“Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”—Colossians 3:21, The Holy Bible—New International Version.
HOW can a father avoid making his children feel bitter? It is vital that he recognize the importance of his role as a father. “Fatherhood turns out to be a complex and unique phenomenon with huge consequences for the emotional and intellectual growth of children,” says one journal on mental health.
What is the role of a father? In many families the father is seen primarily as the one who dispenses discipline. Many a mother has told a misbehaving child, ‘Just wait till your father gets home!’ To be sure, children need balanced discipline and a measure of firmness if they are to become well-adjusted adults. More, though, is involved in being a good father.
Sadly, not every father had a good example to help him. Some men were raised without a father in the home. But in other cases, men who were brought up by a rigid, austere father may tend to treat their children the same way. How can such a father break that mold and improve his parenting skills?
There is a source of practical and trustworthy advice on how to be a good father. The Bible contains the best advice on family life. Its counsel is not mere theory; nor does its guidance ever work to our harm. The Bible’s counsel reflects the wisdom of its Author, Jehovah God, who is the Originator of family life. (Ephesians 3:14,*15) If you are a father, you would do well to consider what the Bible has to say about parenting.*
Being a good father is important not only for the physical and emotional welfare of your children but also for their spiritual well-being. A child who has a very loving and close relationship with his father may even find it easier to develop a close and intimate relationship with God. After all, the Bible shows that, in a sense, Jehovah, our Creator, is a Father to us. (Isaiah 64:8) Let us now consider six things that children need from their father. In each case, we will examine how applying Bible principles can help a father to fill those needs.
Jehovah sets the perfect example as a Father. Describing how God feels about Jesus, his firstborn Son, the Bible says: “The Father loves the Son.” (John 3:35; Colossians 1:15) On more than one occasion, Jehovah expressed love for his Son and approval of him. When Jesus was baptized, Jehovah spoke from the heavens, saying: “You are my Son, the beloved; I have approved you.” (Luke 3:22) Jesus never doubted his Father’s love for him. What can a human father learn from God’s example?
Never be reluctant to tell your children that you love them. Kelvin, a father of five, says: “I have always tried to express my love for my children not only by telling them that I love them but also by showing a personal interest in each one of them. I shared in changing their diapers and in bathing them.” In addition, your children need to know that they have your approval. So do not be overly critical, constantly correcting them. Rather, be generous with praise. Donizete, who has two teenage girls, recommends, “A father should make a point of looking for opportunities to commend his children.” Knowing that they have your approval can help your children to have a healthy sense of self-worth. That, in turn, can help them to draw closer to God.
Jesus can do “only what he beholds the Father doing,” says John 5:19. Notice that the text says that Jesus saw and practiced what his Father was “doing.” Children will often do the same. For example, if the father treats his wife with respect and dignity, his son may well grow up to treat women with dignity and respect. Not only are boys’ attitudes affected by their father’s example but girls’ views of men may be influenced by their father’s example.
Do your children find it difficult to apologize? Here again, example is important. Kelvin remembers an occasion when two of his boys broke an expensive camera. He got so angry that he pounded a wooden table and it split in two. Kelvin felt very bad afterward and apologized to all, including his wife, for having lost his temper. He feels that his apology had a positive effect on his children; they do not have any difficulty in saying that they are sorry.
Jehovah is a “happy God.” (1*Timothy 1:11) Not surprisingly, his Son, Jesus, found great joy in being with his Father. Proverbs 8:30 sheds light on the relationship between Jesus and his Father: “I came to be beside him [the Father] as a master worker, .*.*. I being glad [“rejoicing,” NIV] before him all the time.” What a warm relationship existed between Father and Son!
Your children need a happy environment. Taking the time to play with your children can help to create such an environment. Playing together helps parent and child to bond. Felix agrees with that. He has a teenage son and says: “Setting aside time for recreation with my son has been very important to our relationship. We play games together, associate with friends, and visit enjoyable places. This has strengthened our sense of family togetherness.”
Jesus was taught by his Father. Jesus could therefore say: “The very things I heard from him [the Father] I am speaking in the world.” (John 8:26) In God’s eyes, a father is responsible for educating his children morally and spiritually. One of your responsibilities as a father is to inculcate right principles into the hearts of your children. Such training should start from an early age. (2*Timothy 3:14,*15) Felix began to read Bible stories to his son when he was still small. Felix used colorful, interesting stories, including those found in My Book of Bible Stories.# As his son grew older, Felix chose other Bible-based publications that were appropriate for his son’s age.
A father should fill his children’s spiritual needs
Donizete says: “It is a real challenge to make family Bible study enjoyable. It is important that parents show that they appreciate spiritual matters, since children are quick to note inconsistencies.” Carlos, who has three sons, comments: “We hold a weekly meeting to consider the family’s needs. Each member of the family has the opportunity to choose what will be discussed.” Kelvin always sought to talk to his children about God wherever they were and whatever they were doing. That reminds us of Moses’ words: “These words that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart; and you must inculcate them in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.”—Deuteronomy 6:6,*7.
Children need discipline so that they can grow up to be productive and responsible adults. Some parents seem to think that disciplining their children involves severe treatment, including harsh threats or belittling insults. The Bible, however, does not associate parental discipline with harshness. On the contrary, parents should discipline in love, just as Jehovah does. (Hebrews 12:4-11) The Bible says: “Fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.”—Ephesians 6:4.
Children need loving discipline
Occasionally, punishment may be necessary. A child, though, should understand why he is being punished. Parental discipline should never leave a child feeling rejected. The Bible does not endorse severe beatings, which may even injure a child. (Proverbs 16:32) Kelvin comments, “When I needed to correct my children about serious matters, I always tried to make it clear that my motive for correcting them was my love for them.”
Children need to be protected from unwholesome influences and potentially harmful associates. Sadly, there are “wicked men” in this world who are bent on exploiting innocent children. (2*Timothy 3:1-5,*13) How can you protect your children? The Bible offers this wise advice: “Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself, but the inexperienced have passed along and must suffer the penalty.” (Proverbs 22:3) To shield your children from calamity, you must be alert to dangers. Anticipate situations that could lead to problems, and take due precautions. For example, if you allow your children access to the Internet, be sure that they know how to use it safely. It may be best to keep the computer in an open area where you can easily monitor its use.
A father needs to prepare and train his children for the dangers they may face in this abusive world. Do your children know what to do in case someone tries to take advantage of them when you are not present?% Your children need to know the proper and improper use of their private body parts. Kelvin comments: “I never left this training to others, not even their teachers. I felt that it was my personal responsibility to teach my children about sex and the danger of child molesters.” All his children safely reached adulthood and are now happily married.
Seek God’s Help
The greatest gift a father can give to his children is that of helping them to develop a solid personal relationship with God. The father’s example is of utmost importance. Donizete says: “Fathers need to show how much they treasure their own relationship with God. This should become especially clear when they face personal problems or difficulties. On such occasions, the father shows how deeply he trusts in Jehovah. Family prayer, with repeated expressions of appreciation to God for His goodness, will teach children the importance of having God as their Friend.”
What, then, is the key to being a good father? Seek the advice of the one who knows best how to raise children—Jehovah God. If you train your children according to the guidance of God’s Word, you may well see the results described at Proverbs 22:6: “Even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.”