Welcome to the first article in a multi-part series that deals with the things that we, as fathers, need to do for our children, model for our children, provide for our children, or give to our children. It is my plan to deal with our children differently. And by “differently” I mean I will deal with them and address my words based upon their gender.
I plan to deal with them on alternating weeks. And, perhaps because my firstborn is a son, I have chosen to address this first article to those of us who have been blessed with a son. And this week I will begin with a moral and Spiritual foundation.
Our sons need a spiritual or moral foundation and they need additional milestones along the way
A Spiritual or moral foundation is vital and it is from that foundation that we build the rest of the processes for decision-making and the subsequent actions based upon those decisions. Milestones are the events, experiences, or habits that you expose him to that help to activate your son’s faith and teach him what it means to live a life that looks out beyond the end of his nose.
There are many upon which I can comment. But, to keep these short (or reasonably short) I will limit them to just these few:
Our sons need to learn respect for authority: How does your son respond to authority? How do YOU respond to those in authority over you? Does he see a difference between what is expected of him and what is demonstrated by you? Submitting to authority will help teach your son humility. And if he does not learn to submit to an earthly father, how will he ever submit to a Heavenly Father?
You are your son’s main instructor about what a man is and how he should act. If your son is being disrespectful toward an authority figure, sit down with him, tell him what you’ve observed, and explain why that behavior is wrong. If he continues to act inappropriately, keep establishing consequences until his behavior changes.
Our sons need to develop spiritual vitality: Values such as this is easier “caught than taught”. By our example, our sons will gain an appreciation for prayer, worship, and other acts of devotion. Many fathers are absent from equipping their sons in this area. They have made this “Mom’s job”. And if our sons grow up without a masculine model of spiritual strength, consistency and vitality, they may view faith as a purely feminine pursuit. I have written in earlier articles that it is our job as fathers to lead our families to church – Not just send them to church.
Even while teaching and modeling submission, we must not fail to demonstrate to our sons that walking by faith requires strength, determination, resolve, toughness, resourcefulness, commitment and courage. Men of faith are not wimps by any stretch of the imagination.
Many of us work long hours. And that certainly teaches our sons that real men are hard workers. In today’s society and culture, many of us work such long hours and our kids’ schedules are so packed with little league or soccer that we don’t even eat dinner together. Much less find any time for Spiritual formation or family devotions. But real fathers don’t use that as an excuse. They make it a priority and they follow through and participate fully.
I would further recommend targeted one-on-one times with each of your kids, where you read and discuss Scriptures and engage them in conversation about how they’re doing and what challenges they’re facing at school or with their siblings or friends.
One of the ways to do this is to grab these moments throughout the week by making it a part of the dialog of the day.
- If you have the opportunity to drive your son to school, practice or a game, talk with him about specific things happening in your life and in his life. Ask him how he has seen God at work in his life, around him, or about friends who might be facing similar challenges.
- At the family dinner table (you do that as a family once in a while, right?), try bringing up a question for everyone to discuss. Ask them how they could or would handle the situation. Ask them how they would determine the right way to handle an issue.
- Take your son along for routine errands and show them how you operate in the real world. Take him with you when you get the oil changed in the car. Show him how to input the code to the gate at the storage unit. These are all teachable moments and opportunities to spend quality and “quantity” time.
Our sons need to experience real-life service: Give your son the opportunity to experience the joy in serving others. Let him witness the relief that it is to offer a ride to the unfortunate family whose car has broken down on the side of the road. Bring him along when you go to the inner-city project or homeless shelter in your community. Spend the extra money to bring him along to the mission trip to some exotic, yet needy, location.
None of this should be accidental. In fact it must be intentional. As a father it is our responsibility to look for opportunities that will help our son grow and stretch his faith and see that he is part of a world beyond his room and his Xbox or his Wii. When he is old enough he can serve as a camp counselor or volunteer at a local shelter, soup kitchen or food pantry. I know from personal experience that some of the most profound life changes for me came during my summers in working at Camp Taconic in Red Hook, NY and later in Queensland, Australia.
So what can we do this week? What are some simple and yet concrete examples of what to do to build his spiritual character?
- Challenge your son to never let another student sit alone in the school cafeteria. Is there any other place on the planet more intimidating than a school cafeteria when it comes to demonstrating the social strata? Ask him to be brave and take the initiative to go over and sit by that one who is sitting there alone.
- Challenge your entire family to become involved in something involving serving others on an ongoing basis.
- Sponsor a needy child in a poverty stricken location.
- Support a mission organization such as the Salvation Army.
- Find a way to help a family that you know that may be in need.
- Invite a boy without a father to join you and your son in something fun like a baseball game, fishing, hunting or whatever that child would like to do.
And here is one more that is often overlooked. Encourage and assist a youth pastor, a coach, a teacher, and any other mentors who are already investing in your son’s life. Show them some appreciation for what they do. Buy them a Starbucks card. Send them a sincere and personal note or email and thank them for what they are doing. Even though you are the one with primary responsibility to train your son, they are wonderful assets who can sometimes get through to your son at times when you can’t.
So there it is. Week one is in the books. What are your thoughts? I am really looking for your feedback each week. Share with us what you are doing and what is working in your family. Ask our audience what they think and what they are doing to impact their son’s life for now and for eternity.
We are currently receiving about 1,000 visitors per month to LeadershipVoices. But very few are taking the time to comment. Will you be brave? Will you start a dialog on this Fatherhood Friday?