Sons naturally look to their dads to discover what it is to be a man. To be a husband. To be the leader of a family. To be a success. All sons look for their father’s approval, for his “Well done son.” In fact, that is how a boy becomes a man.
But it is also true that daughters naturally look to their dads to know what a good man is. What a good husband is. What kind of man she wants to marry.
Fathers: we need to be the men we want our boys to become. We must be the men we want our daughters to marry. Sure, we will make mistakes; we are human. But our mistakes do not define us. Our will to be good fathers – our decision to make fatherhood a priority and to be the best dads we can be – that is what defines us.
So here are three things we can do starting today to be the best Fathers we can be:
1. Love your children’s Mom
Yes, the two most important people in any child’s life are Mom and Dad. If they care for each other, if they take good care of each other, if they can settle their difference and move forward together – their children feel safe and secure. Parents are like the roof over their kids’ heads. No matter how bad the storm outside – if the marriage roof is strong – the kids are safe.
Men, this starts with us. We want our wife to love our kids, right? So we must love her and sacrifice for her. Show her that she is specially loved…so she can give special love to our kids.
Be sure to learn her “love language.” Each woman is different. Each woman has her own love language. Learn the love language of your wife…and show her that love. That is Job #1 of any husband.
2. Show your kids how much we love them
And all children spell LOVE the same way: T-I-M-E. That’s right, our kids need us to spend time with them. Not just once a month or once a week, but every day. Sure, we cannot spend 6 or 8 hours at home each day. We must work. We must support our families financially. But we also must support our children emotionally. Play with them. Help them with their homework. Take them out for a nice meal, teach them how to play baseball, or any fun family time.
Fathers: try to spend at least 30 minutes with your kids every day. No cell phone, no TV, no distractions. Just you and them. Playing games, running around, listening to why they are sad, sharing with them about your day, just being together. 30minutes out of 24 hours isn’t too much. Yes, it might mean getting home from work a bit earlier. Or not spending so much time with your buddies. But I promise you this: if you do this, spending at least 30 minutes a day with your children while they are still with you, it will be the best investment you ever make. Remember, your kids are only with you for a short time. Every single day is a blessed gift. We must make the most of it.
You may know I am a Professor at Peking University and some of America’s best universities. And professors give homework. So here is some homework for every good Dad out there. There is no time to get started like today. So let’s get to it!!
This week get each of your kids alone – just you and your son or daughter. And then do three important things:
Give him or her an age appropriate hug. Yes, our kids need our physical support. I know this is not the Chinese way (remember, I was raised in a Chinese family, too). But it is still important. We do not want our daughters (or our sons) going outside to find the physical support they need. Let’s be sure they feel our love – a quick hug or a warm handshake or a good-natured jostling of their hair – that is one thing our kids need from us.
Tell them how much you love them and how proud you are of them. Yes, tell them. Don’t worry – they will not get a big head. But when they hear from their Dad, “I love you and I am so proud of you” they will feel 10 feet tall. You want your son and daughter to be strong, to be self-confident, to be happy with who they are? Of course, you do. So tell them. They may pretend to be embarrassed at first, but trust me, they will love it inside.
Let them know that no matter what happens, you will be with them forever. Let them know that your love is not conditional. Forever. That is bedrock for our kids’ lives; an emotional steel for their souls. That is what all children need: to know that they are loved no matter what.
Second important homework:
Dads, I encourage you to do the same thing with your wife. Take her out to a really nice restaurant, one she loves. Tell her how much you love her. Tell her how much you appreciate all she does for you and the kids. Let her know that you will never leave her. Yes, let her know. She will love you all the more for it.
Guys, let’s be sure to do these things on a regular basis. Our kids need to know that we love them every single day. And so do our wives. So let’s get on that homework…and let’s keep doing it every single week. I promise you this: if you do it – and keep it up – it will change your life and that of your family for the much better. Try it. You will see. For as the Bible tells us “Love Never Fails.”
And that my friend…is true. Just like a faithful father: Love may slip up from time to time, but in the end it never fails.