passive father

3 Questions to Avoid Being the Passive Dad

I don’t know about your kids, but my kids are good for asking a million questions. And my kids never ask questions at convenient times. Most nights, the deep questions and conversations start right around the time I’m getting ready for bed. A classic example: Just the other night, as I’m ready to doze off, my middle child becomes Socrates and wants to know the meaning of life. This most recent night, I decided to say, “Go to bed, get some rest, and I’ll tell you the meaning of life tomorrow.”

Sometimes, I’m engaged and answer my kids’ questions. Sometimes, I’m a passive father and totally brush them off. But our kids need us to be engaged so they feel valued. Being passive will lead our kids to think we’re not interested or don’t love them. Here are 3 questions to ask yourself to avoid being a passive father. 

Question 1: Who’s most important to you?

Jesus told us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart … and love your neighbor as yourself.” This begs the question: Who’s my neighbor? Who are the most important people around me? The answer is my wife and kids. The folks I live with are my first neighbors. The difference between the active dad and the passive dad is this: The active dad remembers who’s most important in his life and engages his whole heart on them, even when he is tired. The passive dad doesn’t.

I’m at my best when I look at them and remember to ask who’s most important. What are the things that make you more passive? Remember those moments when you’re on your iPhone, scrolling through Instagram, your email, and the Washington Football Team’s app (and then you start the cycle all over again with Instagram)? Oh, that’s just me?! All the while, your kids are asking you to build stuff with LEGOs for the fifty-eleventh time. Here’s the trick: Remember that your kids are the most important people to you.

Question 2: What do my kids need right now?

There’s a story about Jesus in Mark 6:30-44. He was headed to a quiet place to find rest but was met with a crowd. Despite wanting rest, He put His own needs aside and had compassion on them. Like that, the active dad sees past his own energy level in order to see what his kids need and engages.

The point is, when your kids come up to you right when you’re focused on something else, instead of thinking about yourself more, it helps to ask: What do my kids need right now? Maybe they need me to play with them, maybe it’s your attention because they crave it. Or, it may be that your kids need you to focus on work right now—because lights and running water are a priority too—and you can carve out time with your kids later.

Question 3: What’s on your mind?

There’s so much stuff to fill our minds with. I admit I get distracted easily. If it’s not social media or my football team, it’s that next streaming series. The Apostle Paul didn’t mention much about streaming new TV shows, but he talked about the need to renew our minds—to refocus—constantly. Our minds are constantly filled with junk and need to be refreshed.

If we aren’t guarding our minds, we’re setting ourselves up to be passive with our kids.

At my best, I come back to asking God to recalibrate my thoughts. In my opinion, God is the greatest father there is. So, when I come back to Him to recalibrate, I find out what He wants. I fill my mind with those things. My mind and heart re-center and I can focus more on what’s truly important. If we aren’t guarding our minds, we’re setting ourselves up to be passive with our kids.

Trust me, I’m not the spokesman for a refreshed mind. But, the days when I stay active and engaged are the days when I’ve asked myself who’s most important to me, what my kids need right now, and what’s on my mind. There’s a saying that says “how you do anything is how you do everything.” How you answer these three questions will affect everything. Answer them well and you’ll go from passive father to active just like that.

Sound off: Which of these three questions do you need to ask yourself right now?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is something you need today that you think I could help provide?”