Posts in category Young children

4 things daughters need from dad



News flash: parenting is demanding work.  Always has been, always will be.

Part of the reason it’s difficult is that the moment that tiny person appears, we suddenly no longer come first in our self-centered little world.  This precious bundle of burping, crying, sleepless joy now comes first.

4 things daughters needAs dads, it can be a challenge to know how to nurture these adorable beings overflowing with feisty, fragile femininity.  Many of us are still dealing with our own wounds from childhood while fighting every day just to protect our manliness in a world that seems hell-bent on attacking every corner of our hearts.

And it’s hard enough to deal with testosterone, a fairly familiar and predictable substance; now we’re expected to deal skillfully with this utterly foreign material called estrogen? Just the thought of it can be emotionally exhausting, especially for someone like me who usually just wants to be left alone to retreat into a dark, silent man cave at the end of the day.

Yet that is our calling, and these precious warrior princesses deserve nothing less than everything God has purposed for them to receive from their daddies.  And no, I’m not talking about pink bikes, ballet lessons, and Frozen-themed parties.  I’m talking about four things that our daughters need from their earthly fathers to know, deep down in their souls, that they are truly cherished and beloved.

The best part?  These four things don’t require complicated strategies or hours-long time blocks.  They can be done in small doses in everyday moments.

4 Things Daughters Need From Their Dads
1. Time

Sounds simple.  But in our digitally distracted, turbocharged lives, time is the scarcest of resources.  How much of it we do (or do not) give to our daughters speaks volumes to them about their value in our eyes.

And here’s something I’ve been learning about time: we can’t fracture it, splice it, dice it, or multitask it if we want it to be quality.  We’re either all in or all out from our children’s perspective.

One of the saddest images to me is one I see at the playground: the checked-out parent, eyes down on the smartphone, trailing their toddler around the park, texting between swing pushes.  That’s not presence.  That’s not attention.  That’s not being all in.  And it’s easy to fall into; trust me, I get it.  It’s one of the reasons my wife and I created three “no phone zones” as parents: the dinner table, the playroom floor, and the playground.

And if your daughter’s love language is quality time, this becomes even more important.  The other weekend, my four-year-old wanted to play dolls, so we sat on the floor and played with the dollhouse for thirty minutes.  The next morning, before she even came downstairs, she yelled to me, “Daddy, can we play dolls again?”  It’s not so much that she wanted to play dolls — it’s that she wanted to feel more of daddy’s love.  I’m just glad I had ears to hear in that moment what she was really asking me for.

They say kids spell love “T-I-M-E.”  Dads, let’s give it to our daughters.  Let’s be present, so they can truly believe that there is a Heavenly Father Who is their strength and “a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

2. Talk

Words matter.  In fact, words are power.  God created the cosmos through words.  Similarly, as fathers we are continuously shaping our daughters through our words.  Positive, affirming words are, in a very real way, infusing our girls with power and strength.

Conversely, harsh, negative words and criticism are sucking strength right out of them and bruising them in profound ways.  And an absence of communication altogether can be just as harmful. A cruel, cynical, sexually violent world is waiting to step into that void.

Let’s secure the perimeter of our daughters’ hearts by talking about their uniqueness, our love for them, and God’s delight in them continually (as in, “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7).

And, by the way, tell stories. Talk about your childhood.  Talk about Grandpa in the war.  Talk about the day your daughter was born.  Research has shown that kids who hear stories from their parents are more resilient and confident as they go out in the world.  Tell them your stories, so that they can understand their own vital role in the beautiful narrative God is crafting around them.

3. Touch

As far as I can tell, the answer to the question, “What is my oldest daughter’s love language?” is … all of them.

Without a doubt, though, physical touch ranks highly.  When I hold her gently and tickle her arms and back, I can describe it only as her melting in my lap.  All of the anxious energy seems to dissipate as she goes limp in peaceful repose.

That’s what appropriate and loving physical touch can do.  Oxytocin is the hormone released when humans engage in loving, gentle touch, like hugging, kissing, holding hands. It’s sometimes called “the bonding hormone.”  It truly binds us together, and a lack of it, like a lack of affirming words, can create a void that inhibits trusting, intimate relationships throughout life.

Research has even shown that the more healthy touch that kids experience from their parents, the more uncomfortable any unwanted touch from others feels to them.  In a world that is daily trying to molest our kids, mentally and physically, holding our daughters’ hands and hugging them in our arms is, in a very real way, protecting them from harm.

What better way to model for them their Heavenly Father, who gathers his children “in his arms and carries them close to his heart” (Isaiah 40:11)?

4. Tenderness

All three of these needs — time, talk, and touch — require the common element of tenderness.  In some ways, this is the hardest thing for me as a father.  It seems every day there are moments where I simply am not tender — I was too harsh, too terse, too indifferent.  Sometimes it’s my speech. Sometimes it’s just because I’m tired.  But that’s what love ultimately is: dying to my own needs and desires and putting those of my daughters first.

Often, I’m not as tender as I should be because I forget how delicate their hearts are.  You’d think after fifteen years of marriage I’d be cognizant every moment that no matter how tough, independent, and formidable my wife and daughters may be externally, internally their feminine soul will respond only to tenderness from me (see Hosea 2:14).

But, I forget.  I make mistakes.  I blow it.  Maybe you do too. And even though we’re imperfect, we serve a redeeming Father Who is perfect, and He gives us grace to give our daughters more time, more talk, more touch, and more tenderness tomorrow.

Ultimately, that’s the most important thing, because just like us, they’ll blow it too.  As I learned at the roller-skating rink the other week, they will fall down, often, and our job is to help them up tenderly, tell them they can do it, and hold their hands as we take baby steps forward together.  And if an afternoon roller-skating is in any way an accurate metaphor for life, I can promise you that the bruises and scrapes will be far outweighed by the joy and delight we’ll experience … hand-in-hand with our daughters.

@2015 by pureHOPE. Used with permission

BoucheMugNoel Bouché serves as the president of pureHOPE. His passionate focus is to inspire and equip followers of Jesus to pursue a world free of sexual exploitation and brokenness through personal transformation and community collaboration. He holds a law degree from The University of Texas, and an undergraduate degree from South Dakota State University, where he was quarterback. Noel and Vanessa live in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area with their two daughters.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklist

You just finished reading “4 things daughters need from dad,” by guest blogger Noel Bouché of pureHOPE.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistIf you have a daughter, which of the 4 do you do the best? Which can use the most work? Focus on that today.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistDr. Meg Meeker helps dads improve the bond with their daughters on this 3-part broad-cast on FamilyLife Today.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistDan Bolin gives 10 great ideas on “How to be Your Daughter’s Daddy.” Try some out in your home this week.

3 steps to create a family tech plan



Editor’s Note: This post by Dan Martin originally appeared on the official blog of pureHOPE, an organization whose aim is to inspire and equip followers of Christ to flourish in this sexually exploitative age and lead their families and communities to do the same.

TeenCellphoneFor the last five years I have had the unique privilege of speaking to and hearing from parents all over the country. The question I am asked most by parents is how to handle all of the tech gadgets invading their kids’ lives and what I would recommend as a dad who has raised three teenagers in the digital age.

Finding the balance between face-to-face and digital connection is the key.  As the Apostle John said: “I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” – 2 John 1:12

What John understood was that technology (his being paper and ink) was a substitute for something better: face-to-face interaction and connection.  John, and all of the writers of the New Testament, mastered the art of balancing these two connecting opportunities.  Just like them, we ought to seek a healthy combination of both.

Here is a three-fold strategy for managing technology in your home:

First, we are to protect our kids. 

Protection involves several layers in today’s wired environment.  A comprehensive protection plan involves activating parental controls on all digital devices, browsers, specific social media sites and apps.  Also important to this endeavor is protecting at the router level.  This will help with devices that are brought into our homes by friends of our children who might not have parental controls activated.

Filtering and/or monitoring (aka internet accountability) are also important parts of a comprehensive protection plan.  Our family has used Covenant Eyes for both filtering and monitoring for several years and we have found it to be a wonderful piece of our overall protection plan.  We used filtering when our kids were young and moved to monitoring when they got a bit older.

I also recommend that technology be used only in common areas in the home, i.e., no technology in bedrooms. Besides the obvious risk of kids viewing porn is the fact that cyber bullying has become all too common in the digital age and a 24/7 occurrence.

Second, we are to equip our kids to thrive in a digital world. 

If all we do is protect our kids … we will fail to equip them.  A home strategy should involve lots of equipping when it comes to technology.  I would much rather send an equipped child into the world than a protected one. Equipping means that our homes become incubators for healthy learning, healthy growth, healthy correcting and healthy dialogue about the impact and influence of technology. If we want them to make good decisions when they leave the security of our homes, they need to understand why prudent tech use is so important to their spiritual and emotional well-being.

Third and (in my opinion) most important, we need to model wise and healthy technology use for our kids.  

It remains true that observational learning is the primary way our kids develop understanding and learn behavior.  It also remains true that parents are the primary influence in their kids’ lives.  Not peers, not media, not celebrities … parents!  If we desire for our kids to use technology wisely, then we must model this behavior in our own lives, in our own homes.  Here are a few things I recommend doing as a family and yes, parents, you need to set the example here!

  1. Create a Tech Basket – a place in the home where all technology is placed at a specified time each evening in order to protect valuable family time. We have a rule that family meal times are also tech-free!
  2. Tech Sabbath – This could be a night or a weekend of complete rest from technology. Our family loves to go camping together, which provides time to reconnect with each other and disconnect from technology.
  3. Model Good Tech Use – As parents we also need to have our own Internet activity monitored in order to model good technology health to our kids.  When my oldest son left home for college, he received a laptop as a graduation gift.  I will never forget him bringing me his laptop prior to moving out and asking me,  “Dad, will you install that program (Covenant Eyes) you have on your laptop?”  One question to ask yourself: are you modeling the type of behavior you want to see in your kids?

A three-fold strategy involving protection, equipping, and modeling is our best bet as parents to help our children thrive when it comes to living in this digital age.

© 2015 by pureHOPE. Used with permission.

MartinDanMugDan Martin serves as Parenting Associate at pureHOPE, developing ministry activities and resources to equip parents to raise kids in the sexualized culture around us. He is also the Adult Ministry Pastor at the Chase Oaks Church Fairview Campus. Dan and Kathie have been married for 24 years and live in Lucas, TX; they are recent empty-nesters with three college-aged children. 

STEPSeek - 10-point checklist

You just finished reading “3 steps to create a family tech plan,” by guest blogger Dan Martin of pureHOPE ministry.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistHow are you doing in protecting, equipping, and modeling good digital behavior with your children?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistGet more guidance on managing “Screens and Teens” from Dr. Kathy Koch on the FamilyLife Today broadcast.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistGet with your spouse to develop a family tech plan, using resources like pureHOPE and Covenant Eyes.

Dads, speak words of life into your children



MatterhornI’ve always been a little jealous of King Solomon. When he took over as King of Israel from his father David, God appeared to him in a dream and invited Solomon to “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Hoping one day this happens to me, I’ve begun compiling a list of things I’d like and am currently ranking them in order of what I want most. Because of my love of the outdoors, right now owning the country of Switzerland is at the top.

Back to the story – you probably know how Solomon answers. He asks God for wisdom to lead the nation. God was pleased with this response and gave Solomon the understanding and discretion he asked for. Plus the answer was so good he also got everything else he didn’t ask for: wealth, long life, the death of his enemies, etc.

There is no exact age given for when Solomon took over for his dad, but most scholars agree he was in his middle to late teens. How many teenagers do you know are given a blank check for anything they want and they cash it in for wisdom? But that’s exactly what he did.

I’ve often wondered how Solomon knew to ask for wisdom and recently I found my answer! In 1 Chronicles 22:12, David is close to death and calls his son Solomon to his bedside and speaks this over him, “May the Lord give you discretion and understanding [a.k.a. wisdom] when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God.” David did not pray for his son to have wealth, long life or reprieve from his enemies. He prayed that he would have wisdom. And when Solomon was given a chance to ask for whatever he wanted, he knew what what was most important because of the words his dad had spoken over him and so he asked for wisdom. I wonder what Solomon would have asked for had David not put this in his heart by praying it over him?

This does serve as a great reminder to us dads to speak words of life and meaning into each of our kids. Solomon even said so himself when he wrote Proverbs 18:21, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” And then again in Proverbs 25:11, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”

Speak words of life you want to see in your children

I don’t believe we as fathers fully grasp the amount of life-changing power – for either good or devastation – that we possess when it comes to speaking into the lives of our kids. But we are the most powerful force and with that comes great responsibility and accountability. We must be intentional to speak words of encouragement and empowerment into our kids and we have to be intentional in controlling our tongues so we do not speak destructive words of death that haunt them for their entire life.

One thing I’m in the process of doing, and would encourage you to do as well, is to come up with five to seven words that are character traits you see in your child or are trusting God to give your child. For example, with one of my sons, the words I’ve come up with so far are: Strong, Courageous, Industrious and Loyal. I’m letting these words simmer for a few weeks as I pray over each of my four kids, asking God to give me the right words for each one. I’ll then take those words and create some type of poster and hang the words in their bedrooms. By doing this, every day they will be reminded of what I see in them and who God created them to be.

I may never own Switzerland, but if my kids grow up with their identity in Christ set and secure, I’ll take that over the Swiss Alps any day!

11 great Father’s Day commercials



It seems like with each passing year, holidays become more commercialized: Christmas, Valentines, even Mother’s Day. But not so much Father’s Day.

Until now.

This post is nothing but commercials about being a dad. The great thing is that they’re not overtly selling anything … except the value of fatherhood.

If you’re a dad, look them over and be reminded how important you’re role is. If you still have you’re dad around, let him know what he means to you while you still can (I wish I still could).

Our encouragement to you: Build up the dad in your life by sharing this post (or the individual videos) with him. And encourage other dads by sharing the post via social media.

But most of all, have a (not-so-commercialized) happy Father’s Day.

 

Father’s Day Re-Do – Toyota Camry (Father’s Day 2015)

Let’s make Father’s Day mean something. The best thing you do for your dad is to let him know that you notice and value all the things he’s done for you through the years.

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My Daddy, My Hero – Toyota Verso

Little kids might have a slightly inflated view of their dads, but the things you’re doing for them every day really are heroic.

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My Bold Dad – Toyota Camry

Fatherhood is about being there to protect, to teach, to love … and to let go.

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First fatherhood moments  – Dove Men+Care

Unscripted moments from home videos of real-life men finding out they’re going to be dads.

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With Dad – Nissan (Super Bowl 2015)

Even when you’re not physically able to be there, keep your heart connected to your children. Their hearts want to connect with you.

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Dad’s Sixth Sense – Hyundai Genesis

We fathers may not always be in tune with emotions, but we seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to protecting our children.

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Father-Daughter (driving) – Subaru

Making the transition from protecting to releasing your child in the adult world comes quickly. And sometimes the lines get blurred.

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“Gift” (old homemade dad’s coupons book) – Publix

It’s not just the thought that counts. I still have a few of these stashed away. You never know when they’ll come in handy.  🙂

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Origami Birds Father-Daughter – Wrigley’s Extra gum

Your day-to-day fathering may seem like meaningless scraps sometimes, but they’re collecting in the lives of your children.

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Caring Makes a Man Stronger – Dove Men+Care (Super Bowl 2015)

The name “Dad” says a lot of things, as you can hear in the expressions of these children. One word, so many meanings.

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How to Dad – Peanut Butter Cheerios

Being a dad is an awesome privilege and responsibility. And it’s fun. In case you’re new to the role, this commercial is a primer on “How to Dad”

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Honor Dad for who he is, not what he isn’t



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Hey dads. I want to honor you. And I want to encourage you to honor your father.  Imperfect, good or bad, we all need to honor our dads, and we all need to grow as fathers.

KempJeffJackScoreboardMy dad, Jack Kemp, was a really good dad; he had some phenomenal traits. But he had some gaps, too. The good part of my dad was that he was a great hugger and kisser, he always told us he loved us. He wrote us notes all the time, he affirmed our identity. And he gave us great vision for life and was always encouraging us.

He wasn’t so good—in fact he wasn’t good at all—when it came to talking to me about the intimate things of sex and temptation. He wasn’t that good at admitting his faults; he didn’t really apologize well, particularly to my mom. And he didn’t know how to do anything around the house, or at least he didn’t help out much around the house. But, still, I honor my dad and I got so much from him.

And you know what? I have my strong and weak points as a father, too.

I’m good at some parts of fathering but not so good at remembering things. I’m not that good in some areas of listening, because I keep interrupting my kids too much. I’m intentional, but I’m overboard sometimes. But I always want to learn to be a better dad.

Get started. Honor dad. Be an honorable dad.

Honor your dad, and be the best dad you can be. For some of you that may be hard. Maybe you feel like you failed as a father, or maybe you had a father who failed you in so many ways.

Dads, I want to thank and encourage you. Don’t beat yourself up over the past. Decide to do your best from this day forward. Try this game plan. First, realize that your imperfect dad probably did the best he could with what he had. Set yourself free and forgive Him.

Next, remember you have a perfect heavenly father, who’s love for you is so radical and unconditional that He sacrificed His perfect Son to pay the death penalty that you and I deserve. Accept that love. Now, start the healing with your dad if he’s alive. Ignore your dad’s faults and initiate an apology to him. Don’t expect any apology in return. Next, apologize to your kids for where you have fallen short or missed the mark as a their dad.

Maybe you haven’t been present or been engaged. Maybe you haven’t been transparent or honest with them. Maybe you haven’t hugged and said “I love you” much.

Maybe you haven’t given the boundaries and training and protection your sons or daughters needed. Tell them your faults. Tell them your love. Start to do your best, today. You are the best dad in the world to your child…from this day forward.

Here’s my encouragement and my challenge: Be the best dad you can be; honor your own father and forgive him in any area where he wasn’t perfect.  And let’s keep growing as dads and make this thing about fatherhood not just a one-day celebration on the third Sunday in June, but a 365-day-a-year thing.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “Honor Dad for what he is… not what he isn’t” on the Stepping Up men’s blog

STEPThink - 10-point checklist“How Can You Honor Your Parents When You Feel They Don’t Deserve It?” Read this article from FamilyLife.com

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistHear how Freddie Scott II, another NFL son, chose to honor his father and become “The Dad I Wish I Had.”

STEPPass - 10-point checklistGet together with some guys, your teen or older son and go through Stepping Up, The Call to Courageous Manhood

Making a mother’s day



Maybe the last thing you’d expect to see in a blog for men is a post about Mother’s Day. That’s the precise reason I decided to write about it.

It’s not that the day’s not important, it’s just that it’s not something that shows up prominently on our radar screens as men. For most guys, whether boys or adults, Mother’s Day is one of those holidays that just seems to sneak up on us.

For me, that was especially true one year when I was in my early teens. The thought had crossed my mind once or twice that Mother’s Day was coming up. I really did appreciate my mom and had a great relationship with her. But in this particular year, if I had any thought of getting my mom something for Mother’s Day, it was a fleeting one.

So when I woke up one Sunday morning and realized it was Mother’s Day, it was too late. I felt incredibly guilty, but it was about to get worse. Normally, my dad was a gentle, non-confrontational man, but when he found out that I hadn’t thought enough to honor my mom for Mother’s Day, he really got mad at me. How could I forget the woman who did so much for me every day, who rarely thought of herself, and who never forgot me on special holidays like my birthday and Christmas?

He was still on his tirade when I stormed out of the house, half mad at him for coming down so hard on me and half mad at myself for being an ungrateful son. But my dad’s talk did accomplish one thing—it  stirred me to action.

For the next 30 minutes, in my tear-filled, angry stomp through the neighborhood, I stopped at every house with a garden and snuck away with the prettiest flowers!  I was determined to show my dad that I wasn’t a thoughtless son, and to convince my mom that I cared enough to only give the very best.

After I had composed myself emotionally (and picked enough flowers to fill my hands), I returned home and presented the bouquet to my mom with sincere apologies for my thoughtlessness. I could tell that my dad wanted to give me lecture number two (this one about stealing from the neighbors), but instead settled for an incredulous, quiet chuckle at my creatively desperate remedy.

I think Dad and I each learned something that day. I’ve never forgotten another Mother’s Day. And until I was an adult with my own kids, he never neglected to remind me a couple of weeks out that Mother’s Day was coming, and that he knew that I genuinely wanted to honor Mom.

I’ve tried to carry on that tradition with my seven children, reminding them when the calendar flipped over to May and even suggesting things that Ellie might appreciate. Of course, there have been years where they forgot, or have given half-hearted gifts that indicated that they might as well have. I just remind myself that I’ve been there.

I tell my story to remind you that the calendar is flipping tomorrow. Whether you only have your mom to honor or whether you have children of your own who need to honor their mom, here are some ideas to take the lead and show your appreciation for the selfless woman/women in your life.

Mother's DayThink about what speaks love to your mother or your wife.

Presents. It could be a flower arrangement, a live flowering plant, a box of chocolates, or something to nice to wear. Just knowing that her children took the time to pick out something just for her will make her feel honored. Even better, have them make her something. Maybe frame each child’s favorite photo with mom like we did.

Encouraging words. It’s one thing to pick out a greeting card for Mother’s Day. It’s quite another for Mom to hear or to read her children’s own words about what she means to them. Write them. Speak them. If you’re not near your mom, plan a phone call that’s off the clock. Just let her enjoy the conversation without being in a hurry to get off. If you really want to go all out, give mom a tribute—a nicely written letter, suitable for framing, that she can pull out months or years from now when she’s having an especially difficult day and needs a little reminder that her efforts have been worth it.

Physical touch. Young mothers spend much of their day getting pulled and tugged by their little brood. What if mom just had a day where her little ones could snuggle in her lap for a book, or to watch a movie together. For teens, maybe it means giving mom that unexpected hug that she so often deserves but so rarely gets. Or maybe she’d appreciate a massage, a manicure, or pedicure.

Acts of serving. Moms are always doing for others: cooking, cleaning, washing, shuttling, nurturing. This is a day where kids call pull out all the stops and do for mom what she’s always doing for them.  If they’re old enough, maybe they could cook the meals that day, including a special meal to honor Mom—maybe even breakfast in bed. Or they might custom-make mom a book of coupons for chores she normally does. Like washing the dishes or clothes, or anything else she always does without complaining, even though she may hate to do it.

Devoted time. If she could, mom would love to disconnect from the daily responsibilities and just spend time talking, or enjoying a relaxing day together. What does she like to do? Spend time outdoors? Have a picnic? Window shop or spend time at a coffee shop? Find out some things she likes to do, and make a day of it, being sure that the relationship is what gets priority.

Husbands, this can be your day to shine (in the eyes of your wife and your children). Think creatively. It’s your responsibility to remind your children that their mom matters (to them and to you), and just how blessed you are as a family to have her.

Set the tone for the day. Enable your children to honor their mom, whether that means taking them to the store to pick out gifts, helping them put their appreciation into written words, or doing all the heavy lifting around the house so that mom can just have that relaxing, uninterrupted time with her children.

For blended families, you as a man can play an important part. Mother’s Day can be awkward when the woman living with your children isn’t their biological mom. Still, she does a lot for them, and deserves appreciation. Help your children think outside their own feelings to recognize hers and the selfless things she does for them. If you’re the step, it’s a great day to step aside and let your children focus their love and attention on their mother.

And if your children’s mom is not in the home, make sure that this day is one where they can connect with her, to honor her as mother, regardless of your current feelings or situation. If their mom has passed away, it’s a perfect time to remember together and honor the impact she made during the time she was with you.

Part of being a man is putting aside yourself for others, particularly those who most care about (and are most dependent on) you. Mother’s Day is one day a year where you can exercise your God-given role by going all in for others.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading the post by Scott Williams, “Making a mother’s day,” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklist

“Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her” – Proverbs 31:28

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistWhether you have good or bad ones, “Putting Your Parents in Proper Perspective” is important for you both.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistFor tips on how to honor your mom (or your kids’ mom), read “4 Practical Ways to Honor Your Parents.”

6 lessons from a first-time dad



Eight months ago my wife, Emily, and I received our first son, Isaac, through the blessing of adoption.  We have spent many years praying about the right time for our family to adopt and felt God moving us toward adoption last year.  Though we read tons of books on parenting during five years of marriage, I was shocked by how under-prepared we were for the realities of the task.

Becoming a father adds a strange and new dynamic to marriage, even if you have a healthy relationship. There are multiple lessons to be learned—about being a dad and about being a good husband/leader.

Dad lessons

1. Just survive. Even though we were not expecting a fairy-tale baby, we drastically underestimated how hard the adjustment would be.  Everything that he needed we had to provide, which meant less time for our own interests. A lot less! Those first few months were just downright hard.

The temptation for any new dad is to escape the madness.  If you are expecting your first child soon, all I can say is … just survive.  Grit your teeth and just get through it.  Every parent goes through it.  I guarantee you, better days are coming.  It will get better.

2. Understand your anger.  In general, I’ve rarely struggled with a temper.  In 20 years of playing organized basketball I have only been charged with one technical foul.  But during the first few months as a parent I was shocked and even embarrassed at how angry I could get.

All the crying can really take its toll.  There was one Saturday that I decided to give Emily a day out to herself, which meant Isaac and me, all day, together (I can hear every woman laughing now).  He literally cried from the moment she started the car until five minutes before she returned.  She was gone for eight hours.  It was as if someone was scraping five-inch nails across a chalkboard all day long.

After opening up to a few people, I found that I was not alone. I found that most new parents wonder if there is something wrong with them because of how angry they get. My mother-in-law even admitted she scared herself with how angry she became.

Although our anger reached new levels, I learned that this is a perfect opportunity to become more like Jesus.  Often with increased anger, sin follows closely.  In Ephesians 4:26, Paul tells us, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.”  I’ve often had to seek forgiveness from Emily for my attitude, and way before the sun ever started to set.

I also started asking forgiveness from Isaac.  He may not understand what I am saying, but it provides great practice for me as he grows up.  Forgiveness is something that we continually need to seek from others as we follow Jesus.

3. Remember that this is God’s child. One night Emily and I were talking about different decisions we would make as Isaac grows.  At some point in the conversation we just stopped.  We realized that we can’t protect him from everything.  And we can’t provide everything he will ever want or need.  But we know who can.

God loves my son more than I could ever love him.  He cares for Isaac more than I ever could.

I can’t explain how liberating it is to say out loud to each other that, “We can’t, but God can.”  He has given us the awesome responsibility to train this little boy.  This is His child.  What an amazing thing to know that God loves Isaac more than I do.

Husband lessons

1. Man up and grab a diaper. As a new dad, it’s easy for me to withdraw and make an excuse that Emily is better at taking care of Isaac and that she doesn’t need me.  But she does need me.

This gives me great opportunity as a man to be creative.  I must look for ways to serve around the house and play an active part in raising Isaac with Emily.  I’ve found that I can be very helpful by taking care of all the dishes, changing diapers, keeping up on household cleaning, and taking out the trash.

Part of being a family leader is learning to anticipate needs that are coming before being asked to do them.  When I look to serve Emily—just to purely serve and take some burden off of her—it goes a long way. In Ephesians, Paul calls all men to love their wives as Christ loves the church.  Christ lived so sacrificially for the church that he died for it.

Why is it that we would be willing to take a bullet for our wives, but we forget the simple act of serving them?  It could be as simple as holding the baby for 30 minutes after work to give my wife a needed break.  So when I feel the urge to flop down into the recliner, I just need to make sure I have the baby with me.

2. Dates are essential. Getting away together is essential to our marriage.  This allows us to fight isolation by feeling like normal people.  We can concentrate more on each other rather than the needs of Isaac.  Isaac is very important, but our marriage is the top priority.

It is also very important to spend some time in conversation about things other than Isaac.  We are still real people.  What has been going on with each of us?  What has God taught us?  Where would we like to go on our next vacation?

This is essential in keeping our sanity.  Our family can’t be all about him.   And dates don’t necessarily have to be in the evening.  Dropping Isaac off at someone’s house on a Saturday to get a few hours out together, even if it is just going to the grocery store, is worth it.

SheafferDanEmilyIsaac3. Stop and enjoy the moment. There have been so many special moments with Isaac.  It was exciting to see his smile develop and to watch him learn to laugh.  I think I could sit for hours and just watch him peacefully sleep.

Many dads miss these little moments.  They miss the birth.  They miss the first few years.  They miss the school years.  They are living in the same house, but miss speaking into the lives of their children.  I know many parents who turn around after their kids leave the house and ask, “Where did the time go?”  No offense to these parents, but I want to be able to turn around when my kids leave the house and say, “I know exactly where the time has gone.  Emily and I have been there hand in hand every step of the way.”

God calls me as a parent to train up our children.  That means it is my responsibility, not someone else’s.  I won’t miss the moments with my kids.  There are so many things in this world vying for the attention of Isaac, and I need to be the voice of truth and love in his life.

I may never achieve perfection.  In fact, I will screw up.  But learning is a process.  Striving to be more like Jesus and love my wife is hard work.

The same is true for you, whether you’re a first-time dad or you’ve been at it for a while.  You don’t have to be perfect today—just work a little each day to love your wife and kids better.  Love with your children is spelled T-I-M-E.  That starts right now.  Go get ‘em, dads!

© 2013 by Dan Sheaffer. Used by permission.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “6 lessons from a first-time dad” by Dan Sheaffer on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhether a new dad or a veteran, what are some areas where you could be more intentional about fathering?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead the article “Dad University” by Dennis Rainey and get a quick course about being a godly father.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistPass either of these two articles to any young dads or expectant fathers you know. Encourage them in the fraternity of dads.

Guiding kids to maturity



As I read through Scripture, there are some passages that just grab my attention and make me think. Often those passages involve lists. There are probably dozens of these in the New Testament alone, and I’m sure you’ll recognize a few, like

guiding kidsI guess it’s a guy thing. We like action, and there’s something about a list that encourages action, that breaks down a project into more manageable tasks. Some of those list passages offer a set of filters for working through a situation. Like in I Thessalonians 5:14 (NASB):

“And we urge you, brothers,
admonish the unruly,
encourage the fainthearted,
help the weak,
be patient with everyone.”

That list has always intrigued me. I had always assumed it gave instruction on dealing with difficult people, but until recently I never really dug into it. So I decided to devote several of my morning quiet times to the passage, delving into the meaning of the words, understanding the four challenges within the larger context of the passage and meditating on what the verse looks like applied in my own life.

The big picture

Right off, I saw that the four-item list was actually three specific challenges and one overarching one. The Apostle Paul points out that there are three different types of behaviors you can expect to encounter when you’re dealing with people, and how you can properly respond to them when they come up. As I studied, I was sure that understanding the passage would help me recognize situations where I could put the principles to use as I dealt with people throughout the day. But where would they show up, and how would I know it when they did?

Eventually it hit me square in the face. I’ve actually been encountering the situations and dealing with them almost every day for years … in my own home. The reason I’d missed the wisdom of this verse is because it’s listed in reverse order of how I had learned it as a dad.

My wife Ellie and I have raised seven children to adolescence and beyond.  When our first was born, I was struck by how helpless he was. He was dependent on us for everything. As he grew and acquired skills and experience, I had to encourage him that he was able to do more than he realized he could. He just needed to apply what he’d learned to the life situations he was encountering.

And as he reached the teen years and started choosing his own way in the world, I had to constantly convince him that there’s a big difference between learning and knowledge, between facts and experience. And I had to admonish him that life was not just about him, but just as much about using what he’s learned in order to relate to those around him.

As each of our seven children grew in wisdom and stature, their personalities may have been different, but the principles were always the same. They needed to learn the basics, apply them to their own lives, then learn to use them in their dealings with others. And they needed someone along the way to help them navigate that path to maturity.

Epiphany! I had been doing I Thessalonians 5:14 in the everyday process of being a father; I just didn’t realize it. That understanding and experience made the whole verse and passage come alive.

Help the weak

The Greek word for weak means lacking the strength due to immaturity or inability. Whether they’re newborn babies, brand new coworkers or new believers, people come into situations where they know absolutely nothing. They’ll be confused. They’ll make mistakes. You could chide them or tell them to keep trying, but their greatest need is for someone to teach them … patiently.

The Greek word for help doesn’t just refer to using your ability to meet someone’s weakness. It implies that you put aside your own interests for theirs. As I was holding my first granddaughter the other day, I reminded myself that she couldn’t do anything for herself, including communicate what she needed. When she wailed, I had to work extra hard to understand her need, then meet it the best I could. That meant putting up with the crying and fussiness, because it wasn’t about me, but about her.

It’s exactly what Jesus did for me. “For while we were still helpless (weak), at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5).  As He put aside His desires for a helpless sinner, I need to do the same for the weak in my life.

Encourage the fainthearted

The heart is the seat of the soul. The French word for heart is where we get our word “courage.”  Those who are fainthearted are dealing with a heart that’s too small for the task.

With seven kids, you can imagine that their personalities are quite different. For some of ours, faintheartedness looked like despondency. To others, it looked like impatience, or maybe even frustration. Whether it was because they were unsure of themselves or unsure of the situation facing them, they needed someone there to bolster their hearts—to en-courage them. They needed someone to believe in them, to say, “You can do it.” And they needed to know that I would be there with them on the other side to say “I knew you could!”

But encouraging is not just being a cheerleader. It’s coming alongside to give wisdom, to help the person understand the reason for the faintheartedness and to do the right things at the right time. Again, like with the weak, this requires you to put away self for the sake of others.

If there was any question that this passage directly applied to fatherhood, it was put to rest as I read what Paul had said to the Thessalonians just a few chapters before.

“Just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12). READ MORE »

6 sentences your child needs to hear from you



Editor’s Note: Those of us who have parented at least one child from newborn to early adulthood recognize the power of the parent-child relationship in developing the confidence and character needed to make it in the world.

As he so often does, Mark Merrill boils down the process to a few easy-to-remember, easy-to-do phrases that can make all the difference in the life of a child, now and into their adult years.

6SentencesChildNeedsIn raising our five children, Susan and I have tried to consistently convey to each of them these 6 short sentences. We’ve done it with our words and our actions. And, as I write this post, I’m realizing I need to say these things even more because they can’t be said enough.

Saying these 6 short sentences will give your child a strong sense of security, identity, belonging, and value.

1. “I’m here for you.”

Being available for your children is incredibly important. They may not need you when you tell them this, but they’ll remember you promised to be available to them when they need you the most. This sentence is more than just giving them permission to find you when the going gets rough … it’s an invitation to them. It tells them, “I will do whatever I can to help you whenever you need me.”

2. “I’m proud of you.”

Some middle-aged men I’ve talked to have never heard, or have waited years to hear, their dads say “I’m proud of you.” And many of them thought if they just performed better, if they just made it big in sports, or if they just had a thriving money-making career, their dads just might notice. Ladies and gentlemen, please don’t make your kids wait. Tell them today.

3. “I believe in you.”

Remember back to your teen and early adult years? How confident were you in yourself? And how confident are you today in yourself? Self-doubt and second-guessing come with the territory of being human. And you can be a great source of support to your child through these struggles. Your children need to know that somebody somewhere in this world believes in them and their immeasurable value.

4. “I want the best for you.”

This sentence has a couple of benefits. First, it tells your children that you have a purpose behind your parenting. They may not understand how you see “what’s best” … and they may not even agree with you, but they will hopefully start to appreciate it over time as they see you working hard to do what’s in their best interests. I have often said to each of my kids, “I’m doing this or saying this because I always have your best interests at heart.” And they know they can always trust me. Second, it puts you in their corner. Again, they may not always see how your ideas, your standards, or your consequences are really for their benefit, but giving them this regular reminder at least assures them, in the depths of their hearts, that you are for them, not against them.

5. “I will stand with you.”

I saw a video recently of a dad dancing with his daughter at a talent show. The girl had a severe and rare disorder that keeps her from having almost any muscle tone, control, or physical abilities of her own. But as her dad picked her up out of her chair and danced around the stage, her nearly inexpressive face suddenly blossomed with a huge smile. This girl knows that her dad is willing to risk embarrassment, harassment, or scorn from any person in order to be counted with her. This sentence tells your children that you are willing to be identified with them even when they’ve made a mistake or have to do hard things.

6. “I love you.”

This is, quite simply, a sentence that cannot be said too many times. Big family moment? “I love you.” Quiet and quick goodnight? “I love you.” Dropping them off at school or a job? “I love you.” Just for no particular reason at all in the middle of the day? “I love you.”

© 2014, Mark Merrill. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.MarkMerrill.com.

 

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just read a guest post, “6 sentences your child needs to hear from you,” which first appeared on MarkMerrill.com.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistHas your child heard any of these sentences from you recently? How did they react? Tell us your story.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistDetermine to say at least one of these sentences to each of your kids this week. Add more each week until it’s a habit.

STEPPass - 10-point checklist

Pass this article along to your wife or a fellow dad. Keep each other accountable to speak life into your kids.

Five generations of fathering



This post first appeared in the NoahGetsANailgun blog.

Five generations of fatheringThis is a picture of five generations of Nagels that I keep in my office. Moving left to right is my great-great grandfather, great grandfather, grandfather, father and on the far right is the one guy not in a coat and tie — me. The verse on the framed picture is from Proverbs 17:6b.

“The glory of a son is his father.”

I’ve been blessed with a strong Christian heritage and am at a point where I’m understanding how valuable this is and have become more and more grateful for it.

Deuteronomy 7:9 says

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.”

The generations before me have kept His commandments and have passed them on to the next generation. Now it’s my turn.

Maybe you have a similar spiritual lineage. Or it could be you’re a first generation Christian. Either way, as a dad, you now have the responsibility to teach your kids about God. Deuteronomy 6 tells us to

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” (5-9)

Five generations of examples

Instead of giving you a list of church answers of things to do with your kids like have family devotions, pray before bed, love your wife, go to church, etc. I want to give you three things: one thing that impacted me as a young boy watching my dad and two things that go hand in hand that I’ve picked up along the way.

  1. One of my earliest childhood memories is coming into the living room and seeing my dad either reading his Bible or on his knees praying. He didn’t start his day reading the paper or figuring out what was on his work to do list, he started it by connecting with God. There’s something powerful and contagious about seeing your dad in God’s Word. I want to pass this along to my kids too.
  2. I’ve got an impressive list of things I’ve done wrong as a dad. My kids know I’m not perfect, but they also know I’ll ask forgiveness when I need to. They were driving me absolutely crazy earlier today while I was in the midst of unsuccessfully trying to fix a minor issue on an appliance and in my frustration I said some things to one of my kids that were not called for. Once the dust settled I took the child off to the side, told them what I did was wrong, didn’t make excuses, and asked them for forgiveness. Your kids know it when you mess up and they know it when you blame others, make excuses, or just flat our refuse to admit you were wrong and say you were sorry. I know people like that and honestly I want nothing to do with them. You don’t want your kids feeling that way about you. Admit when you made a mistake. Your kids will forgive you and they’ll love you even more for doing it.
  3. On the other side of that coin, I always want to be quick to forgive my kids when they ask me for forgiveness. Their view of God as Father is going to be most impacted by me, their earthly father. I don’t ever want them to think their heavenly Father won’t forgive them and that means I need to immediately accept their apology and not bring up their past infractions time and again. I have a child who continues to do the same things over and over and when they ask for forgiveness my flesh wants to respond in anger by saying something like, “I know you aren’t really sorry because you keep doing this. Until I actually see you make an effort to stop acting this way I’m not interested in hearing your apology.” Obviously this type of response will have serious affects on how they view God’s forgiveness. In that moment I have to say a quick prayer telling God how I’m feeling and ask Him to enable me to respond in a way that reflects His nature and not my flesh.

I realize this is just scratching the surface of things we can do as dads to help pass on a godly legacy to our kids. What are some things you learned from your dad, or have done as a dad yourself, to pass on the faith to your kids?

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