Sunday, June 20, 2010

day 168: three A’s of an A+ father—a father’s day message from Ray and Donna

The statistics of children without fathers playing active roles in their lives are gloom ones. According to “The Father Connection,” by Josh McDowell:

1. …the absence of a father is a stronger factor than poverty in contributing to juvenile delinquency…according the National Institute of Mental Health’s analysis of US census figures.

2. ..crime rates are highest among adults who as children had been raised solely by women…according to a group of Yale behavior scientists’ study of delinquency in forty-eight cultures around the world.

3. …the father’s presence and conversation (especially at dinnertime) stimulate a child to perform better in school according to Dr. Martin Deutsch in an article for “Time” magazine.

4. …the lack of a close relationship with their fathers has been linked to anorexia nervosa eating disorder in a study of teenage girls suffering from it.

5. “young, white teenage girls living in fatherless families were 60 percent more likely to have premarital intercourse than those living in two-parent homes..” according to Johns Hopkins University researchers.

6. ..a child’s (1) low motivation for achievement; (2) inability to defer immediate gratification for later rewards; (3) low self esteem; and (4) susceptibility to group influence and to juvenile delinquency.. have all been found to be significantly contributed to by an absent father, according to Dr. Armand Nicoli’s research for a White House paper.

If you are a Christian mom raising children alone, you will need (and will receive) extra grace to do what you are doing, for sure. However, if you are a Christian father reading this and simply not doing what you need to do to raise your children in a godly home, I pray that you will turn that around, seek out help and accountability, and be what your children need in a father.

There are three A’s that I have found in raising seven children ages 11 through 27 over the past two decades—three A’s that can lead to being an A+ dad for your children. (Pardon the “schoolish” expression; I’m not kidding when I say that everything becomes school around the Reishes!)

1. Available—so many of the statistics above point to this factor. Dads, we just need to be available. We need to say no to the good in order to do the best. We need to look at our children’s at home years for what they are—eighteen years or so in which other things must be put on the back burner (if needed) in order to be available for our kids. Here are some ways that I have found to make myself more available for my wife and kids:

a. For little ones—large amounts of time are not needed here—just short snatches and a lot of them—a few minutes after work; stories and kisses at bedtime; start traditions with your children that cause them to realize that you are available for them.

b. Middlers—you be the driver whenever possible and talk, talk, talk. Let them know that you are driving them to their event because the few minutes that you would have in the car with them is worth more to you than something else. (If you started talking when they were “little ones,” talking with you will become second nature to them.)

c. Olders—shooting hoops in the driveway most nights when my son was sixteen to eighteen gave us an opportunity to talk that might otherwise have not been found; make time for these older kids. When my older kids were little, I had a few minutes with each one before bed that we called our “Malachi time”---based on Malachi 4:6 in which the hearts of the father are turned to the children and vice versa. Establishing “Malachi time” twenty years ago has given me relationships with my young adult daughters that I quite possibly would not have had if I hadn’t sought them out when they were toddlers—and continued to be available to them throughout their growing up years.

2. Aware—we fathers need to be much more aware of what is going on in our children’s lives than we do. My wife can read our children like a book. She will often say, “We need to talk to ____ about how he is feeling about ___. I can tell something is a little bit off there and I think he is hurting.” How does she know these things? I have purposed to become a student of my children, so to speak. To be aware of their feelings, their friends, their interests, their influences, their needs, their spiritual condition, and much more. Awareness begins with questions. Asking questions about those areas in which you need to be more aware can lead to many insights that you might otherwise miss. (Also, ask your wife—she’ll know for sure!)

3. Activity—our kids make choices everyday to hang with peers, go to certain events, etc. or spend time with their families. Oftentimes, we have not made ourselves available, so our kids pick friends and outsiders by default. However, we have found that if we want our kids to want to be with us and want to stay home more (thus, affording us more opportunities to influence them in godly ways), we need to provide activities for them that are fun, healthy, family-oriented, and more. In the past ten years, when our older children and middlers were teens, we have purposely spent more money on “activity” with them than we did on other things that many of our peers enjoy. We might not have the nicest vehicles in the neighborhood, and we have a small, extremely modest home; however, our kids know that being with us is the “happening” place. That we will “do” things with them—go to movies, play basketball, swim, attend plays, visit museums, go out for dinner, take walks, and more. As we partake of activities with our children, we have more and more opportunities to see into their hearts and influence it for good.

Obviously, there are many more factors that bring about the A+ father—but some of those do not start with A! And this is a “short,” daily blog (at least that is what I keep telling my wife, the primary author of it!). However, if we would get up tomorrow and purpose to apply these three A’s to our fatherhood, I think we would all reap a harvest of closeness, opportunities for spiritual training, mentoring, and more.

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