1. By helping them feel understood in what they are experiencing. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). We know Jesus understands us because he came into our world. We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Heb 4:15). We, who are fathers, build our relationship with our children when we ask them about their lives, and listen well to what they say, especially to the feelings behind the words. Our kids feel loved when we put ourselves in their place, trying to understand what they are experiencing.
2. Through giving them lots of affirmation. At the beginning of his ministry, God, the Son hears the audible words from God, the Father, that every son longs to hear from his dad, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Every child wants to hear the words, “I love you,” and “I’m proud of you,” from his or her dad. We dads are given a position in our children’s lives through which we can flood their soul with the assurance that we unconditionally love them. Our fatherly words of praise have enormous power to motivate them. Deep in their hearts they want us to be proud of them.
3. Through companionship with us. Mark 3:14 records, “And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out.” Out of quantity time with our children come quality moments. The average child in America spends over 50 hours/week watching TV or exposed to the social media. The average dad, according to several studies, spends less than 2 minutes/day in one-on-one time with his children. This fact is a national tragedy, especially for kids under twelve since, whatever intimacy parents and teens enjoy is almost always cultivated before the age of twelve—rarely after it. THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR INVESTING TIME DOING THINGS TOGETHER WITH OUR KIDS.
4. Through compassion for their pain. Mark recounts, “A leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed’” (1:41). Seeing Jesus’ heart of compassion in this text draws me to him. At another point in Jesus’ life, when he foresaw that Jerusalem would be severely punished for rejecting him, Jesus broke down and wept for its people. When your kids mess up, be firm with the boundaries and punishment. But at the same time be compassionate over the painful consequences that sin brings into their lives.
5. Through affection. “Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:15-16). Children wanted to be touched by Jesus—and he seems to have lavished them with his attention and affection. Warmth, communicated through appropriate physical touch, is a concrete way to subtly but continually fill your kids’ emotional tanks with love. As dads, we want them full lest our children look in wrong places for the wrong kind of love!
6. Through being attentive to their practical needs. John tells us that Jesus loved his disciples “to the end.” He then explained that during his last night on earth, “Jesus laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (13:4-5). When those in positions of authority use their authority selfishly, they inflame rebellion in the heart of their followers (See 1 Kings 12:1-16). When leaders serve those under their care, it wins their hearts. The more we win the hearts of our children, the more influence we have to guide them towards Christ. Turn the heart of your child towards you by serving him!
7. Through teaching them God’s ways. Paul commands dads, not moms to teach their children to walk with Christ. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). A father’s role in the spiritual development of his children is clear in Genesis 18:19, when God says, “For I have chosen him (Abraham), that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice.” Here is a link to a free character development training plan that you, or your adult son who is a father might find helpful.
Father’s Day is a great day to renew our commitment to building the strongest possible love-relationships with our children. The strength of that relationship usually determines the level of our influence in their lives.