One of my all-time favorite movies is Courageous—a story told through the lives of five men. The film highlights the influence of a father.
Central to the movie is a Resolution Ceremony, in which the five men stand in faith and declare their commitment and responsibility to their wives and children. Drawing from the Resolution, here are 12 foundational principles every dad can use to lead his children.
1. Take responsibility.
Make a concrete decision to serve your family to the best of your ability physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually—and not in a way that lords it over your wife or children, but as a leader who sets his own desires aside for the betterment of his home.
2. Love, protect, lead.
Loving here refers to unconditional love—your love for them is not based on their actions. Protect by guarding your home against any damaging influences or external dangers. Lead through selfless sacrifice, giving them your best even when life seems to be weighing you down.
3. Be faithful.
If you are married, stay true to your wife by standing by her through all of life’s challenges—for better or worse. Remain faithful by guarding what you put into your mind and heart.
If you are a single father, begin to lay a “faithful foundation” now so if and when you do wed, you already have made that commitment. Read up on healthy marriages and consider attending seminars on marriage. Hang out with men who have happy marital longevity under their belts and ask them what they have done to make it work.
4. Bless and raise children with strong moral values.
If your family has faith, live it out. Praise and bless your children regularly. “Catch them” doing good and affirm their correct choices. And be sure you are walking in the same way you wish to see your children walk. Clarence B. Kelland said, “My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived and let me watch him do it.”
5. Teach children to live responsibly.
Discipline can be extremely beneficial for a child if it is done in a manner that strengthens and edifies them. Setting reasonable household rules and expectations, accompanied with loving discipline, prepares our sons and daughters to grow into mature and responsible adults.
6. Teach children to stand up.
Talk with your son or daughter about what is right and wrong, what it means to stand up for others, and how to handle adverse situations. Assure them they can always talk with you or another trusted adult. This instills strong moral values and a solid character in them.
7. Teach children to love and respect others.Be the type of man you want your son to become and your daughter to choose one day.
How do you approach people of other backgrounds, beliefs, or differences in opinion? Do your children see you as a man of compassion and understanding, or as a hypocrite who says one thing but lives out another? Be aware of the way you demonstrate respect and kindness to others. Be the type of man you want your son to become and your daughter to choose one day.
8. Provide for the family.
As a father, your purpose goes much further than just financial provision. Meet the needs of your family by doing all you can to provide the tangibles and intangibles. If you are not working but your wife is, support her by caring for the household responsibilities. Providing as a man is not one-dimensional; it requires everything we can give.
9. Model forgiveness (seeking and receiving).
The ability to forgive (or not forgive) will show up in all other areas of your life and has the ability to lift your family up or drag them down with you. Who do you need to forgive and who do you need to ask forgiveness from? Now is not the time to be macho. Make an honest list and begin working immediately on the steps toward healing.
10. Learn from mistakes and have integrity.
Why is the front windshield of a car so much larger than the rearview mirror? Because we need to be looking that much more in front of us than reflecting on what’s behind. OK—maybe not, but the analogy still works. Recognize where you’ve previously fallen short and make adjustments. Integrity in every aspect of your life will be a blessing to your family for years to come.
11. Honor God.
In Courageous, Adam, one of the main characters, eludes to how much the Bible speaks on fatherhood. God has entrusted us to honor Him by the way we manage our families and we shouldn’t take that lightly. Proverbs tells us not to lean on our own understanding, but to acknowledge God in all our ways and He will make our paths straight.
12. Stay committed to these principles.
I am convinced when a father stays committed with a genuine heart, his ability to influence his children can and will have a generational impact. So stay the course. Resolve today to embed these principles into your daily life and watch how your family thrives when you do.
Sound off: How are you currently leading your children?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is one thing you need from me this week?”