This is one of the most missing and misunderstood roles in our society. Almost any male past puberty can foster a child, few father them.
This column is “dad-specific,” but hopefully will be helpful to all readers.
An understanding and loving dad is an asset not just to the immediate family unit but to society. An extensive study entitled “Young Adolescents and Their Parents” involving 8,000 fifth- to ninth- graders indicates what is going on in homes.
Only 22 percent of the children said there was lots of love in their family. Affection from the father, verbally and physically, dropped 50 percent from the fifth to the ninth grade. This is a difficult growth stage. It is a stage during which most youth struggle. They are often at a transitional stage physically and struggling with their body chemistry. It is perhaps the time they need love the most and are most unlovable. That is when dad needs to step it up rather than backing off.
Dads are exhorted in Scripture to avoid provoking their children. Literally, don’t embitter them by challenging them to resist as a result of exercising unreasonable authority. Don’t rouse them to resentment by always finding fault and criticizing them. Love them into positive action.
Firm discipline is often needed, but it should be administered with the right spirit. Remember the words “discipline” and “disciple” come from the same root. To disciple means to train. The purpose of discipline is not to punish, but to train. Exercise it judiciously.
The survey revealed that over half of the children said they would like to talk with their parents more. Lighten up and open up, dads. One of the most important parts of communicating is listening. Be shock proof. Don’t overly react to some of what you will inevitably hear if you dare to listen.
One of the most important things a dad can do for his children is to love their mother and show it. The love of reference is not romantic affection, though that is good. The love needed is caring love which deliberately concerns itself with the well-being of the wife. Dads, affirm your wives often.
In Scripture dads are exhorted not to “be bitter toward” family members. That is, don’t be harsh, irritable, surly or cross with them. Don’t drive them to become listless, moody and sullen because they feel they can never please. Don’t cause them to lose heart. Love and laugh with them.
Dr. Earnest Gordon, former dean of the Chapel at Princeton University, was a prisoner of war during World War II. His book was the basis for the movie “Through the Valley of the Kwai.” He wrote knowledgeably a statement regarding the need for a safe haven that is applicable to the home.
“In the wild seas of violence that characterize our time we are in deepest need of islands of sanity, a harbor of humanity, in which the art of being human may be learned,” he wrote.
A dad should keep that image in mind in creating a comfortable home environment. Make it a place of warmth, nurture, acceptance, and healthy stimulation.
Make yours an “adhesive family.”
Most adhesives are compounds. To develop an adhesive family each element should be made to feel they are a part of the chemistry.
The Rev. Dr. Nelson Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church.