An Open Letter To Dads

I feel like I’ve been a dad for a long time. My oldest son is 21 now and that makes me feel a tad old, especially considering that I was 21 when I was married.

Needless to say, I’ve learned a few things about parenting along the way and I thought I’d pass a few of those things on to today’s dads. Some of these things I wish I would have known before I started on my parenting journey so feel free to pass them on to any new parents you may know.

Mindset is everything

When my second son was born, a random old woman saw me carrying him in the grocery store and decided to dispense her home-spun wisdom to me. She said, “When they’re little, they’re a little trouble. When they get big, they’re big trouble.”

I looked at her and answered, “No, when they’re little, they’re a little blessing. When they get big, they’re a big blessing.” I then paid for my Hot Pockets and declared, “Good day madam!”

You know what I’ve discovered? My kids really are a blessing to me! When you take a Philippians 4:8 (think on the good) approach to your kids, you draw good things out of them. When you assume that they’re going to be a bother, then that’s all they’ll ever seem to be to you. Mindset is everything.

Be present when you’re with them

When my kids were toddlers, I felt like they would be by my side forever. The idea of being fully present in the moment didn’t carry any sense of importance with me because I thought I’d have thousands of opportunities to give them my full attention. If I could go back in time and turn off the TV, put down my phone, and step away from the computer I would. I would do it in a heartbeat and be present with them and drink in those moments because now those moments are gone forever.

Being present communicates that you value them, that they’re more important to you than hobbies or distractions. Those are bonding moments and teaching moments. Those are moments that earn you the right to speak into their lives when they get older.

Model your commitment to God in front of them

It’s our responsibility to raise our children up in the faith. Nothing is more important. Not school, not work, not sports. Nothing.

Back in my youth pastor days, I had a mother call me in a panic. She was at her whit’s end because her daughter was sneaking out of the house at night and drinking with her friends. She wanted desperately for her girl to be in church, connecting with Christian high-school students.

The problem was that the mother only attended church occasionally and the father would rather go hunting or wax the pickup truck than set an hour aside for worship on Sundays. If we don’t value our faith and our church community, then our kids won’t either. Beware of raising consumers because that’s what the default is if we’re not intentional about raising them otherwise.

Get involved with a mission and take your kids with you. Attend church with them on Sundays. Pray with them. You know how we say a prayer with our toddlers before they go to bed at night? I did that with my kids until they were teenagers. I have no regrets about that.

Have dinner with them every night (or most nights)

This one’s tough if both parents work full-time, but it’s worth it like you wouldn’t believe.

Do it up old-school. Eat around the table together, turn off the TV, and put away the phones. Have conversations, talk about your day, ask questions. The practice of sharing a meal together every night is so powerful!

Research shows that kids who eat dinner with their family in the evening do better in school, are less likely to do drugs, are less prone to depression, and are less likely to engage in high-school sexual activity. Who wouldn’t want that for their kids??

Have dinner together as a family as often as possible and it could change your kids’ lives!

I’ve got more. 21 years is a long time, but I’m going to stop there for now. Maybe I’ll post some more later. If you’re a parent and have found some really helpful things that you’d like to share, just drop them in the comments below. We all want what’s best for our kids so let’s keep praying for them and keep growing as parents.