I am a firm believer that a father is the primary influence in a child’s life, for better or worse, for a child’s entire life. I believe the job of being a father is the most important job in the world because every earthly father points to our Heavenly Father. Some do this better than others and the result is children grow up with a positive or negative view of God.
As fathers think about their role, it is vital to remember that the lion share of your influence comes through what you say and/or don’t say. The following list includes some key messages you need to say to your sons [followed by a] list of key messages you need to say to your daughters.
To your sons…
Call them up into manhood. Every boy needs to be pointed to a clearly defined target of manhood. They need to be constantly reminded to grow into the man God wants them to be. As a father you must be aware that children, especially boys will naturally prefer immaturity. You must keep the call into manhood consistent as they grow up.
Call them into moral integrity. Help your son understand what it means to be a man of high moral integrity. Expect him to tell the truth, even when it hurts. Expect him to live with conviction in the areas of sexual purity and the use of his speech.
Call them into a life above reproach. As we all know right and wrong is not simply about what we do or don’t do, it is often in the perception of what we do or don’t do that causes harm. We must teach our sons to live above reproach and carefully guard their “name.”
Bless him with limits. Limits are statements of value. We always place limits on those things we consider important. If we fail to give our sons limits we communicate that we do not consider them important. Limits are vital for kids because they are frankly not smart enough or wise enough to make good decisions. The limits you place on them is a gift that teaches them what wisdom feels like.
Give them an example to follow. You cannot underestimate the impact of your example. You set the tone of what is right and good. You must consider the weight of your words and actions. This applies when they are around and when you are apart from your children. Your example is both what they see in you and what they hear from others about you. Be the man you want your sons to become.
Show them how to treat a woman by honoring their mother. Always show honor to your son’s mother. Even if you are not married to her and even if there is a history of conflict and discord. Honor does not mean you condone bad behavior but it does mean you display grace and love in the way you speak of and treat her. Honor often speaks more about the giver than it does the receiver. The way your son sees you treat his mother will become the standard by which he will learn to treat women.
A quick word to Moms…when possible and appropriate, point your sons to their father and say “be like your father!” It is not always possible or appropriate but when your son’s father is providing a worthy example give it notice and point your son in that direction.
To your daughters…
Speak of their total beauty. As her father, make it your mission to be a louder and more complete voice regarding her beauty. Our society is relentless in measuring a woman’s beauty on external traits alone. You must speak to her complete beauty. Make sure she understands that beauty is ALWAYS measured in the total package, inside and out, and prayerfully she will not ever believe the lies of the world.
Call your daughter into purity. Your role as a father is to help your daughter see her value both emotionally and physically. Guard her purity by helping her see the importance of sexual purity and giving her insider information on how boys think. Call her to embrace purity as the perfect plan for finding love, acceptance and intimacy. Do not ever stop this message until a worthy man comes to take her hand.
Expect her to be modest. Do not allow her to be played by a culture that objectifies women. Do not go passive here dads! Just because you feel out of the loop on fashion trends and what “all the other kids are doing,” that does not nullify your voice in this matter. You do know the mind of men and you must protect your daughter from unintentionally presenting herself in a way that invites the worst in young men. Modesty is a vital discipline that promotes her best interest.
Bless her with limits. Limits are statements of value. We always place limits on those things we consider important. If we fail to give our daughters limits we communicate that we do not consider them important. Limits are vital for kids because they are frankly not smart enough or wise enough to make good decisions. The limits you place on them is a gift that teaches them what wisdom feels like.
Show her by example the kind of man she should be looking for to marry – make the standard high. Dads, you are the model of manhood for your daughter as she sets her sights on romance. You will be the one who helps her see the difference in the talk and the walk. You have the opportunity to give her the kind of love that becomes the standard she uses to evaluate all other loves against. When you love her with the love of Christ, she will begin to look for a man who resembles the same quality.
When possible and appropriate, point her to her mother as the model of womanhood. I know not every mother is a worthy model to follow. If you daughter’s mother displays godly character, then point her toward her mother and tell her, “be like her.” This accomplishes both a wonderful role model for your daughter and models what a godly man says about the mother of his child.
In short, Dads, be the man you want your sons to become and your daughters to marry. This is probably the best advice I can give. Fatherhood is not for the weak or faint of heart. But, you can do it! No more excuses, no more fear. Go Dad!