I grew up playing golf. Every summer I took lessons to perfect my swing. Trying to master every aspect of a golf swing can be overwhelming. After a number of years, I realized that if I focused on three aspects of my swing, I would hit the ball crisp and clean. Almost 40 years later, I still say the same thing to myself when I stand over the ball: “Eyes on the ball, left arm straight, balance in the center.” Having a great golf swing is not that important to most of us, but being a great dad is.
But where do you start? It can be overwhelming knowing what to focus on. Well, we have boiled it down to 10 specific things. Some of you are doing all 10. Great job! For others, these 10 might seem like a real challenge. Just focus on a couple at a time and you’ll be there before you know it. Stick with it. Don’t get discouraged or give up. Whatever you do, show up and engage. Here are the 10 ways to be an All Pro Dad. You can download and print the list. Keep it where you will be reminded daily!
1. Love your wife.
True love is not a feeling. It is a decision. It’s an act of the will to be patient, kind, humble, hopeful, giving, faithful, and trusting. When you commit to loving your wife this way, your feelings for her, and hers for you, will follow. Actively loving your wife will radically strengthen your marriage and will also be beneficial to your children. The number one source of security for kids is to know that their dad loves their mother and is steadfastly committed to her well-being. If you aren’t married to your child’s mother, then treat her with dignity and respect. Do your best to honor her as best you can.
2. Spend time with your kids.
How you spend your time is a reflection of what’s important to you. If you value your kids, you’ll want to be with them. You don’t need to wait for the perfect time. It doesn’t have to be when you can take a vacation or an afternoon off from work. Instead, grab those small pockets of time as they present themselves throughout the day. Call your kids on your cell phone between appointments just to say hi. Send them an e-mail from work. Read to them at bedtime. Carve out a few minutes to help them with their homework. Go to breakfast and drop them off at school. Grab every moment you can get with your children.
3. Be a role model.
It’s impossible to overestimate the importance of a father modeling the type of behavior he desires to see in his children. Role models don’t just talk the talk; they walk the walk of an honorable man. A great place to start is consistency. Do you keep your word? Do you stand up for what is right even when it costs you? Are you trustworthy? Are you loyal in your relationships? Be what you want your children to be!
4. Understand and enjoy your children.
Like you, every child has unique DNA, unique fingerprints, and a unique personality. In order to be the best father you can be, you’ll need to understand your children as individuals. How do your kids think? What do they like or dislike? You’ll also want to know what each of your children need from you the most. One may need encouragement. Another responds better to affection. This crucial understanding can only come if you’re committed to really getting to know them. Remember, too, how fast your kids grow up, and just enjoy being with them. Don’t get tempted to wish for the next stage of their development. Have fun with them now, and make memories that last a lifetime.
5. Show affection.
Children long for a secure place in this fast-paced world. They find it most often in the warm embrace of a parent. As children grow, so does their need for acceptance and a sense of belonging. Such a need is met when a father offers a hug, or a kind word, and expresses his appreciation and love for his children. But showing affection doesn’t stop there. Make sure to say, “I love you” every day.
6. Secure your family’s financial future.
Financial stress is one of the leading factors that tears families apart. In order to put your family in a position of strength, you have to shore up your finances. First, hate debt. Do everything you can to get out of it as quickly as possible. Then, make sure you establish a budget that not only trims expenses but also allows you to save and share with those in need. Have proper insurance. Finally, make sure you live and teach these frugal principles to your children as well.
7. Eat together as a family.
Most children today don’t know the meaning of a family dinnertime. Yet the communication and unity built during this time is integral to a healthy family life. Sharing a meal together—breakfast, lunch, or dinner—provides structure to an often hectic schedule. It also gives kids the opportunity to talk about their lives. This is a time for fathers to listen as well as give advice and encouragement. Most importantly, however, it is a time to be together on a daily basis.
8. Discipline with a gentle spirit.
True discipline is a function of a father’s love for his children, which is why it should never be hard-nosed or harsh. Discipline’s role is not to intimidate or tear down, but to mold and to correct. Correcting your kids should be done in private, and you and your wife should be unified in how you discipline. Strive to be consistent.
9. Pray and worship together.
Families that have a healthy prayer life and take worshipping God seriously help their children to understand that there is an ultimate authority in their lives—an authority who provides moral absolutes for them to live by. Every child needs to know that there is right and wrong, good and evil. Living under the authority of God will give them that knowledge.
10. Realize you’re a father forever.
Someday every father must let go of the youthful activities that bond him with his children. As he allows his children their freedom to direct their own lives, a good father realizes he doesn’t abandon them at a dorm room, a wedding altar, or the door of their first job. He continues to encourage, coach, and convey his wisdom to his children forever.
Sound off: Which of these is the most challenging for you?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are some things that really great dads do?”