When my son was a kindergartner (now 18), we went riding together in my truck to my favorite store: Tractor Supply. On our trip we were talking, and Kyle said, “You know Dad, I am never going to work where you work.” I thought this was a strange comment from such a young child. I loved my job, and it had provided for us well. It had offered my children some wonderful opportunities, too. So I asked, “What makes you say that?” He replied, “The dads who work there are never home enough.” I pondered those words. I did travel a good bit of the time, but I considered myself a very involved dad; however, for Kyle, it was just not enough.
Affirming this thought, a minister friend of mine recently shared in a conference that in counseling with his adult daughter, she had stated clearly that she felt that he loved and cared for other people’s children more than her. Our world is so busy even for Christians and those who follow vocational calls into church-related services. Does our call to care and minister mean that we sacrifice our families?
I don’t think so. I think our ministry for Christ begins with those in our home and extends out, but what I have discovered is if we do not form habits and schedules that affirm our commitment to our children, then the crises and ministry outside the home soon engulf our lives.
Find uniqueness of fit with each child. As children grow and develop, plan a special 30 minutes to an hour weekly with each child alone. Although this might not work for the Duggers, (from TLC’s show 19 Kids and Counting) for most of us it would. This is a time when the child can count on being with you alone. Taking one child to breakfast every Thursday morning or picking up another child after school for ice cream. Consider taking a child to piano lessons or 4H. It is not necessary that these times be reserved for deep discussions, but it is important that they form a pattern for meaningful discussions and relationships.
Use the “Car Time” as “Talk Time” Deuteronomy 6 encourages parents and others to teach children as you go along the road. Well, I think that counts at even 65-miles-an-hour and the good thing is that they are not going to jump out. Our rule with our children was no videos in the car unless we were traveling more than an hour. Foster an environment in both short trips and long trips of discussion, games, and constructive relationship building. Listen to books and talk about them on long trips. Our favorite game was “My Favorite Three” where the leader named a subject and each person had to tell their favorite three of the category. I learned stuff about my wife this way. Fun! Describing animals and guessing them is fun, too. Keep a Bible with a list of scripture references for Bible stories in the car. Also, it is important to pray before going on different trips or traveling to events.
Say you are sorry and hug them. We focus so much on making children say they are sorry even when they are not. As parents, we need to model saying we are sorry and hugging them as much as possible. Ross Campbell, himself a father, says that dads stop holding their children in meaningful and appropriate ways around first grade. Girls and boys need appropriate continuous physical contact from their dads.
Finally, the book Fatherless America argues that the rise of drugs, violence, teenage pregnancy, and poverty have one common variable: the lack of father involvement. Your involvement means that children grow up more competent, caring, and here is a good one: make better grades!