to rescue them with unconditional love and help them find their way back to the right track.
I want my children to have right relationships, so…
I must be sure they witness their father loving and caring for their mother.
“What I’ve Learned” from another unnamed but successful dad:
First, I want to point out a few things that have definitely contributed to our (apparent) success with our children.
- I married well. Although I didn’t know it when I proposed to her, my wife’s “mom” skills are off the charts.
- We joined a “Young Married” Bible study class six months before we were married. The wise instruction received from the teacher and the fellowship with others at a similar stage in life was important to my growth as a dad. I believe participation in a Bible class with a wise leader is invaluable.
- Our participation in a “Growing Kids God’s Way” study is also something that had a tremendous impact shaping my parenting beliefs.
Specifically, the above helped me better understand some basic principles that greatly influenced the training of our children. A few of those include:
- Teach self-control early and often. Correct behavior must be expected.
- Be consistent in communicating expectations and enforcing the consequences when they are not met.
- Require/teach moral behavior based upon biblical standards.
- Practice what you preach, because they will be watching.
- Be involved with your children and their friends and have fun while you are doing it.
“What I Teach My Children” from another unnamed but successful dad
- You can find joy, regardless of your circumstances, when your relationships are right.
- There are two choices that lead to a successful life:
- Always choose Jesus.
- Choose your mate wisely.
You can, and will, make bad decisions. If you get those two right, however, you will have a successful life.
“My Goals” from another unnamed but successful dad
- I always try to make sure my children know my relationship with God is first and foremost than any other relationship.
- I always try to show that my relationship with their mother is the 2nd most important relationship. I want my children to know that their mom is the love of my life.
- I always try to be real with my children.
- I always try to let them know that I love them and not just by telling them but spend time with them, be interested in what they are interested in, etc.
- I always try to show respect toward them and treat them as a Godly young man or woman.
- I want my children to know and understand that I am their dad not their peer. I am the adult that God has given them to me to raise in a way they will go.. which includes worshipping and serving Him.
- I try to allow my children to face their fears and failures so they will become strong and resilient. During those times, I try to I love on them and encourage them...
- I want them to know that dads have feelings and emotions, cries, and have bad days also because we are human.
- I always try to create a relationship/atmosphere that they can ask anything and do not have to be afraid to talk to me about anything.
- I want them to know that I am their biggest fan and supporter and will always be truthful/honest with them because of my love for them.
- I hug on them, pray with them and tell them I LOVE THEM!
“Priorities” from another unnamed but successful dad:
- Spend time with your children doing activities they enjoy doing. i.e. watch one of their TV shows with them instead of taking them to see your favorite football team play (unless of course it is their favorite football team too)
- Take your children on a trip one-on-one to a destination they love. It is great time to get to know your child and create wonderful lasting memories.
- It is not just quality over quantity time spent with your children that is important; it's large quantities of quality time spent with your children that create bonds that last a lifetime.
- Always make time to be present at their activities. They know they are a priority when you cancel a work meeting to be at their school play.
- Take advantage of spontaneous opportunities to teach spiritual lessons. i.e. when shopping for Christmas presents, discuss the importance of storing up your treasures in heaven.
“What’s Important” from another unnamed but successful dad:
I would have to say that I have come to believe that the most important things that I can do as a father are three:
- Love - and glorify - the Lord with all my heart, soul, and strength – the passages that we are currently studying in Deut. (Dt. 6:4-9; Mk. 12:29-30). This means spending time daily in reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on God’s word.
- Love - and give - to my precious bride with a love second to only loving God (Eph. 5:25-33)
- Love - and sacrifice - for my children by providing, encouraging, training, coaching, mentoring, advising, and PRAYING for them (Phil. 4:4-7)
I believe that praying for others (especially our children) is the most important privilege and task for fathers (and all believers). I pray the following three things for my children every day:
- That they will learn to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and strength (Dt. 6:4-9; Mk. 12:29-30)
- That they will have the courage to stand alone for Jesus – no matter what others may do (1 Cor. 16:13; 1 Tim. 6:11; 1 Cor. 15:57-58)
- That they will learn to love to learn – of Christ, of the Bible, and of all God’s creation (Mt. 11:28-30; Tit. 3:14; Dt. 5:1; Ps. 119:1-3)
(Note: I have found, in particular, that helping my children learn of the nature and character of God as revealed in Christ through the great doctrines of scripture – God’s eternal attributes, the nature of man, and the nature of salvation - is critically important.)