Effective fathers often seem to come by their parenting ability quite naturally. But I'm pretty sure there is no gene that predisposes a father to be a good father. It is a matter of commitment, effort and perseverance.
That is illustrated by a list of the 10 most appreciated qualities in fathers penned by an unknown author:
1. He takes time for me.
2. He listens to me.
3. He plays with me.
4. He lets me help him.
5. He invites me to go places with him.
6. He treats my mother well.
7. He lets me say what I think.
8. He is nice to my friends.
9. He only punishes me when I need it.
10. He is not afraid to admit when he is wrong.
Conspicuously absent from this list are statements like "He buys me what I want" or "He always does what I want." Even so, I suspect almost every young person would love to have a daddy — a father — who embodies the behaviors in the list of 10.
Here are a few thoughts on the behaviors/qualities named above:
Time. Henry Blackaby, author of "Experiencing God" materials, recalls when one of his sons made an appointment with his minister/dad several years ago. The youngster felt it was the only way he could get Henry's undivided attention. That was a sobering lesson for Henry.
A listening ear. A true listener gives his undivided attention to another person. This is a challenging discipline and a great gift to a son or daughter.
Play. Playing with a child is the beginning of friendship. Continued play through the stages of a child's growth is the nurture and continuation of a deep friendship.
Opportunity to assist. Fathers who let their children help them send a powerful message of self-worth. Such dads are the best teachers.
Inclusion. When I was only a few years old, my father had a job that sometimes required being awakened in the middle of the night to go across town to make repairs. Often, he would awaken me and ask if I would like to get dressed and go with him. I don't think I ever said "no."
Openly respects mom. A father who treats the mother of his children well either establishes or keeps alive a positive cycle of behavior that may influence generations to come.
Self assured. A father who lets his children say what they think, even though their opinion might differ from his own, is showing respect and teaching respect for others.
Accepting. A father who take time to acknowledge his children's friends and treat them with respect honors his children and extends his influence beyond his own home.
Fair and just. Sons and daughters expect to be disciplined, but they are most responsive to discipline when parental justice is appropriate and fair. Such treatment engenders respect rather than resentment.
Fallible but accountable. Eventually, children learn that their parents are not perfect. A healthy parent will break that news to a child before the child discovers the imperfection. Ultimately, such accountability provides a lesson in forgiveness and unconditional love.
It should go without saying that these behaviors are enhanced in the context of a Christian home. After all, virtually all of these qualities also describe God. A child who imitates a parent whose example is God is a child most blessed.
Bill Webb is editor of Word&Way.