As a father I want no regrets. When my four sons have finished college and moved out I don't want to ever look back and say, "I wish I had..." So I sat down and pictured myself older, with my children out of our home and asked myself, "What could I have done to be a better father?" Here is my list of seven life-areas I'm working on today so when tomorrow comes I have no regrets, knowing I did all I could to be the dad my kids love.
Kids Love Dads Who Wear Boots
Have you noticed how as soon as a child can walk they start trying to wear their dad's shoes, and they particularly love wearing dad's boots. I think every father should own a pair of boots. They could be hiking boots, work boots, heck, even cowboy boots. Because boots send the subtle message that my dad is strong. Kids need a strong father.
Strong fathers give children peace and confidence. He makes them brave. Kids want a dad they can send ahead into the dark basement where the spiders and boogeyman hide. They want a dad strong enough to lift them on his shoulders, wrestle them on the floor at night and fix their bike -- and stand up for them when the bullies threaten.
Wearing boots is not what actually matters -- that's just a metaphor, of course -- what does matter is that fathers make children feel safe. His presence creates stability. He makes them proud that he is their dad.
Kids Love Dads Who Kiss Their Mom
I'm sure you have felt embarrassed when your kids catch you stealing a kiss from their mom. I think that's awesome. Children need to know that their parents are in love. Child psychologist tells us that when couples suffer a divorce a common response of the children is to blame themselves. Or, when couples openly argue, children often feel it is their fault. On the other hand, children raised in a home where they know their parents are in love, are more content, happy and successful.
Developmental psychology teaches us that parents have by far the greatest influence on the lives of their children. Children live out what they see at home. Kids learn how to treat their future spouse by watching you. If a man is disrespectful or abusive to his wife, the odds are high his son will do the same. And a son who watches his father show love, speak gently, listen attentively will do the same. Girls also learn by watching their father, that when a young man treats her poorly or hurts her -- in a way their father would never harm their mother -- that he is the wrong man for her.
Kids love dads who are in love with their mother.
Kids Love Dads Who Turn Off Their Cell Phone
I've literally watched fathers play miniature golf with one hand while holding their cell phone to their ear with the other. Children crave their father's undivided attention.
When my oldest son was a toddler I came home from work one day and found him waiting on the floor with Hi Ho! Cherry-O. He patted the floor and said, "Sit down Dad!" So I did. Next he said, "Dad, take off your shoes!" Knowing -- hoping -- if my shoes are off I will stay for a while.
When you're with your kids stop the texting, leave work at the office, turn off Sports Center. When you're with your family give them all of you. Attention is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. We don't do well splitting our attention. You can't multitask your kids. Give them your best. See them. Focus on them.
Kids Love Dads Who Count to Three
At times, out of frustration, I've blurted at my sons, "What's wrong with you?"
Like the time I interrupted my high schooler's nap on the couch to tell him it was his turn to mow the lawn. Under great duress he finally went out to cut the grass. After he was done I picked up the hose to wash my car, only to notice that my hose was cut in half, actually shredded in half. I looked at it for the longest time trying to figure out what in the world happened. Then it hit me: my son had run over my hose with the mower!
I was steamed when I walked back into the house. "You cut the hose in half!"
"Yeah, I know," he responded rather casually.
"Didn't you see it?!"
"Yeah, I saw it . . . but I thought the mower would clear it."
Wait. He thought the mower with the spinning steel blades would mow right over the garden hose? Now do you see why sometimes I've asked the "What's wrong with you?" question?
I needed to count to three.
We tell kids to do that when they are upset, maybe we need to. Parents have a tendency to snap at their children or say things they later regret. The Bible says to fathers, "Don't keep on scolding your children, making them angry and resentful. Rather, bring them up with the loving discipline (Eph. 4:6 LB)."
An adult's anger frightens a small child and harsh words scar their soul. Kids love dads who are patent and speak gently.
Kids Love Dads Who Give Bear Hugs
Physical touch has a powerful effect on the human body. When someone affectionately holds us, our bodies literally release chemicals that calm us, cause us to feel loved and actually heal us. Doctors have found that when they touch patients while they visit them in the hospital the patients heal more quickly and their symptoms subside.
I love families that hug. I've been with families at Christmas who greeted each other with handshakes. I thought, "That's no good, families hug." Know that your kids need a big bear hug from their dad. They love the security of holding your hand when you walk. They love your arm around them as you read to them or pray with them as they fall asleep at night.
Kids Love Dads Who Camp in the Backyard
Kids want a fun dad. One night when my wife was out for the evening, in a moment of either boredom or sheer madness, I blurted to my kids, " Hey, you guys want to camp in the backyard tonight? They were all over it. The night went fine until I tried to fall asleep. The ground felt like cement, the pug was snoring, my allergies to the grass were maddening and a deft mosquito had me slapping myself in the face. I barely slept that night but the next morning the boys talked about their night in the tent like they had spent it at Disneyland.
My boys and I love soccer and play soccer. So when the World Cup came to Brazil last summer I told them, "We have to go!" It didn't feel like we could afford it or that I had time in my schedule, but we made it happen. And it was epic. We ate crapes and fish on the beach. Made it to three matches. Chanted, "I believe that we will win," when the U.S. was in trouble against Ghana, then celebrated in the stadium for an hour with the American Outlaws after the U.S. pulled out a win in the final minutes. We have a lifetime of stories and memories from Brazil.
Kids love a Dads who make life fun. I think there's something Biblical there. We read that Abraham laughed when he heard he was having a son, I think he knew it was going to be a blast. Being a fun Dad doesn't mean spending a lot of money or taking them to exotic places, they just want you.
Kids Love Dads Who Show them God
I think the greatest responsibility of all is for fathers to lead their children toward God. We have countless physical, moral and emotional responsibilities with our children but none equal the importance of their soul. A father who loves his children will lead them spiritually. He will pray with them, pray for them and teach the Bible. He will lead his family to worship at church together. He will model integrity and hard work.
Men often leave the spiritual nurture of their children to others, thinking they are too busy or not spiritual enough themselves. That is weak. Kids need a father who feeds their soul. They need a dad who will walk outside on a clear summer night, point out the moon, the stars, the vastness of the universe and explain to his children that a heavenly Father holds us all in his hands.