In a world that has a hard time defining what a father is, Father’s Day can be a frustrating holiday. Many grieve the loss, absence, or abuse from their fathers. Others find themselves on the cusp of fatherhood, wondering what it looks like to love and lead a child.
Our culture doesn’t argue against the importance of fatherhood; it does, however, argue if it’s worth the sacrifice. The need for present, loving fathers is simple; carrying it out day-to-day in the real, ordinary moments is the hard part. So what does it look like to be a present, loving father? Here are 6 practical ways to love your children:
1. Celebrate their victories - no matter how small.
Whether your child is a toddling 1- year-old or a bouncing-off-the-walls 6-year-old or a not-impressed-with-life teenager, he or she wants to make you proud. If your child takes a first step, masters riding his or her bike, completes a craft, or makes the honor roll, make it your aim to be his or her biggest fan. Cheer, celebrate, high five, or hug—make your child feel seen and loved.
2. Plan one-on-one time.
Individual face-time with your child is important, especially if you have multiple children. Find an activity your child enjoys, and make a point to do it together. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Some ideas to get you started: go on a picnic; explore a bookstore; ride bikes; take a hike; build with LEGOs; go out for ice cream. Listen to their stories (no matter how long), ask questions, and stay engaged. You can get creative with how you spend time with each child; for example, while one naps, you can spend time with the other. Times when you’re both enjoying an activity will often lead to the best conversations and increased trust in your relationship.
3. Read together.
Reading aloud has many benefits, including development of vocabulary, reading comprehension, and stimulating brain activity. But of equal value is the emotional and relational connections made by reading books aloud together. Children watch the cues of their caretakers’ faces and voice inflections throughout a story and learn how to react to or process storylines that present real life conflicts and scenarios. When children associate reading together with feeling safe, cared for, and relaxed, it boosts both their emotional and physical health. Studies even show that the positive emotional connections from reading boosts a child’s immune system, sleep quality, and brain, heart, and gut function.
4. Discipline consistently and lovingly.
Our culture has redefined the word “discipline” to mean something negative or punitive. It’s sometimes associated with a domineering sort of parenting that relies on fear and control. But true discipline is the best possible way to love our children, because it equips them with the tools needed to be a healthy, functioning member of the world. In his book, The Storm-Tossed Family, Russell Moore writes of the true purpose of discipline:
“Discipline is discipleship. Through life together, we communicate what we expect of one another, and we train up a new generation with the affections, intuitions, and skills they will need for the future. Teaching the Bible is discipline. Modeling how to pray is discipline. Singing songs together is discipline. Toilet training is discipline. Driver’s education is discipline. Showing an older adolescent how to apply for a job is discipline. And yes, correcting behaviors that aren’t consistent with life in the family, or life in eternity, is part of discipline as well.”
Providing clear, consistent guidelines for family life and then following through with those expectations is a wonderful way to love your children.
5. Laugh often.
As a parent, the responsibilities and to-do lists can become overwhelming. Children are perceptive and pick up on our stress, fear, or anxiety. Make a point to be silly, have fun, and laugh with your children. Laughter has been proven to boost the immune system, relieve stress, release endorphins, and even protect your heart by improving the function of your blood vessels and blood flow. Other studies affirm the relational benefit of laughter. Says one social psychologist: “For people who are laughing together, shared laughter signals that they see the world in the same way, and it momentarily boosts their sense of connection.”
6. Love their mom.
The way you treat the mother of your children will inform the way your children treat women throughout their lives. Whether you and your child’s mother are married, living together, separated, or divorced, you have a unique opportunity and responsibility to treat her with respect and honor. You are the best example of what a loving and mutually respectful relationship can look like.
Happy Father's Day
Whether you have a child of your own or not, every man can be a father to someone. If you are a father, uncle, mentor, or caregiver, we hope this Father’s Day is one where you feel loved and appreciated. Fatherhood is one of the hardest jobs in the world – but also one of the most rewarding.
At The Pregnancy Network, we offer classes to help equip and prepare you for parenthood. These classes are facilitated by trained advocates and guest speakers who are professionals in their fields. Topics include: baby blues, budgeting, infant CPR, and more. Give us a call or click here to get connected.
Happy Father’s Day.