Dads are to play with the kids and teach them to play. One picture depicts a dad tossing his young son up in the air a few feet and catching him. The boy is thrilled but the mother is nervous. The picture shows her perspective as if the boy is being tossed fifteen feet up in the air. Then there is the perspective of the boy – he feels like he is being thrown ten feet up in the air and has complete trust in dad to catch him.
Dads nurture through play. A UCLA study years ago documented how kids and adults need eight to ten touches a day for good emotional health. Physical touch from dads even through roughhousing can help establish good emotional health in children. When dads lead children through a series of firsts – the first time down a slide, swinging on a swing or climbing a tree, they provide a level of comfort for the child through their presence. The child knows their dad is there to catch them if something goes wrong. Comfort established through healthy play early with dad manifests into confidence as the child matures and participates in other activities.
Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” After laying His hands on them, He departed from there. – Matthew 19:13-15. Jesus loves children. He suggests that their innocence and willingness to trust truly reflect the Kingdom of Heaven. I can imagine Jesus tickling them and maybe even tossing them up in the air and catching them. Then He did lay His hands on them and prayed. He nurtured them arguably through play, provided comfort as they trusted Him and He established confidence in their spirit as He prayed for them.
When a dad nurtures his children through play, he represents the Heavenly Father well by providing comfort through his presence and establishing confidence in their spirit through prayer. This is particularly critical in the ‘Teacher’ season of fathering, the first ten years of a child’s life. Consistent interaction with dad grounds children in the values instilled and faith practiced in the home. In the process, children will be equipped to face the outside influences that come into play in the second ten years of life.
Prayer guide: Lord, I thank You for the Word and for the opportunity to be Your representative in the lives of our children. For too long, I pursued success in the workplace and let myself get distracted with busy-ness that kept me from being present for many of the kids’ firsts. I failed to represent You well in the family You blessed me with. Forgive me. I know I am not a perfect father but I know You and that You are the perfect Father. Teach me in this ‘Teacher’ season of fathering to nurture through play, provide comfort through presence and establish confidence through prayer. That is the dad You call me to be and that is the dad the next generation needs. Amen.
A faithful father nurtures through play, provides comfort through presence and establishes confidence through prayer.