Full disclosure: I was pretty mixed up early in my fathering journey.
The choices I made were short-sighted; I gave little regard to how my actions would impact my wife and children through the years. I made decisions based primarily on career advancement and financial rewards. My philosophy for fathering was “provide and survive”—provide financially for my family and survive to fight another day in the workplace. Those were my priorities, and they drove my day-to-day choices and way of life.
Today, I cringe as I think about the legacy I was creating for my son and daughter.
Eventually I woke up to the reality that there are many ways dads provide for their families beyond the financial realm, and I gradually shifted my priorities. Here are two important ways I learned to invest in my family and grow as a dad:
Physical presence in your family may have been a given during COVID. I have heard many dads say that it has been like God gave everyone a big “time out” to get their priorities straight. Going forward, the challenge is to not just drift back to normal, but establish a ‘better normal’! It will take intentionality.
Practical insights include making sure your work schedule stays as predictable as possible. If your job requires travel, minimize the nights away from home. Try to schedule travel mid-week so as not to impede on Saturday and Sunday family time, and work to attend the majority of your children’s activities and events. Make sure they are on your calendar and let your kids know their activities are important to you. Making every event might not be practical, but with increased intentionality it will be the exception to miss an activity, not the rule.
This is not typically a dad’s forte. One of the best ways to engaged with your family is to eat dinner together as often as possible—even five times a week. My encouragement is to turn off all technology, bless the food and ask open-ended questions like, “What was a highlight from your day?”
Another positive way to emotionally engage your kids is to schedule regular one-on-one time with each child. This can be as simple as taking a walk together or going to get ice cream. Initiate regular daddy/daughter date nights. The restaurants will get nicer as she gets older, but the investment is well worth it. You will be teaching her what to expect from a young man on future dates.
Weekend father-child retreats are also valuable investments of time. An extended getaway, be it a hiking trip or a college visit, can provide a solid marker for the maturing father-child relationship.
One common question from dads is whether a child needs quantity time or quality time. The answer is, “Yes!” The challenge is that the child determines whether the time together is indeed “quality time.” Thus, the only thing we dads should be concerned with is the amount of time we commit to them.
Finally, be intentional with efforts to get to know more about your children’s world—their unique interests and gifts as well as their friends. Look for opportunities to chaperone school or youth group activities and meet with teachers and coaches to help stay in tune with your children’s progress and gifts.
As you choose to prioritize physical presence and engage emotionally, you will establish a powerful legacy of providing for your family in the best ways possible. That is the dad you are called to be and that’s the dad the next generation needs.
Rick Wertz is founder and president of Faithful Fathering, seeking to engage dads in raising a godly generation. He is an advocate for fathers, a popular speaker at workshops for churches and other organizations, and a certified trainer for NCF. He and Linda, his bride of 40 years, live in Sugar Land, TX.
Rick sends out weekly “Dad Talk” devotionals for dads. Find out more and sign up to receive Dad Talk here.
Action Points & Discussion/Reflection Questions
- How would you describe your fathering journey? Were there points along the way where you “didn’t get it” and weren’t very committed as a father?
- Did you have a “wake-up call” which led you to be a more committed dad? Think through those circumstances and emotions, and try to recapture some of the inspiration that helped you make positive changes.
- Do you often think about the legacy you’re creating for your children—and their children? If you haven’t—or if it’s been years since you’ve looked at it—write out a “family mission statement” or a description of what you want your legacy to be like.
- If you’re creating a “better normal” after COVID, what does that look like? Talk with your kids (and possibly their mom or someone else who knows you well) about positive changes you can make as a family, and commit to being a more involved father for them.
- How often does your family eat dinner together? Be intentional about doing what’s necessary to eat together one or two nights per week more than you are—even if it means you’re the one shopping for and/or cooking the food.
- Schedule a one-on-one outing, evening or weekend with each of your kids. Get it on the calendar very soon.
- How has COVID affected your fathering? Check out our free ebook on the topic to score yourself on a key aspect of fathering and get more insights about your role.