Sadly, children are often neglected, abused, and lonely. The problem most often traces back—not to a kid problem—but to a family problem. Most typically, it traces back to the lack of a dad in the life of a child. Beyond that, over the last 40 years, culture keeps repeating the lie that says dads aren’t important—that we are replaceable. Fatherhood is absolutely crucial—to kids, to communities, and to society.
Researchers tell us that a father’s influence changes how kids perform in school, whether or not they stay out of trouble, and much more. As a dad, you already know fatherhood isn’t easy. We don’t get a playbook from the hospital. But our role is equally important as moms—to give love, affection, and teaching. Dads are vital. But in the busyness of life, we often forget the ways we can influence our kids.
3 Often Forgotten Ways a Dad Can Influence His Kids
1. Give love unconditionally.
Your kids need to know they are unconditionally loved. Every child should know they are valued and loved. God is relational, He is love, and He made us as relational beings. We’re made for relationships. Your identity is wrapped up in the fact that God made you, so you are valuable. He said you are His. He loves you. And that never changes. Remember this: your kid, just like yourself, doesn’t have to be first-string on a football team, play the guitar well, get straight A’s, or be popular to be loved.
2. Always be encouraging.
At the beginning of my pro-football career, I was frustrated playing backup quarterback. My dad, always the positive dad, said, “Hey, I saw you playing today! You looked great!” I said, “Dad, I didn’t even get in the game!” I was so upset. He said “I know, but I saw you warming up. You’re really throwing the ball well.” My dad would meet me after games, whether we won or lost, with a big hug and a kiss. He was always encouraging—even if I was embarrassed. He didn’t make me feel the pressure that I had to be the starter. He’d encourage me by saying, “You’re good. Your day’s going to come. I believe in you. You’re a Kemp! Be a leader!” My greatest memories are of us throwing the ball. He taught me how to throw. He was the chief encourager in my life.
3. Give a blueprint for living.
Your kids won’t ask for it, but they need a value system or a GPS. They need to be taught to treat others the way they want to be treated, to be honest, responsible, to not be a victim or mooch off others, and how to have healthy relationships. If your kids don’t hear this from you, they may never hear it.
Be very careful to inoculate your children. I don’t say incubate them – meaning you have no TVs, no phones, no iPads, and never see a movie. That’s unrealistic. Inoculating means “Hey, we live in a world with positive and negative forces. We have to train you to discern the difference and we’d love for you to focus on true, constructive messages and discern for yourself.”
As a dad, remember that you always need the blueprints that come from God and His ways. God’s the most perfect father. You are tasked with a big mission—to build a great relationship with your kids, to spend time with them, and show interest in what they are interested in. In the midst of it all, don’t forget these three ways you can influence your kids. They may never thank you or even notice—until years later. But trust that you matter. You’re playing a vital role in your kids’ lives.
Portions of this article originally appeared in an interview with Jeff Kemp at BeliefNet.com.