We started this series with a few samples from humor writer Dave Barry detailing some things it took him fifty years to learn. It took me a long time to learn some of the things on this list about leaving a positive legacy as a father. My prayer is that young dads will save some time and regrets by reading this list.
- No one ever wishes they had worked more – Read yesterday’s post for more on this important point.
- Pick your battles wisely – Make sure it is an issue that is worth confrontation. Middle son Scott told us that we did this well: “I knew it was important when you guys dug in on something.”
- Innoculate your kids to the world – You must help your children prepare to go into a world that is filled with temptation and pitfalls. Providing a protective cocoon for eighteen years does not prepare them to leave home.
- Answer on the first tug – Children feel valued when you make time for them.
- Know their friends – They will push back on this one if you question their friends. Do it anyway.
- Let them know when you are wrong. Learn to say I’m sorry and forgive me. Do it often.
- Listen to what they say. If I could have a do-over I would listen to every pain, problems and concern. If I listen to them when they are small when they come to talk about problem, then they will continue to do that when they are older.
- Make sure while praying for your family that you are also praying for yourself. A father’s prayers so often sound something like this, “God, please make my son and daughter good people. Help them to succeed in school. Help them to find the right person to marry. Take care of them and protect them.” I learned that to become the kind of dad I wanted to be required that I stay in the right relationship with my Heavenly Father. Not surprisingly, when I was walking with Jesus my sons were more likely to display the characteristics I was praying for God to miraculously impose on them.
- Say I love you often and learn how to bless your children.
John Trent and Gary Smalley wrote a book some time ago called The Blessing in which they encouraged modern fathers to pass along a spiritual blessing to their children. The authors say that it’s more than taking them to church, praying with them or setting a good example. Smalley and Trent talk about five practical ways to pass on a blessing.
Number one: We can pass on a blessing with a meaningful touch. Jacob embraced. kissed and laid his hands on his sons and grandchildren. By giving a hug or a touch or placing an arm around the shoulder, we communicate love and a blessing. When children get loving touches from their parents, they are less likely to seek that physical touch from harmful sources later in life.
The Bible affirms this concept too. It relates this incident about Jesus: People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16)
One study has shown that it takes eight to ten meaningful touches each day to maintain emotional and physical health. If you can find ways to do that, your own children will be blessed.
Number two: We pass on a blessing through verbal affirmation. Children long to hear their dads say, “I’m proud of you,” “You’ve done that well,” or “I love you.”
Number three: We pass along a blessing by attaching value to our children. To bless means to honor. We honor our children by letting them know that they are valuable to us and that they are the most important people in the world to us. That means we sacrifice time for them. That means we look them in the eye when we talk to them, and we stop and we listen to them.
Number four: We pass along a blessing by picturing a positive future for them. Jacob pronounced a positive future on Reuben, Judah, Dan, Asher and others. We can bless our children by attaching high value to their gifts and then picturing for them a positive future.
“You really love people. You’d make a great salesman some day.”
“The way you love animals, you’d be a good veterinarian.”
“You want to be a policeman. That means you’re courageous.”
“The way you love church, you’re going to be a great church leader some day.”
Number five: Trent and Smalley write that we bless our children by active commitment. It’s not enough to speak the words. There has to be a willingness by the parent to sacrifice for the children, to pray, to spend time in helping develop their gifts, to spend money for lessons and for higher education.
To be honest, many men find it difficult to do some of those things. Men tend to struggle with how to verbalize their feelings and to pass along that blessing. Mom can help Dad do that by communicating the good things he says to her in private about the kids. Mom can say to one of her kids, “You know what your dad said about you last night? He said, ‘I think that’s the smartest girl I’ve ever seen.” Or “You should have seen the look on your dad’s face when you walked up on that platform.” Or “When you got that hit, he was beaming. His buttons were going to pop. He is so proud of you.”
If, as a father, you had less than one minute each day to talk to your children, what would you tell them? Studies show that fathers, on the average, spend less than sixty seconds a day talking to their children, and most of that time is spent pointing out negative behavior. However, the opposite of criticism is one of the most powerful motivating forces available to parents – praise. Don’t miss a chance to bless your children with affirmation and praise.
It has now been three years since we said a temporary goodbye to my beloved dad and friend. Paul Burchett went to be with his Heavenly Father on February 6, 2004. He had written a note to those he loved that we discovered after his death. His kind voice and trademark smile came to mind as we read his words:
“If I did things that made you smile, showed you love, made you happy, provided you with fond memories…then dwell on those things because I’ve won the battle. Keep God first in your life always. The only concern or regret that I have about going home is that I love you all so much.”
It is a comfort to know that I did not “lose” my dad three years ago. I know exactly where he is. Perhaps that is the greatest blessing you can give your children this Father’s Day. The knowledge that my dad loved Jesus and was ready to die was an incredible comfort for me. Having a personal relationship with your Heavenly Father is a great gift to give your children, and yourself, on this special day.