Like most anything else, even the most naturally talented people require some practice to get better. We all know that good dads aren’t just born, they’re made. And GREAT DADS work at becoming great.
I’m certainly no expert but in my years, I’ve learned that there are a few skills I wished I’d developed earlier. It would have made my kids childhood richer and more rewarding, and it would have taken a much bigger load off my wife.
Here’s my list of the 5 “superhero skills” every good dad needs to develop NOW…
- Learn to journal. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if it ain’t written, it ain’t real. The great stuff that’s clanking around in your head is no good to anyone unless you learn to express it, to get it down on the page where others can benefit. More than just some kind of daily or weekly record, journaling is one way to process all the stuff that’s going on in your life. There are many times when I sit down to write just in order to work through the things I’m feeling. I write to God, I write to myself, I write what’s going on in my life, my frustrations, my victories, my questions and doubts. The great thing about journaling is that there are no rules. Daily, weekly, monthly, whenever you can…all legal and just fine. The main thing you’re trying to get good at is simply articulating the things that are in your heart, putting the stuff you’re thinking and feeling into words. That’s the bottom line. Your kids and your wife will appreciate a man who can tell them what he thinks and feels. Just saying “nothing” or “okay” or “fine” are no longer acceptable answers. “Strong and Silent” no longer has an appeal (if it ever did). Chances are, you’ve even got a journal (full of blank pages) in your drawer right now. Get it out and start writing today.
- Learn to tell a story. I’ve written about this before but it’s more important now than ever. As a dad, you are the chief storyteller for your family. Your stories are the important glue that holds your family together. When you tell your kids about your grandpa in the war or the treehouse you had when you were a kid or your first car or the first date you had with their mother, you are providing them with important information critical for a close family. Why? Because these stories are unique to you. No one else has those exact same stories. You are giving something to your kids that will make them feel unique and special. I used to tell my kids stories in the evenings before bed. Sometimes the stories would be real, sometimes I’d make them up. Sometimes they’d be from the Bible and sometimes from my own imagination. It’s crazy but today, they remember those stories better than I do! Your kids need to hear your voice. They need to float away on their magic carpet of imagination being held aloft by the sound of your voice. Not only will the stories benefit your family, the time spent with your kids will be something they (and your wife) will treasure for a lifetime.
- Learn to pray. There’s nothing more powerful in this life than a father who prays for his kids. As a dad, you’ve been made the head of your home and as the head, God sees you as the protector, the guard. If you’re not calling on His help daily to guide, protect and help your kids, you are missing a big part of your calling. I remember one time when I was going around the house locking up and turning out lights before I went to bed. I was praying for God’s protection over my home, my kids and my wife. I felt impressed by the Lord to place my hand over the “lintels” of the doorways of my home as I prayed. As I did I could “see” in my imagination a swath of red, like the lambs blood at Passover, as my hands slid around the doorways. As I prayed, God said, “You’ve been anointed to pray for your family and your prayers mean more than if anyone else were praying them.” I thought of many of the great men of God I knew of at the time. God told me even they didn’t have the anointing to pray for my family that I had. Sure I can pray for your kids, your pastor can pray for your kids, even the Pope himself can pray for your kids, but none of their prayers will pack the punch that your prayers do. You’re their Dad. Learn to pray for your kids. James 5:16 says, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”
- Learn to be authentic. Guys, we have a huge tendency to be one guy at work, one guy at home, another guy at church and even someone else when we’re out with friends. We’re the classic chameleon. Stop. Just stop. Be authentic. Be transparent; what you see is what you get. Stop hiding. Stop creating your own private spaces where you can think or feel, or do the things you want. You might believe that this kind of segmenting or walling off of your life is somehow how healthy and keeps others from getting hurt. But you’re believing a lie. You need to be you. And if that You isn’t what others believe it is, then get help. Your family needs a flawed real you more than a perfect fake you. Be honest with yourself and with your family. When you are authentic, you are trustworthy. One of the great qualities of God that we should always mimic is that He is the same yesterday, today and forever. We should strive for that.
- Learn to engage! Admittedly, this one can be tough for a lot of guys. You have got to learn to engage with your family. When your wife needs to talk, turn off the television or put down the book, look her in the face and engage. Listen to what she has to say and be prepared to give her your complete attention. When your kids need to talk, be clued in to the point where you realize this is a special, teaching moment and engage with them. It’s easy to escape, to stay late at work, or to disappear into the garage or the man cave to watch television, play video games, read the paper, or cruise online. Be a man who knows how to engage. Multi-tasking might be an asset at work but it works against you at home. Your wife and your kids deserve 100% of you. Learn to cut off the distractions and commit yourself completely when it comes to your wife and kids. If you ignore them too long…they might lose the desire to hear (or care) what you think.
There are probably more but they’ll have to wait for another post. This is a good list to start with. It’s been said that anyone can father a child but it takes a real man to be a dad. Amen. It’s time to start working on your skills so you can be the best dad possible.
Your family wants you to be their superhero. Rise to the challenge. Be a GREAT DAD.