We hear statistics thrown out in abundance that indicate the reality that dads in general are checked out and unengaged. Those statistics are almost always followed by additional statistics indicating the negative impact this has on the children of this generation. In the cases that dad is completely checked out, it is easy to understand that the children would be starving for fatherly leadership. However, let me share a very personal example of how we dads can leave our children hungry for our leadership even when we think we are doing a decent job.
We have three children that have latched onto tennis as their sport of choice. I’m not sure how that happened as tennis has never been a sport of choice in our family. Anyway, they are really enjoying tennis and have dedicated hour upon hour to learning and competing in tennis. Recently, my wife and I recognized that they were reaching a point where they needed to do more than just take lessons and spent time on the court in order to remain competitive. It became very clear that our children would need to add strength and endurance training to their activities if they wanted to remain competitive.
Having recognized this need for additional training, I began having individual heart to heart conversations and explaining that they would need to begin exercise routines. I even demonstrated exercises they should do, how they should record their progress, and even impressed upon them how frequently they should be exercising. I finished those conversations with a statement along the lines of “this is on you now, I need to see you putting forth this extra effort to stay in tennis.” Now before you judge me for pushing my children too hard, I started by asking them to give a great amount of thought to whether they just wanted to play tennis or they really wanted to compete in tennis. They want to be competitors, and they want to win. Remember, I didn’t even pick up a tennis racquet until my children started playing. I’m not trying to relive my glory days.
How much additional effort did they devote to an exercise regiment? None, zero, nada, nil.
Initially I just assumed my children really didn’t want to truly compete in tennis or understand what it involved, but eventually a divine revelation convinced me that my children would not enter into this new territory of their lives unless I intentionally led them into it myself. Just talking about it and telling them what they needed to do, telling them how to do it, and telling them when to do it would not be sufficient. I needed to lead them in an exercise regiment myself.
I shared with my children my intention to begin a morning exercise routine with them and the fact they would need to get out of bed earlier than normal. It is hard for me to describe how my children lit up and jumped at the opportunity to be led into this new activity by dad. You may initially think they just thought it would be cool to exercise with dad, but you just have to trust me that is was much more than that to them and it was written all over their faces.
You know what happened the next morning? I didn’t have to go pull them out of the bed the next morning. On their own initiative, they set an alarm clock, got up, got dressed, and met me downstairs for exercise bright and early the next morning. We had a blast and got in 30 minutes of great exercise. That same routine, with the same level of willingness and excitement, has been repeated day after day for weeks now.
I’ve even expanded upon this morning routine to include a morning Bible devotional and prayer time, again in which my children are eager to participate. We’ve attempted devotional times in the past, but they often times were skipped because the evenings just naturally get booked up with other activities. Having the devotional in the morning avoids the busy schedule.
This intentional effort to lead my children into areas of growth like exercise and devotions/prayer has made a tremendous difference in our mornings and our entire days. You tell me how many families with preteen children enjoy the luxury of your children getting out of bed and getting dressed all on their own. And doing so very early in order to ensure they have time to complete the morning routine, get cleaned up, and get off to school.
Dad, I can’t stress it enough. LEAD YOUR CHILDREN. Your children are facing some type of uncertainty and they are starving from the lack of leadership through that uncertainty. I don’t care how good you think you are performing as a dad; do more, lead better.