Early on, a dad may find this easy to stay engaged as he brings his child’s favorite lunch to elementary school and hangs out over recess. But he quickly learns this is not cool in middle school. The second tenant of Faithful Fathering’s charge to dads, after prioritizing physical presence, is to be engaged emotionally.
How is a dad to stay emotionally engaged as his kids mature and develop relationships beyond the family? The first step is to embrace the process as normal. Parents raise kids to progress on the journey toward independence from dad and mom, so some pushback along the way is to be expected. The second step is to accept the challenge to stay connected and mature in the relationship with the children as they mature.
“And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing.” – Luke 9:1-2. Just as Jesus understood it was necessary for his disciples to step into the world of demons and diseases in order to mature in their faith, dads must also understand that letting the reins out is part of the journey as kids mature. “… a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying, ‘Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.’ … And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not drive it out?’ And He said to them, ‘Because of the littleness of your faith; … this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.’” – Matthew 17:14-16, 18-21. Jesus stayed engaged to coach His disciples through their success and failure in casting out demons. He was alert to their situation, understanding of their shortcomings and available to provide the solution. Similarly, dads must stay alert to know their kids’ friends and situations they may be facing. Dads must know what peer pressure their kids are facing and what they are able to handle. Dad must be available to talk without judging, and be willing make that late night trip with no questions asked, to pick up a child facing a situation beyond what he or she can handle.
The challenge is on for dads to stay engaged emotionally because cultural pressures will capitalize on any disconnect in the father-child relationship. Here are some tips:
- Eat the evening meal together as a family with all technology turned off;
- Discuss maturity of the parent-child relationship with reference to Jesus’ relationship with His disciples;
- Ask your child open-ended questions like, "What was a highlight of your day?";
- Age appropriately, share experiences of how engaged your parents were;
- Schedule routine one-on-one time with each child (date your daughter; get a hamburger with your son; teach them how to drive; do a service project together; schedule a weekend father-child retreat or a week-long adventure).
Prayer guide: Thank You Lord for Your word and for engaging with me through the Holy Spirit. I confess that for too many years, I was more engaged with the company I worked for than the family I lived for. Forgive me. Help me engage in my children’s lives, to know them and understand how to stay connected to each one as they mature. I want to emulate Your example of gracefully transitioning from teacher to coach as Your disciples matured. That is the dad You call me to be and that is the dad my kids need to see. Amen.
A faithful father is intentional in staying engaged emotionally with his children.