In case my father ever stumbles upon this article, I want to preface this reading with an undeniable fact—I was raised by a great father. Dad was present throughout my formative years and now as an adult. He supported my learning from grade school all the way to college. (He gave financial support too!) He was there for my first major breakup, and taught me the importance of holding family close. Today, he has been married to my mother for 28 years and has raised three adult children (including myself).
“Start a youth out on his way; even when he grows old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
Even today, the effects of my father’s teachings continue to guide me, usually for the better, though at times for the worst.
Like any father, mine did great things, and also not so great things. As I continue in my walk with God and mature as a person, the more I realize how adults often suffer from traumas of childhood, from the ones who raised them. Their parents, like my own, suffer from their own tragedies resulting from the ones who raised them. There’s a cycle.
But there doesn’t have to be.
There are definitely rules to teach children that many people miss, but we can correct the problematic patterns before we transfer them to the next generation.
If we are to become what our fathers were not, and help our children succeed where we failed, we have to identify the necessary areas of growth.
Here are 7 things every father should be talking about with his sons these days.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images
As the oldest of three, one of the first lessons I learned growing up was responsibility. Whatever tasks I am assigned by God, others, or myself, I am to complete to the best of my ability. And whatever I do, I need to do with care.
Wash the dishes, with care. Do the laundry, with care. Take out the trash with care.
This idea about caring for others and my tasks is reflected in Scripture too.
“You will eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice with your household in everything you do, because the Lord your God has blessed you.” (Deuteronomy 12:7)
Sons will benefit from their fathers’ teaching of responsibility. Too many people post on social media without thinking about the ramifications. Others break promises without thought about how they affect others.
I’ve witnessed broken relationships, neglected children, and lost jobs, all because responsibility was ignored.
When fathers role-model responsibility, they show sons how to be successful, bringing honor to God, others, and themselves. Being responsible means showing you care, and when you care you show others how you love like Christ.
One lesson I did not learn from my father, but every son should learn is how to communicate. Men have a difficult time communicating their emotions: anger, sadness, grief. Men, generally, are more about actions than about words.
When there are arguments, frustrations are brushed under the rug until they build up. Disappointments are ignored. Tears are withheld. Yet, what happens when men express vulnerability for the sake of improving their relationship?
When men practice healthy communication, everyone benefits: families, partners, friends. God wants to see us build one another up, but that is impossible if we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/DGLImages
Men of the older generation were all about being the “head of the house.” Yet, being a leader doesn’t mean disqualifying your partner’s thoughts and feelings. There has to be compromise somewhere.
And when a man leads, where is he leading his followers? God wants us to remain focused on him at all times. Everything we do, and everyone we lead, we should be directing to God.
“But if it doesn’t please you to worship the Lord, choose for yourselves today: Which will you worship—the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living? As for me and my family, we will worship the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
Sex is everywhere. That has become a trite statement, but is nevertheless true. Movies sell sex, video games, phone apps, billboards, magazines.
“‘Food is for the stomach and the stomach for food,’ and God will do away with both of them. However, the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” (1 Corinthians 6:13)
I was exposed to porn as a child long before my family ever had “the talk.” Many children under ten years of age are discovering porn.
Fathers who have the chance should talk to their sons about sex in all its various forms. Despite the discomfort, having the talk will aid your son in making holy and healthy choices in life.
By having the talk early, fathers can save their children from potentially poor experiences.
God has blessed humanity with sex, but sex is a gift reserved for the proper setting of marriage. When sons learn to honor themselves, they will know how to honor their wives too.
5. Being Teachable
This is a quality fathers expect from their sons, but they often forget themselves, especially in old age. There will never be a day where you know everything. Every person you know, knows something that you don’t—whether that something is significant or insignificant.
That means you have an opportunity to learn from everyone. Being teachable means being open to learning new ideas.
This is a hard lesson for fathers to teach because they see themselves as the teacher for their children. That is true, but surely fathers can learn something too.
“Let a wise person listen and increase learning, and let a discerning person obtain guidance.” (Proverbs 1:5)
When we keep ourselves open to learning, we also allow for God to instruct us. His Word certainly guides us, but he also uses our relationships to form us into better believers. The more we are open to listen, the more we will learn in the end.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Prostock-Studio
“Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” ( Exodus 20:12)
I’ll be the first to admit, when my relationship with my father began to strain in middle school, I didn’t know how to honor him. Neither did he, as we often clashed. As an adult, I realized his father never taught him when they faced difficulty.
To honor is to hold a deep respect toward someone or something. Honoring parents is not dependent on conflict. This commandment from God didn’t say, “Honor your father and your mother if…” There is no if .
While everyone comes from a different situation, some without fathers, some with abusive fathers, honor will look differently for everyone. Maybe someone’s form of honor is praying while keeping healthy boundaries. For another, honor may mean calling once a week.
When fathers teach this lesson to sons, they are showing their kids how to follow God’s commandment, and how to show love in a Christ-like way.
“When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test him: ‘Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?’
He said to him, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.’” (Matthew 22:34-40)
If a father could only teach one lesson to his son, that lesson should be love. Loving God is of the utmost importance no matter what happens in life, good or bad. Secondly, a man should love others just like himself. That love extends to a wife, children, coworkers, everyone.
From love flows all the other lessons on this list. When we love others we do so through words and actions.
As a son, I love my father, flaws and all. He loves his father, flaws and all. While we were never perfect and never will be, we can do our part to better ourselves and thus model great behavior for the next generation to come.
Our kids can do better for themselves and they can do better for their children. Instead of a cycle of trauma, we can initiate a cycle of love.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages
Originally published Thursday, 15 October 2020.