When fathers are attentive to their children, they build
relationships that encourage healthy child development.
Contemporary culture has minimized and marginalized the crucial role men play in the life of the family. Yet the important role of fathers in raising secure, godly, healthy, confident children cannot be overstated. Kids who grow up without a dad are more likely to:
- Have behavioral problems
- Drop out of school
- Face depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues
- Struggle financially
- Become sexually promiscuous and/or face teenage pregnancy
- Use drugs and alcohol
- Become aggressive or violent
- Leave their own children when they become parents.
What critical needs do fathers meet in the lives of their children? The most common answer I hear when I ask this question is that men provide money, safety, security, and basic necessities. Certainly, protecting the family and providing for the basic necessities of life is essential. But it’s only part of the important role that fathers play.
In Matthew 6:26, Jesus pointed out the kind of care we receive from our heavenly Father: “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” In case you didn’t guess it, the answer to the question is yes, we are much more valuable to God than birds! We are so valuable to Him that He sent His Son to die for our sins.
That kind of love is a great example for us dads. God consistently shows how He not only cares for us but blesses us abundantly. We need to do the same for our children. Here are 6 essential needs engaged fathers meet that grow healthy kids:
A few months ago I was getting ready to leave work. Like most days, I called home to let my family know I was on my way. My thirteen-year-old daughter answered the phone. She excitedly said, “Dad, when you get home and walk into the house, I’m already going to be running and you’re going to catch me!” I really couldn’t picture what she meant, but her enthusiasm and excitement compelled me to just say “Yes, that sounds great!”
After I parked the car and walked through the door, sure enough, she was coming at me full speed. I dropped what was in my hands and caught her. She said, “Dad, you did it!” as I held her in my arms.
I wasn’t entirely sure what just happened, but clearly I provided my daughter something important in that moment. Start by making a commitment to love and be present with your kids. You don’t have to be perfect. Your kids don’t need your perfection, they just need you to be a part of their lives.
One vital thing a child needs from their dad is a relationship. Researchers have found that fathers help their kids grow via a relationship that aids in social adjustment, raises graduation rates, and improves children’s mental health. Of course, a dad needs to be more than just physically present. He needs to invest his time—and time truly is an investment.
Where is your attention? Your body and your mind need to be present for there to be a connection. Wrapped up in this idea of attention is the concept of active listening. In fact, many people believe that listening carefully is one of the fundamental ways that fathers help their kids grow. I treasure looking into my daughter’s or son’s eyes as I try to be attentive and listen to what is going on inside of them as they share their thoughts.
4. Letting Kids Know They Are Known
I’ve noticed that when I get too busy I find it hard to really pay attention. In fact, it can disrupt my family’s stability. Alongside providing attention, it is important to understand that fathers help their kids grow when they know that they are known.
Being genuinely known by a father can be empowering and energizing for kids. Hearing sincere words of encouragement and affirmation from a father who really knows them can breathe life into a child’s soul. Showing them that you are “all in” conveys your active presence within their lives.
If you’ve provided the essentials of life and the foundation of relationship, you’ve figured out how to provide well as a dad. Fathers help their kids grow when they provide them with crucial boundaries.
- Your kids need you to set parameters to navigate emotions, pressures, temptations, and relationships. For example, you may want to provide healthy guidelines for expressing emotions such as physical exercise or journaling as opposed to yelling or sulking. You may also want to set weekly check-ins when your kids can tell you about pressures, temptations and relationship issues so you can provide some wise, loving counsel before they respond in ways they might regret.
- Stick to the parameters you set, expect some conflict over those limits and be assured that healthy boundaries will contribute to a safe, secure and loving relationship between you and your child(ren).
- Kids who grow up with good boundaries within the context of a safe, secure relationship, tend to have more respectful, trusting relationships with their parents and others. Good boundaries also provide an environment for normal, healthy growth and development. Boundaries are one of the 7 Traits of Effective Parenting. Take the free 7 Traits Assessment.
Once you have provided the basics needs of life, the foundation of relationship, and set essential boundaries and limits, then you are ready to provide your child a mission, vision, and direction. Each of these things is good in themselves, and together they contribute to helping your child define his or her identity. This is one of the most important ways that fathers help their kids grow.
Even from a young age, children build their identity, and they start to pursue it with greater purpose as they grow into their teen years. One of the greatest things you can do to help your child establish a healthy identity is to give them a grounded faith in Christ. Teach them about His incredible love for them. When they face difficulties and self-doubt in the future, they will always be able to reach back for this security.
Provide Well As A Dad By Exploring Your Own Identity
Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I successful, and what does it even mean to be a success?
- Does it mean having lots of money?
- Does it mean demanding the respect of others?
- Is it climbing the corporate ladder? Is it having solid relationships?
It can be pretty tough for us dads to answer some of these questions, and we’ve had many more years of life experience than our children who are trying to form a sense of their own identity in their childhood and teen years. To stay focused on how fathers help kids grow, we need to provide a mission, vision, and direction, with an emphasis on character.
You Can Do This
Sadly, this is where many of us fathers feel ill-equipped. We may have questions about our own identity we haven’t answered or explored yet. We may feel like we don’t have the moral authority to lead our children in this crucial stage. We may still be confused about how to provide well as a dad.
The good news is that God didn’t call us to lead and provide for our children because we’re perfect. The only perfect Father, after all, is God. We’re simply called to be obedient to Him and to do our best.
And if sin is keeping us from being the examples and providers we need to be, God promises to forgive us and cleanse us from the wrong things in our heart that are dragging us down (1 John 1:9).
Be An All-In Dad
Recently, I saw a dad and his young daughter at a restaurant together. The father was fully present, listening and responding while his daughter talked to him. This was an incredible gift not only for the little girl, but for the dad as well. It was also a good example of how fathers help their kids grow.
Providing for our families is about much more than money, food, and shelter. First and foremost, it’s about you actually being present, connected, steadfast, and stepping wholeheartedly into your incredible role—being an all-in dad.