It pains me to think that a good percentage of kids in our world today will never experience this list first-hand from their fathers. For one reason or another, their dads aren't around, or as worse, they are around but don't take the time to build into the lives of their sons and daughters. Yet it doesn't need to be this way. As dads, we've been given an amazing blessing to help shape the lives of our kids. While we'll never be perfect, our goal should always be to do our best.
I come back to these five things on a regular basis. It's not the "ultimate" list. However, it's a great starting point for me.
Here are five things my kids need to see and hear from me on a regular basis:
1. A continuous reminder of what matters most in life.
A number of years ago, I wrote on the topic of living life on a mission. Looking back at it now, I'd rewrite a number of pages. Yet I wouldn't change the main message of the book—to live an intentional life for God and my family. Even though I've made a lot of mistakes being a dad these past 25 years, each one of my kids know, without a doubt, the larger purpose and mission in life: To love God and to love others. For me personally, this translates into a life in which I strive to live and share the gospel to my children every day.
2. A father's affirming love.
It's absolutely vital that every son and daughter knows a dad's affirming love. For generations, children have struggled with understanding who they are and where they're going. Yet, as fathers, we're positioned, along with our wives, to help our children steer through these often difficult and confusing years of childhood development. As a dad, I want my child to experience my affirming love every step of the way. This alone will have a profound impact on who they are and who they become.
3. Success is defined by one's character—not one's performance.
Not to say that results aren't important. However, character will always win over everything else, and my kids need to know this. As we train our children in various aspects of life, i.e. academics, sports, vocation…etc, they need to understand that these are secondary to who they are before God. Success is defined by who you are and not what you achieve. While man may place a lot of stock in one's appearance and performance, God cares most about the heart of a man or woman.
4. Never quit.
Winston Churchill said it well—"never, never, never give up." Our family embraces the saying, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." I like to position Philippians 4:13 right beside this, knowing it's Christ in us that affords us the ability to persevere regardless of life's circumstances. God doesn't promise us a life without hard times. Yet He does promise us that he'll always be with us—during the good times and the bad times. Life will be hard. However, holding fast to Christ will get you through it.
5. I'll be there for you.
As long as God sustains me, I'll be there for my children. No matter what life throws at us, and it will, my kids know that I'm there for them. This is the picture of real love—commitment and a resolve to lay one's life down for another just as Christ did for us (1 John 3:16). Do your children know this?
This is just a short list to get us going. I'd encourage you to write your own list, and take some time to evaluate how you're doing as a parent. If you have the opportunity, take some time to discuss the list with your wife. You won't regret it. If we're not taking time for the things that matter most in life—why are so busy with everything else?