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Who is an expert at riling up the kids at bedtime? Who makes your heart skip a beat not because he just walked into the room (well, hopefully still that too), but because he just threw your precious child into the air and caught her? Who has a special day next month that you probably should start planning for now? Oh yeah, and who is the spiritual head of the household? That’s right . . . dear old DAD!
Research shows that the role fathers (or another significant male) play in a child’s life is hugely important—everything from lower juvenile delinquency rates to increased church attendance later in life to better school performance. If this is just common sense that having an engaged dad is a good, healthy thing for his child’s cognitive, physical, social/emotional, and spiritual development, why is this so hard sometimes? I have three suggestions for moms (that teachers can model themselves or share with moms); Dad, let me know if you don’t agree.
Let Dad be Dad.
Something different happens in your child’s body when Dad enters the room than when you do. It’s just a fact. Your child knows you are more likely to be soothing and verbal and that you will take care of his or her needs. You have a more calming effect, whereas your child thinks Dad is ready to PLAY! And that’s exciting for young children.
It’s amazingly good for children to have that tactile, physical play. Please do not stop that wrestling match on the floor; your husband is not teaching your child to be aggressive, in fact, quite the opposite.
Your tender, nurturing touch is important, but so is Dad’s rough-and-tumble approach. It’s a both and, not an either or, which, ladies, I’m sad to say often turns into “my way is better than yours and please parent my—I mean, our—child like I want you to.” Yes, moms, you’re good at taking care of your child, and I’m sure you have an amazing routine, but please let Dad take care of your child in his own way too. Your child will be healthier for it.
Show Dad how special he is to your family.
Let him know that the time he spends with you and the kids—fully engaged and giving his full attention—is just the best thing ever. And when he does commit to investing time with you and the kids, of course devote your full attention to him too. I bet your spouse is trying to do it all—support the family and be a good dad and spouse—so thanking him for his efforts to parent with you will go a long way.
We all mess up and aren’t as dependable as we could be; your spouse is no different. But if you love always, forgive often, and focus more on what Dad did right instead of what he didn’t do, you’ll be giving Dad the best gift of appreciation ever. Not just on Father’s Day weekend but each day of the year.
Notice Dad when he shares the faith at home.
He leads a devotion? Share something about it that you loved, even if it wasn’t an Oscar-winning presentation. Be willing to try something active. Your spouse made a comment to your child about your values when you had a teachable moment in the car? At the end of the day, please lovingly say how much you appreciated what he said.
Your husband wants to do it well and doesn’t want to fail at this. Somehow find a way to encourage him in it, without telling him what to do. If this is an area your husband struggles in, pray diligently and never give up hope. And, sure, please continue to take your child to church, pray with him or her, and teach your child Bible stories and what you believe on your own. But work toward baby steps in having Dad more involved.
Oh yeah, and this last point shouldn’t be an afterthought. Dad’s spiritual leadership is a powerful thing in your family’s life. No matter how irrational their actions may be to your female brain, always praise God for these impulsive, challenge-chasing, problem-solving, teeming-with-testosterone men who are trying to lead your family! God has established the institution of the family, and He has promised to be with you and your spouse and to guide you. Love is from God (1 John 4:7); you’ll never run out of it. So who’s the expert at loving Dad and showing him how much he means to your family? That’s right . . . you are!
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