by Brian Phipps

Part of the How to Be a Better Dad series

The most important thing a father can do for his kids is:

Paint a picture of a preferred future and leverage every life moment to help them accomplish it.

In my mind, a critical component of my children’s future is for me to be one of their most trusted friends. If you share a similar goal, then learn to view every fathering decision with that end in mind.

My most joyful fathering memories have been catching my kids in the act of being awesome. I regularly cheered my kids when they made good choices or accomplished good things. I often pointed out their unique abilities and shared a picture of how those abilities could help them build a loving family, find a job they would enjoy, and play a meaningful role in helping their community become a better place. This was the fun part of painting that preferred future!

Fathering, however, requires more than encouragement. Fathers must helpfully correct and train their kids into life patterns that lead to that positive future. Fortunately, my father modeled this kind of correction, and somehow his correction technique was actually more effective in gaining my trust than his powerful encouragement.

Dad’s key to making correction moments successful was sharing the “why and how” behind the “what.”

Dad wanted to do more than correct my behavior. He wanted me to show me why I was being corrected, and how that correction would help me live into the future I wanted to experience.

But there was a problem: Me! My immediate desire blinded me from seeing my positive future. Sound familiar? It’s just part of being a kid.

So I was not surprised when my kids returned the favor with me. Fortunately, because of my dad’s efforts in correcting me, I was ready for them. I had learned that the most critical juncture of any correction moment is when he refused to blow up in anger, refused to give up and let my behavior slide just to keep the peace, and instead chose to lean in to my preferred future by inviting me to trust him in the present.

I applied that with my kids through repeated conversations that went something like this:

“I can see that you don’t like our decisions and our wisdom right now, so let me ask you two questions. First, does anyone care about you and your future more than your mother and me?”

They would usually admit that, indeed, no one else cared more about their future.

“And second, knowing how much we have invested into you, do you think we’re going to correct you in a way that will take away from that investment?”

Somehow, even though they didn’t like our parenting choice in the moment, they could see that we were for them.

We asked them to trust us in that decision so that they would experience more joy and peace in the future. And over time, as they matured and our wisdom proved to truly be wise, we became trusted advisors for them. And now, years later, we are also trusted friends. 

The Bible is filled with verses that inspire these practices. Here are two that I turn to as reminders. I trust they are a great encouragement to you:

Where there is no vision, the people perish. (Proverbs 29:18)

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16.)

Dad, even if you’ve never had a conversation like that with your kids, it isn’t too late to start. How can you help your children start looking forward to a positive future? And how will you keep that end in mind as you train them along the way?

Action Points & Discussion/Reflection Questions

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Brian is the founder of Disciples Made, a ministry that provides disciple-making tools and coaching that foster disciple-making movements. He is also experienced as a pastor and church planter, including nine years as Next Steps (Disciple-Making) pastor at Westside Family Church in Kansas City, KS. Brian and his wife Carol were married in 1994 and have three children, Hannah, Sam, and Caleb. 

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