Dad, there are some things that only you can teach and model for your children. And there are aspects to life that you along with other adults in their lives can be examples of.
How a father should love. A loving father is an important example both personally and spiritually. As children grow we begin to talk to them about God, their “Heavenly Father.” They will naturally begin to understand how God loves them by how you love them. Children who do not have a loving relationship with their father will often have a more difficult time forming a spiritual relationship with God. God’s love is sacrificial, it is caring and compassionate. Most importantly God is still full of love even when we do not love Him back. This is the high mark of love you can model for your children that will not only impact your relationship with them, but their future personal relationship with God.
How a husband should act toward his wife. Your children will understand what the husband-wife relationship should look like based on your marriage. When you and your spouse respect each other, disagree without raising your voices, and model a relationship where you are supportive of each other and loving toward each other, including physical acts like kisses in front of your children, you are showing them not only what to expect from the opposite sex as they grow and begin dating, but how to act themselves. An hour talk about “the birds and bees” at some point in their adolescence is likely too late. But you can model beginning today the kinds of men and women you want your children to be in a decade.
What the house rules are. Dad, in consultation with mom, you set the house rules. Children must learn to abide by guidelines in their lives. Help them by setting guardrails that protect them and grow them. Making their beds, cleaning up clothes, putting their possessions away at the end of the day, are not just an exercise in chores. When their personal lives are organized, they will be learning to live in an organized manner. This will help them organize their tasks in school, and to lead an organization later in life. Navy Admiral William McRaven, during a 2014 commencement address at the University of Texas, said an important habit for college graduates is to make their beds each day.
Beyond making the rules, you must enforce them. Breaking the house rules needs to result in consequences. How else will a child learn there are consequences for his or her actions? Your set of simple rules and their consequences set the foundation of your children’s ability to live in a society of laws.
What is most important. Your children will observe what is important in your life, and assume that is important for all lives. If you are a workaholic, or addicted to social media or videogames, or spend a sizable portion of your disposable income on yourself, your children will learn from your actions and habits. If you want your children to care for and have compassion for others, then you must do so yourself. A child will not respond to “do as I say, not as I do.” A child will always learn first from your actions. When your words do not match the actions, they’ll assume it’s okay to lie.
Having fun is part of life. Just as your children will learn the serious concerns in life from you, they will also learn how to have fun. Playfulness and curiosity are innate to the child’s mind. It is up to you to encourage playfulness as they grow. Imaginative games, creative crafts, sports—all of these are helping a child discover their unique talents, gifts and abilities. This development should be done in an intentional manner by the parent. Many parents are tempted to lay adult-level responsibilities and decisions on their children far too early in life. The reality is, responsibility should follow both knowledge and experience. If you want your child to enjoy his career, he or she should know how to enjoy life first, and their career choice should come from their experiences growing up, and what interests and activities they gravitated toward out of a playful desire that was also enriching.
They are valued. Simply put, dad, your time with your children on a daily basis shows them more than anything that they are valued. No friend, or interest, or goal, is going to give them greater sense of value than you will. As you spend time with them to know them and to encourage them and grow them, to pass on your knowledge and wisdom to them, and to keep them from making bad decisions, you are increasing their self-worth as well as their ability to trust in your parenting. A recent article confirmed the number one regret people have when dying, “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard and spent more time with my family.”