The Top Two Ways Dads Can Love Their Kids

An Exhortation for Father's Day

Father’s Day is almost here. It will be a day starting with breakfast in bed, emotional cards, and dinner out. Oh, I’m sorry, that’s Mother’s Day! On Father’s Day there will be no breakfast in bed. We don’t really care because we’re too messy (and proud) to make that work anyway. There will be cards but they are simpler. There will be dinner but it will be cooked on the grill (charred by Dad) or eaten out (paid for by Dad).

But there’s another difference. On Mother’s Day, as the cards are opened, tears often flow. Why? I perceive that they are not only tears of joy but also tears mixed with a sense of inadequacy, guilt, and regret. For Dads, opening and reading cards rarely leads to that kind of emotion or introspection. But as we approach another Father’s Day, I'd like to ask you to take a minute to reflect with me on the top two ways you can love your children.

1. Love God

The most important way to love your children is to love the Lord. After all, this is the overarching purpose of our existence. If there is anything that we want our children to “catch” from us it is heartfelt responsiveness to the greatest commandment “to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.” As I argue in The Shepherd Leader at Home, this is not possible unless you not only teach them but also show them what it looks like.

If there is anything that we want our children to “catch” from us it is heartfelt responsiveness to the greatest commandment “to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.”

Father’s Day is a little like a birthday in that we usually get to be where we want to be and to do what we want to do. What does that mean for you? Since Father’s Day is always on a Sunday the “church thing” always comes up. On this day of doing what you want to do and being where you want to be, does that include gathering with God’s people to worship the Lord? If you are on vacation, does it include finding a place to worship with your family—or is being away an excuse to skip church? I’m not trying to guilt trip you . . . I’m just asking.

I’m just asking because Father's Day is a day when you can show your children what is really important to you. I am grateful to have had a Dad who, though embarrassed to receive cards, always led by example. Though he worked six days a week as a rural mail carrier, plus a few days a week doing accounts payable for a local company, there was never a doubt where we would be on Sunday morning—we were going to church! I didn’t appreciate his commitment then but have grown to do so over the years.

Going to church isn’t all there is to loving the Lord, but don’t underestimate what your example means to your kids—whether good or bad. Where will you start the day this Father’s Day?

2. Love Your Wife

The second way to love your kids is to love your wife. Surveys continue to show that what kids fear most is that their parents’ marriage will break up. When parents do divorce, children often blame themselves, causing them to bear a burden that they simply can’t handle. The loving shepherd-dad, therefore, is concerned for the security of his children and there’s no better way to promote that than to love their mom.

Do your children hear you express your love and appreciation for your wife? Or are you always complaining and criticizing? Verbal expressions of affection aren’t easy for some men but it is important for your children and for your wife.

The Shepherd Leader at Home

Timothy Z. Witmer

Introducing four categories of shepherding (knowing, feeding, leading, and protecting), Witmer offers biblical counsel and practical direction to help men lead their families well.

Do your children see you show your affection toward your wife? Kids might say “yuck” when you give her a hug and kiss (appropriate for public view, of course!), but in their hearts they are assured that “everything is ok.” Have you ever noticed that children don’t complain when you plan something just for the two of you? They might complain about the babysitter but deep down they are happy to know that the two of you still enjoy being together.

We are to love our wives as Christ loved the church. His love is heard in his Word and seen in his sacrificial work on our behalf. This is why we can be secure. Let your children hear and see your love for their Mom.

As you're opening your cards this Father’s Day afternoon, I pray that it will be a time of joy in the blessing of being a dad, but also a time when you recommit yourself to loving your children by loving the Lord and loving your wife.

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