Tuesday, April 10, 1979. Euless, Texas. John’s Dad drops him off at school, then drives to a remote location … and shoots himself.
My heart breaks for the John Finches of the world – the boys (and girls) who grow up without a Dad, for whatever reason: death, divorce, abandonment, emotional distance.
I’m not minimizing Mom’s role at all. Mothers are the glue that holds a family together. And there are some amazing single Moms out there who do a tremendous job of taking up the slack for an absent father. I have great admiration for them! But growing up without a Dad is tough.
Here are the facts. Children with absent fathers are:
- 7 times more likely to drop out of school.
- 15 times more likely to commit rape.
- 7 times more likely to become a teenage Mom.
- 24 times more likely to run away.
- 15 times more likely to end up in prison while a teenager.
Dads, allow these awful statistics to be a sobering reality check, a slap in the face, a wake-up call. When it comes to parenting, there are no mulligans, no do-overs; we get one chance to get this right. I’m not saying there’s no room for mistakes, because you will make mistakes along the way; that’s a given. You don’t have to be perfect; you just have to be intentional. Good parenting doesn’t happen by accident.
As parents, and as Dads in particular, the influence we have in the lives of our children – for good or for bad – is very real, and very powerful.
Here are 7 simple things that Dads can do to have a profoundly positive impact on their children’s lives.
- Be present. This is probably the simplest thing we can do, but perhaps the one we mess up the most. Just be there … for your kids’ ball games, and dance recitals, and Cub Scout meetings, and school plays. It’s easy to let our jobs keep us away from our children’s activities and events, and it’s easy to justify it because “I have to make a living to support my family so they can enjoy a comfortable life” (i.e. have a lot of stuff). But, as Tom Lane points out, “They’d rather have you than they would all the stuff. They’d rather have you at their ball game. They’d rather have you eat dinner with them. They’d rather have you put them to bed at night.”
- Speak words of genuine affirmation. Look for reasons to be proud of your kids, and tell them. Make sure they know how much you value them.
- Say “I love you” … a lot. I honestly don’t think it’s possible to say those three words too much. If they come from the heart, they are always meaningful. Spoken often, they can provide a constant reassurance to a child that “I am loved.”
- Admit when you’re wrong, and seek forgiveness. Parenting is a learn-as-you-go process. It’s on-the-job training. My Dad used to say, “I knew everything about raising kids, until I had one.” We are all only human, and we are all going to blow it sometimes with our kids. When you overreact, admit it. When you treat your child unkindly, apologize and ask for forgiveness. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it models appropriate behavior for them when they mess up.
- Spend personalized, one-on-one, independent, uninterrupted time with each child. Nothing – and no one – can take your place in your child’s life. “Quality time” is important, but quantity is essential as well. Make time for your kids.
- Love their mother. Nothing makes a child feel more secure than knowing that his parents love each other. Children should see Mom and Dad hugging and kissing. They may act like they think it’s gross, but deep down it reassures them that everything is OK.
- Be a man of God. All that other stuff is good in and of itself. But as Christian parents, none of that really amounts to much if we fail to help our children get to heaven. Dads, show your daughter what it means to be a man of God, so that she will know what to look for in a husband some day. Show your son what it means to be a man of God, so that he will know how to treat his own wife and children some day.
OK, Dads, it’s time to step up to the plate! I want to issue two challenges that I hope you will accept. The first challenge will help you tweak your “Dad skills” and step up your game. The second challenge will help you take this message to other Dads and challenge them to be better Dads.
Challenge 1: THE DAD CHALLENGE
For 30 days straight (you pick your own start date), commit to doing each of the following:
- Attend each child’s events and activities throughout the 30-day period.
- Every day, tell each child something positive about himself or herself. For example, “I’m proud of you because …” Or maybe, “You know what I really like about you?”
- Give each child a hug and say “I love you” at least once each day.
- Go on at least one “Dad Date” with each child during the 30 days.
- Plan several surprises for your wife during the 30 days, and have each child help you plan and execute at least one surprise. It doesn’t have to be anything big. It might be sending her flowers, or cooking dinner, or just presenting her with her favorite candy bar unexpectedly.
- Take your kids to church every Sunday during the 30 days. Read the Bible together as a family at least once each week, followed by a family prayer. Find a time to sit down with each child and talk about what it means to believe in God and to live for Jesus.
That’s it! Pretty doable, huh?
Challenge 2: THE FATHER EFFECT CHALLENGE
The John Finch story above is true. Find out more about John at his website.
Then find out about his film project by watching this video.
Finally, accept the challenge to help John with this project in one or more of the following ways.
- Watch the short film, “The Father Effect“.
- Share the video on your Facebook page, along with your thoughts about it. Encourage your Facebook friends to join the movement.
- Tweet about the project (lots of prefabricated tweets provided below).
- Purchase the DVD for yourself and for any other Dads you’d like to share it with. I ordered one for my newlywed son, because he will be a father someday.
- Growing up without a Dad is tough. (Tweet that!)
- Children with absent fathers: 7 times more likely to drop out of school. (Tweet that!)
- Children with absent fathers: 15 times more likely to commit rape. (Tweet that!)
- Girls with absent fathers: 7 times more likely to become a teenage Mom. (Tweet that!)
- Children with absent fathers: 24 times more likely to run away. (Tweet that!)
- Children with absent fathers: 15 times more likely to end up in prison. (Tweet that!)
- In parenting, there are no do-overs; we get one chance to get this right. (Tweet that!)
- Parenting: You don’t have to be perfect; you just have to be intentional. (Tweet that!)
- Good parenting doesn’t happen by accident. (Tweet that!)
- 7 things for Dads: 1. Be present. (Tweet that!)
- 7 things for Dads: 2. Speak words of genuine affirmation to your kids. (Tweet that!)
- 7 things for Dads: 3. Say “I love you” … a lot. (Tweet that!)
- 7 things for Dads: 4. Admit when you’re wrong, and seek forgiveness. (Tweet that!)
- 7 things for Dads: 5. Spend time with each child. (Tweet that!)
- 7 things for Dads: 6. Love your wife. (Tweet that!)
- 7 things for Dads: 7. Be a man of God. (Tweet that!)
- Will you accept The Dad Challenge? (Tweet that!)
- How to become a better Dad in 30 days! (Tweet that!)
- The Father Effect: Stories about the impact of fathers. Powerful stuff! (Tweet that!)
- “Maybe if my Dad had been there, it would have been easier. But he wasn’t.” (Tweet that!)
- Many people are wounded by their Dads because of their Dad’s words or actions. (Tweet that!)
- There are millions of people suffering from a father wound. (Tweet that!)
- 9 out of 10 people have a father wound. (Tweet that!)
- An absent father has a profound effect on a son or a daughter. (Tweet that!)
- “Left unhealed, the father wound is carried into adulthood and can last a lifetime.” (Tweet that!)
- “The best thing a father can do for his children is to be a man of God.” (Tweet that!)
- “The best thing a father can do for his children is love their mother.” (Tweet that!)
- “Love your kid the best you can. Don’t try to be perfect.” (Tweet that!)