The world needs more good men. And you've been given the task to help build one. What a privilege! As a dad of four grown sons, I want to share three dad-friendly ideas to help you grow bold men of character who are prepared for whatever life throws their way.
This post is based on a presentation by Jay Payleitner at Trail Life USA's Summer Adventure and Family Convention.
#1 Store up Genius Points.
As a kid, my dad would take me to Chicago Cubs games. We always had our scorecard and pencil with us ready to track the game's progress. More then 30 years later I still remember a time when my pencil broke and I needed help. I showed it to my dad, and was amazed when fifteen seconds later he handed it back to me sharpened! My dad was a genius! Now I know as an adult, all he really did was take the pencil and scrape it on the concrete to sharpen it. But for my kid-self, this was way more significant - I knew I could come to my dad for help.
What's my point? As a dad, you're smarter than your kids now. Read that last line again. Take it in. You're smarter...than your kids...now. You won't always be. Store up your genius points while you can! Later in life, you want your kids coming to you — asking you for help on working bigger things out.
#2 Open Doors for Your Kids.
I have a unicycle hanging in my garage. I know this because I bump my head on it once a week. No one has ever ridden it. I bought it thinking I'd have the next great unicyclist in my family. I was wrong - one or two of my kids tried it, but none of them ever really had any success with it. And that's okay.
A dad's job is to provide opportunities. You may buy a piano for your home and think your kid's going to be the next Michael W. Smith or Beethoven. You could buy an art easel thinking your child would be the next Picasso or Rembrandt. You could put a wrestling mat in your basement thinking you'll raise a wrestling champion. You get the idea.
Your job is to open doors for your kids. That's it - just open the door. Let them try new things. Maybe your child never plays the piano, but his friend comes over and noodles around on it and your daughter ends up being a jazz vocalist. Maybe your son never uses the mat for wrestling, but your daughter starts tumbling on it and decides she wants try gymnastics. You just never know.
What's my point? Go watch that lunar eclipse. Catch fireflies. Learn some constellations you can point out to your kids. Talk about rainbows. Your kids will get their worldview from you. Just open some doors for them as you go.
#3 Expect Failure and Respond in Love.
If you've stored up genius points and you've opened doors for your kids, then you're well on your way for what ultimately happens next: your kid will blow it! Something bad will happen. And you will be there. Because you've opened safe doors for failure in the past, they know what to expect, and they will come to you again.
When your kids are young, they need to know that you will make things better. How you handle the little things now will be how your kids think you'll handle the big things later. Accidents happen. When there's a problem, you want your kids to come you.
When they come they need to hear these words: "I love you. It'll be okay. We'll get through this together." When your kid breaks mom's priceless heirloom vase, they will come to you. They will hear, " I love you. It'll be okay. We'll get through this together." The two of you will pray, and then go face mom together.
Later, with that trust built, when your teen wrecks the car (and he will), he will come to you knowing what to expect: "I love you. It'll be okay. We'll get through this together." There will be consequences, and he will experience those as he walks to football practice! But he'll feel loved as he walks! And when he is 35, he will appreciate the walking experience.
What's my point? You want your son to understand that failure is part of life, and the greatest failure lies in the failure to risk. Your son needs to have the confidence to blow it, to confess his failure, to make things right, and to try again. If you do your job as a dad, when your son is forty, or fifty, or sixty he will know that failure isn't fatal. He will he will know that his identity is not based on his achievements. He will remember your example. When he fails, your words will ring in his ear, "I love you. It'll be okay. We'll get through this together." And though you won't be here, he will have the tools he needs. He will pray, call out to his heavenly father and hear, "I love you. It'll be okay. We'll get through this together." And then . . .together, they will!