A 10-Year-Old’s List Becomes A Daddy Wake-Up Call
Our kids’ childhood years go by very quickly. Let’s do all we can to be there for them.
Have you heard of Mohamed El-Erian? He’s a multimillionaire. Until May 2013, he was chief executive of the PIMCO investment fund, one of the largest in the world. His annual earnings were estimated to be more than $100 million.
Why did Mr. El-Erian step down from such a prestigious and lucrative position? Because he is also a dad.
When he first left the fund, there were all kinds of speculations about why. Then, earlier this year, he wrote a short article telling about his “wake-up call.” The biggest factor in his decision was his daughter, who was 10 at the time.
It started as a routine interaction at home. He asked her to brush her teeth, and she didn’t do it. He asked her several more times. Again, nothing.
That little girl was up to something, and as Mohamed grew more frustrated and began to confront her about her disobedience, eventually it came out. She excused herself, went to her room, and came back with a piece of paper.
It was a list of twenty-two items—important events in her life, all of which her dad had missed: her first day at school; her first soccer game; a parent-teacher meeting; a Halloween parade.
Mohamed felt bad of course, and at first he got defensive. He had legitimate reasons for missing all of those! Travel, important meetings, urgent phone calls, emergencies he had to take care of.
Eventually, this dad realized that he was “missing an infinitely more important point.” His work and family commitments were way out of balance, and it was seriously hampering his relationship with his daughter. He wasn’t making nearly enough time for her.
So he made the career change, took on work with fewer hours and travel responsibilities, and now he’s regularly making her breakfast, driving her to and from school, and taking more time off to be with family. He writes, “She and I are doing a lot of wonderful talking and sharing.” Sounds like he’s off to a great start.
Honestly, I would like this story a lot more if Mr. El-Erian were not pulling in eight or nine figures a year when he decided to make a change. It’s clearly a lot easier for millionaires to make these kinds of changes—and he acknowledges that.
But dad, I hope you still hear the heart’s cry of that 10-year-old daughter. What would your child put on a list of important events that you’ve missed because you’re busy with other things? And maybe a more difficult question is, How important are those other things?
Maybe you can’t totally change your career so you can be with your family. But are there smaller changes you can make?
We hear it all the time, but it’s so true: our kids’ childhood years go by very quickly. Let’s do all we can to be there for them.
Action Points for Dads on the Journey
1. Plan a block of time this weekend—at least an hour—to do whatever your child wants: reading a book, an outing for ice cream or coffee, listening to his or her music, practicing a sport, etc.
2. Ask your child, “Have there been events I’ve missed that meant a lot to you?”
3 What’s the biggest barrier to you spending more time with your kids? Your work schedule? Your child’s mother?
Your other interests and hobbies? Think creatively and come up with a win-win-win solution … or make a difficult change for the sake of your relationship with your kids. by Carey Casey
A Father's Gift
by Jefferson David Tant
Father’s are often clueless about gift-giving for their children. That’s Mom’s job. But when we think of gifts, we usually think of material gifts — toys for toddlers, clothes, games and sports equipment for teens. Or maybe the ultimate gift for a teen — a car!
Many who are reading these words are prosperous by the world’s standards. You may not rank with Bill Gates or Ted Turner, but you are blessed with material prosperity unheard of by most of the world, or even in our own nation a few generations ago. And what do we do with our prosperity? We buy things for our children as good parents do — TVs, computers, designer clothes.
May I suggest that there are far greater gifts that a father can give his children — a far greater legacy than lands and houses and things.
A Place of Refuge
“In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, and his children will have refuge” (Proverbs 14:26).
As our heavenly Father gives us refuge, so should our earthly fathers.
Children look to their parents for safety and refuge when frightened or faced with uncertainty. But what greater refuge could a godly father give than safety from the assaults of Satan and the world?
That refuge comes from a father who has great respect for God, our heavenly Father. This respect is seen in daily living as well as in “Sunday-go-to-meetin’” clothes. A father who is indifferent, lukewarm or not even a believer can give little in the way of solid refuge.
Direction in Life
“Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
This training involves many aspects, including the way of righteousness. Too many times fathers are more concerned about careers and earning power than spiritual matters. Many years ago a young man came from Florida to enter Georgia Tech in Atlanta on a golfing scholarship. Although his parents were members of the church, Bill had never been baptized. After being with us for a time, Bill was baptized into Christ. It was then that his father wrote me expressing concern that his son’s being a Christian would detract him from more important things. Hmmm. Does getting a “hole-in-one” open the gateway to heaven?
Fathers, what is your focus for your children? To be great athletes; to be successful in business; to have treasures on earth? Or would it be to lay up treasures in heaven? “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Many children feel they are on a performance basis. The cleaner the bedroom, the better the grades, the more they are loved. Even if they only “feel” this, they will never be secure.
This is really hard for some fathers, especially the sports minded. They may consciously, or subconsciously, give preference to the gifted child. With so many pressures and uncertainties our children face, they don’t need unnecessary pressures at home. Children should be encouraged to do their best, but love and acceptance should not be based on beauty, intelligence or ability.
Our Heavenly Father is our model for giving unfailing love. He loved Israel when Israel was unlovely. In the parable of the talents, the two talent man received the same praise as the five talent servant. When the prodigal son was gone, the father never stopped loving him. When the son returned, it is obvious that the father’s love was unfailing. This does not mean there are no consequences when a child disobeys, but what great security a child has when a mistake is made, yet is still loved.
This also has spiritual implications, for the concept small children have of their Heavenly Father is often drawn from their relationship with their earthly father.
“’FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.’ It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:6-11).
God certainly understands the value of proper discipline, and gives the example of earthly fathers who discipline children for their good. Otherwise, it is as if the children were illegitimate, without a caring father. Too often, discipline is left to Mother, for Dad is too busy or too tired from work.
Dad, don’t be too busy for your children. We remember the example of a godly man named Eli, who neglected a vital part of parenting. “The LORD said to Samuel, ‘Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. In that day I will carry out against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I am about to judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons brought a curse on themselves and he did not rebuke them. Therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever’" (I Samuel 3:11-14).
Another example of a lack of discipline was the case of David’s son Adonijah. “Now Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, ‘I will be king.’ So he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen with fifty men to run before him. His father had never crossed him at any time by asking, ‘Why have you done so?’ And he was also a very handsome man, and he was born after Absalom” (I Kings 1:5-6).
What great sorrow these fathers brought on themselves by failing as fathers. Consider the wise words of Solomon: “Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul” (Proverbs 29:17).
A study by Merton and Irene Strommen shows that “when parents are too passive in setting limits for their children, such permissiveness is interpreted by children as a form of rejection and often leads to hedonistic and antisocial behavior” (Five Cries of Parents, Harper & Rowe, 1985, pp. 89-90).
Love for Their Mother
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
One of the greatest gifts a father can give is to let his children see him loving their mother. Many teens have a fear of not being loved, and not being able to give love. Often this is because they have never seen love demonstrated. Love is more than a lab or lecture course. We recognize that love is really defined more by showing what love does, as in I Corinthians 13.
Children learn to love by seeing models, and the basic model is through seeing their father love their mother, and vice versa. Without this model, how does a daughter learn to evaluate the love some young man professes toward her, to distinguish between lust and love? “Well, if you truly love me, you will treat me like my father treats my mother.” And the son can see that love honors the woman, rather than treating her like a sex object.
One reason we have problems with dysfunctional children involved in sexual promiscuity, violence and drug abuse is that they come from dysfunctional families. When God told husbands to love their wives (a) as Christ loved the church and (b) as they love themselves, he was providing not only for their own relationship but also for the security of their children.
And to show he was serious about husbands honoring their wives, he emphasized the matter in I Peter 3:7: “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” That should get a husband’s attention! God is so serious about this that he threatens to not hear the prayers of a man who will not honor his wife.
The Example of a Godly Man
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
In our culture, mothers often have greater spiritual influence in the home. It is not “macho” for men to be overly religious. Perhaps this is not unique to the 21st Century. Maybe Paul felt the need to address fathers in particular in the church at Ephesus. Did you ever wonder why this was addressed to “fathers” and not “fathers and mothers?” This is only speculation, but is it that God knew fathers needed special encouragement to fulfill the responsibility of being spiritual in the home?
Too often have I seen children follow the example of a father who is not spiritually minded. Even though the father may have been baptized, he may not be really committed to faithful attendance, or to active participation in the life of the church. “If Daddy doesn’t have to go to church, why do I have to go?”
In later years, the father looks back with sorrow and regret as he sees his grown children who have no interest in the Lord. I knew a fine, godly couple with five grown children. This couple was very faithful, but during the children’s formative years, the church was not a part of their family life. I cannot imagine the pain in their hearts as they saw their children and grandchildren who did not know the Lord. The children needed to see godly parents when they were young, not at age 40.
Knowledge of the Word of God
“Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the LORD your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:1-9).
We certainly get the impression that God wants parents actively involved in teaching their children. Fathers, don’t leave this vital matter up to the preacher of the Bible class teachers. They do what they can, but they cannot take the place of a father or mother who daily emphasize God’s Word. Two or three hours a week should not be the whole instruction a child gets. Deuteronomy 6 teaches that Biblical instruction should be a part of everyday life.
We are careful to vaccinate our children against all sorts of diseases. Are we also concerned about protection against the disease of sin — an eternally fatal disease? “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You” (Psalms 119:11).
A father would think himself derelict if he didn’t see that his children were protected against polio or smallpox. But fathers, it is of much greater importance that you do not neglect your children’s spiritual health. If your children are small, do you read Bible stories to them? If they are older, are Bible principles a topic of conversation at the dinner table, or as you ride together in the car? If not, you are missing some golden opportunities.
Christ gave himself completely for our eternal welfare, and set an example of giving for us. Children need fathers who are more than procreators. About 70% of juveniles and young adults who are in long-term correctional facilities did not live with both parents while growing up. Fatherlessness contributes to 75% of teen suicides and 80% of psychiatric admissions. More than 40% of births today are to unmarried women, and most of these children will never live with a father. About 50% of children in the U.S. will have parents who divorce. All of this is a great prescription for tragedy.
This is why children need fathers, and it seems that was in God’s original plan. Someone has said, “It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a father.” Dads, do you know how your children spell love? They spell it “t-i-m-e.” One study asked dads how much time they spent daily with their small children. They estimated it was 15 to 20 minutes a day. Actually, it was 37 seconds!
Fathers, your children need you!
Eight precious and valuable gifts. And all these gifts have the added value of never wearing out or going out of style. And they have the further advantage of having eternal consequences.
Fathers, these are all gifts that even the poorest father can give, and must give if you want to give your children the greatest gift of the hope of heaven.
If you have trouble remembering all eight of these gifts, you might combine them all into one — be a man of God, a committed Christian.
On one occasion, a lawyer asked a question of Jesus. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And He said to him, 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the great and foremost commandment” (Matthew 22:36-38).
What greater legacy or inheritance could a father leave his children?
A Challenge to Fathers...
Fighting 'Faith Apathy'
by Brad Mathias
It's time for fathers to step up and be the spiritual leader of the household and fulfill God's pattern for us to take the lead.
Most Parents are concerned about how well their “doing” with raising their kids. We worry about the future, and hope that with consistent and careful effort on our part, they will end up well-rounded, balanced and stable despite the mistakes of our past. As fathers we carry the extra concern of protecting and providing for our homes and their physical well-being, and that is as it should be.
But somewhere down the list of priorities for many dad’s is the role of leading spiritually. Many Christian homes suffer from a significant gap in the father—spiritual leader role for the family. The burden of teaching spiritual stuff is left to the wife , a nearby grandma or the dynamic and engaging new young preacher. Men are not proud to admit that in the whole, we’re just not naturally so good at such things. It’s obvious to us, other individuals seem so much more enthusiastic and better at it. It’s easier to slightly hang back a bit, just to see if those other adults in our kids lives will step up and do some basic spiritual instruction instead of us.
It’s not that men are generally lazy or uninterested, we just feel unprepared and ill-equipped to talk about our faith, our relationship with God to anyone, let alone our kids. When they become teenagers, forget about it. I’m sure there are many psychological and cultural reasons for this, the natural personality and temperament of a man is more reserved, less verbal. We males tend to be less emotionally sensitive than our female counterparts, we like to fix things, not listen. Our attention spans are reduced by the need to retreat from our work pressures and catch up on our favorite sports team or golfing buddies.
We've been trained by our culture that moms are better at disciplining and actually raising our kids anyway and we have little to offer (Ephesians 6:4). We only step in when we are asked to, or if we see some very significant rebellion in the home that might require a more forceful response than just a good “time-out”.
Father’s roles in the local Church setting seem to be similar, often it’s the ladies who step up first to volunteer and get things done. They make dinners for shut-in’s, pick up other people’s kids for church. Mom’s lead the charge to volunteer to help with kids spiritual education by teaching Sunday School classes. It’s a rare thing to see a man step past his comfort zone and be vulnerable spiritually at church or the home.
Why is that ?
I mean why would a man act like an insane verbally exuberant idiot on a Sunday afternoon live or in the local neighborhood man cave, watching his favorite team's football game on a HD flat screen, but go passive as if in a “neutered” and silent state on the same Sunday morning, mere hours before at church? It’s not as if we “can’t” get emotional, or passionate... it’s just not something very many of us “choose” to do or be when it comes to faith and family. It’s a rampant form of ”faith apathy” plain and simple, and it’s killing our families spiritually.
That bothers me, and it bothers mom’s a whole lot more.
Guys, it’s time we take a hard look at the role’s we’re playing in our families lives. I speak with frustrated and angry wives and mothers regularly who are desperate to see their husbands engage with their families emotionally and spiritually on a consistent basis. At least as much and as passionately as we do with our favorite sports teams or cars. Some wives are struggling to maintain their respect and admiration of us as men over this “little” concern. They are watching us passively ignore one of the greatest responsibilities we have in the world.
I believe being a faithful father involves being vulnerable with our families. Of having the courage to admit to our failures, our mistakes, and our passivity in leading them into a greater understanding of our faith and beliefs about God and life. When we step back and choose to let others do our job, we are in a biblical sense abandoning our God-given responsibility. It’s a unique form of mostly male selfishness and it’s destructive.
Dads, if your reading this... please hear me clearly and humbly on this subject. I’m not perfect, don’t have this fathering leadership role all sorted out and well-balanced in my own life yet. But I’m engaged in it and I’m trying. I challenge you to be the same. Take the risk of speaking with your pre-teens and teens about your own faith, about how you have learned and are learning to trust God for the mortgage, for your job, for your health, whatever your story is with God. Step up at Church and at home and be willing to get involved, lead.
You don’t have to create some theological sermon or deep truth/life principle to share with them, you don’t have to do a devotion or read a popular Christian living book every day. Instead, it’s super effective leadership, when you just let your kids know about you. Warts and all. Their understanding of God and His grace will be formed in part by your willingness to share openly and honestly of your triumphs and tragedies, of your faith and your failings. Of love and sadness, of success and failures in your past and present and of the role God plays in your decisions.
All essential and undeniably unique to you.
Your kids, your wife and this generation is counting on us fathers to just be the MEN we are. Nothing less and nothing more. It’s God’s pattern for us to lead and we've been convinced for far too long, that it’s just not a role we’re equipped to play.
Time to change that.