Since we just celebrated Father's Day, we wanted to talk about the power of being an intentional father. Because to move forward in any area of life, you have to be intentional about doing so.
If you want to lose weight, you have to be intentional about removing certain foods from your diet while adding others. To become financially free, you need to intentionally budget, save, eliminate debt, invest and tithe. If you want to be fit, then you must be intentional about exercise.
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The list goes on, but the bottom line is nothing significant in life happens without intentionality – especially when it comes to being a dad.
We grew up with a dad who was intentional, who consistently modeled this characteristic for us, so we were blessed to have his real-life example. Today, as dads with nine kids between the two of us, we recognize more than ever how important it is to be intentional fathers.
The following list is based on our dad's example as well as our own experiences over the years. We pray you can glean a few tips that will help you lead your kids well:
- Intentionally create appetites in your children. We've written extensively on this point, but put simply, we must create in our kids appetites for the things of God over the things of the world. Our dad created an appetite in us at an early age to be a voice for the unborn. He did it by taking us to pro-life events and teaching us that we were responsible to defend the innocent. Today we do the same with our children, and they are developing the same type of appetite. This applies to anything you want them to crave.
- Intentionally be present. This is tough because we live in a day and age when work/ministry can go with us on our phones wherever we go. So we must be intentional to put down our phones, give our kids our undivided attention and focus on them alone. Our dad didn't have this distraction when we were young, but he reminds us to be present with our kids today. We've seen tremendous responses in our children when they know they have no other competition for our attention. So close the laptop and put down the phone.
- Intentionally prioritize. For us, one of the easiest ways to prioritize our children is to coach their sports teams. If you can't commit to coaching, then focus on making a certain amount of practices, and try never to miss a game. If your kids don't play sports, then join a hobby with them. Whatever it is, prioritize their life pursuits by giving your time to it. Our dad not only coached our teams but, as we got older, also attended most of our practices. We always knew his time was fully ours when it came to what we pursued.
- Intentionally love their mother. Our kids know Dad and Mom are going on a date every Friday night, like clockwork. It's a priority in our homes. And our kids hear us compliment their moms, too, as well as see us show affection to them. This creates a healthy security in our children that Dad is going to take special care of the most important woman in their lives: Mom. If your marriage has failed, then intentionally remain faithful to your children's mom anyway. We know that's tough, but the security the kids will receive is worth the pain.
- Intentionally say no to non-family hobbies or events. Our dad was an excellent golfer before we were born, but as soon as we came, he hung up the clubs until we were old enough to play ourselves. In the same way, when we became dads, we made a commitment to work out (and play basketball) only when our kids were asleep or doing other things. This prevented us from pursing personal hobbies and interests on family time. We just say no unless the family can be involved in some way.
- Intentionally remember what it was like when you were that age. We try our best to put ourselves in the kids' shoes. It's hard at times, especially when one of our younger daughters gets upset about not being able to wear makeup or something. But we get into their lives and try to focus on the root issues from their perspectives. This requires us to read books about children and their growth so we can develop our thinking along these lines. It's well worth the time invested.
- Intentionally use your imagination. Kids, especially young ones, use their imaginations all the time. But it's hard for us adults to do that. If we're willing to imagine with them, though, it will draw us closer to their hearts. Our younger boys love building forts, so we try to help them when we can. Our daughters love to bake and make crafts, so we help them imagine the things they can create. It's a fun connection point.
- Intentionally divulge what you digest. In other words, read the Word of God regularly, digest it in your mind and pour over it, and then teach it to your kids consistently. You can't give what you don't have – so if your kids need wisdom for life, which they certainly will, you need to be ready at all times to divulge what you digest spiritually.
- Intentionally be empathetic. Never lower the pain of what your children feel – it devalues them. In our world we may struggle with a major relational or financial issue, so a broken bicycle seat may seem insignificant. But to them it's major ... and it's just as painful as what we're going through. So we need empathy, which means we have to intentionally pray for it and then deliver it when they need it most.
- Intentionally don't overreact – remain calm! This is nearly impossible for us, especially when our teenagers ask questions about risky things. Our gut instinct is to scream, “Run! Don't let the world system touch you! Stay away!" When we react like that, it causes them not to want to bring things to us – they don't want Dad to get all freaked out. The key is to listen, remain calm while praying for the Holy Spirit to give wisdom, and speak slowly and calculated. We're learning this the hard way.
There are a number of other ways to be intentional as a dad, but these are the ones we are currently working through as we seek to train our children to be men and women of God.
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