Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family with Jim Daly

Encouraging Men to be Good Dads (Part 1 of 2)

Encouraging Men to be Good Dads (Part 1 of 2)

Care Net CEO Roland Warren explains how fathers can avoid common parenting mistakes in a discussion based on his book, Bad Dads of the Bible: 8 Mistakes Every Good Dad Can Avoid. (Part 1 of 2)



Jim Daly: I’m Jim Daly here in the study with Roland Warren and he’s the author of Bad Dads of the Bible. Roland, let me ask you this question: how do I know if I’m a bad dad or a good dad?

Roland Warren: (Chuckling) That’s a good question. Well, you know, there’s things that good dads do and that bad dads do. And I think the biggest thing for any father is that they understand that there are three things that you need to do, that you need to provide, you need to nurture and you need to guide.

Jim: That’s it.

Roland: And it’s just that simple as far as I’m concerned and if you’re doin’ those kinds of things, then that’s how you can make the determination.

End of Teaser

John Fuller: Now if you have any questions about those three things, we’re gonna unpack those as we go along on today’s “Focus on the Family” with Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller and Roland Warren is an author. He’s the former head of the National Fatherhood Initiative, which encourages men to be great dads to their kids. And today he’s the CEO of Care Net. It’s the largest network of pregnancy resource centers in the U.S.


Jim: And John, we work closely with Care Net and with those centers and it’s great to welcome you, Roland to the “Focus” broadcast.

Roland: Oh, good to be here.

Jim: Let me first of all say that you’re the father of two sons.

Roland: Yes

Jim: How is that? I’m the father of two sons (Laughter).

Roland: It’s great, Jamie and Justin. Yours are younger than mine.

Jim: How old are your boys?

Roland: Thirty-two and 29.

Jim: So, there is hope?

Roland: There is hope. (Laughter) There is hope, yes.

Jim: John’s got boys and daughters, so—

Roland: Got ya.

Jim: –he’s the most qualified here. But let me ask you first, what do you see as common bad-dad characteristics? I think all of us immediately think of a couple, but in the book, what are those things that really undermine a father in his parenting?

Roland: Well, you know, a lot of it has to do with how you kind of look at your own fathering journey. And unfortunately, we replicate things sometimes from our own past, from how we grew up as a child and even how our fathers parented us that are just not the kinds of things that we should be doing.

Jim: Well, even with bad examples—

Roland: Yeah.

Jim: –what … what would some of that look like?

Roland: Well, you know, one of the ones that I had in my life early on was just this whole notion around affection with your kids. You know, I grew up without my father and when my oldest son, Jamie was, you know, 3 or 4, I was really havin’ a difficult time hugging him. It just felt weird. And my wife, who is a Texan and very direct (Laughing), you know, I went to her and said, “this huggin’ thing doesn’t really (Laughter) you know, it just doesn’t feel right for me.” And she said, “Well, you just need to hold your nose and do it.” And by the grace of God, I took her advice and I did.

Jim: Now she wasn’t talkin’ about changin’ diapers.

Roland: You know, it’s interesting, because, you know, as I sort of psychoanalyze myself, what I figured out was, that didn’t happen for me. See, no one hugged me that way. A man didn’t hug me that way. A father didn’t hug me that way.

And so, what I was about to do was replicate something that had happened in my past that would’ve been very damaging for my kids. And I think and in too many situations, particularly when you look at the mistakes and that’s what I kinda talk about, eight mistakes every good dad can avoid. You know, with these mistakes, we allow certain aspects of our past in so many cases to dictate and we make our issue our kids’ issue, because of things maybe that we lacked in our own life.

Jim: I hadn’t thought about it in this way, but that role modeling, I wonder and I don’t know of a study that has looked at this, but I wonder if men are more prone to role modeling than women. I know we talk often about, you know, women are from Venus and men are from Mars and spaghetti and waffles and all those comparisons. But I wonder if men are more influenced by a role model than perhaps even girls are and women—

Roland: Yeah.

Jim: –because their brains are wired. They’re collecting the data almost without thinking about it. I wonder if men, as compartmentalized thinkers, if we need somebody to say, “This is the way you do it.”

Roland: Yeah.

Jim: I feel that may be true.

Roland: I don’t know if the science is there, but I think there’s a couple things. I mean, men are visual. We tend to look at systems and we tend to look for systems in everything that we do. And we’re always trying to figure out what’s the system? How do I get this done the right way? And so, I think when a father’s not there, is not modeling that, then you don’t have someone who’s modeling the system or frankly, is modeling a system that is not a good system and you’ve gotta do some rework in order to come up with the right system, if you will, that’s gonna—

Jim: Yeah.

Roland: –make you the kind of dad that God desires you to be.

Jim: You know, the other aspect of that is, I think women tend to do that far more naturally. They get together. They talk. They’re socializing their experiences better than men do. I mean, it’s the funniest thing. You go out and play golf with a man or do some other activity, which men are very activity based—

Roland: Yeah.

Jim: –I know I’ll come home from spending four hours with a guy and Jean’ll ask me, “Well, how’s he doing?” I’ll say, “Yeah, I don’t really know.”

Roland: (Laughing)

Jim: She’ll [go], “How could you spend four hours with somebody and not know how he’s doing? (Laughter) Women go, what?!

Roland: Yeah, yeah.

Jim: That just is so foreign to them. And so, I think that plays a huge role. But unfortunately, Roland, too few young men, boys particularly, teens are seeing good modeling from their fathers or their mentors. Talk about that a bit. Talk about the statistics.

Roland: Yeah, you know, it is unfortunate. And I’m fond of saying that it’s difficult to be what you don’t see and it’s difficult to give what you never had. And unfortunately, you know, 24 million kids are growing up in homes, absent their fathers obviously.

Jim: Twenty-four million, you gotta stop there.

Roland: Yeah, yeah.

Jim: That’s one out of three children don’t have a dad living in the home with them. That is the problem.

Roland: Yeah, it is and you know, in the African-American community, in my community, it’s two out of three.

Jim: Ah!

Roland: And so, frankly many of my friends and probably I would dare to say, most of them certainly from the neighborhoods I grew up in, were growing up without fathers in their lives and not getting the kind of modeling. And it just creates a dynamic that it’s not a good one in terms of moving guys to where they need to be and especially from a Christian perspective—

Jim: Well–

Roland:–and being the fathers that they need to be.

Jim: –in fact, you say that Satan has a plot here.

Roland: Yes.

Jim: You know, that sometimes sound odd, but he’s alive and well the Scripture says. I mean, he’s working to steal, kill and destroy us. So, I don’t think it’s far-fetched, but tell me what you mean by a satanic plot—

Roland: Yeah.

Jim: –against fathers?

Roland: Yeah, well, you know, it’s interesting. I first got this perspective even before I started doing work with National Fatherhood Initiative. My wife was in the Air Force and she had a friend that she took out for lunch. And it was a beautiful day and my wife is one of these folks that you know, when she prays, she prays for everything. And so, she had this friend who wasn’t a Christian and she said, “Can I pray for our meal?” The friend said, “Sure.” And so, my wife launches into this prayer and starts, “Dear heavenly Father,” and she finished the prayer and her friend’s looking at her very strangely.

And my wife thinks, well, maybe I offended her in some way. And she says, “Well, you know, I hope the prayer was okay.” She said, “No, it was a beautiful prayer, but I could never say, ‘our Father,’ ’cause my father was such a “insert, you know, curse word” into that blank. And even as I started doin’ the work with National Fatherhood Initiative, I realized that this notion of, you know, earthly fathers being a stumbling block, for kids seeing God as a heavenly Father is a real one.

So, if the enemy really wants to stop people coming to the Gospel, a key way to do that is certainly have fathers be disaffected, dangerous, uninvolved in any way possible, because the view that there’s a loving heavenly Father is an anathema to someone who has an early father who’s not an example for them. And I really felt like that was a key thing. It was one of the big motivators for me writing the book to kind of bring out that particular point.

Jim: When you think about that, I mean, you’ve identified a huge problem and when you look at the statistics, we did The Family Project, the curriculum that identified really a fatherhood journey. And you look at men in prison, 85 percent of them didn’t have a dad in the home, teen suicide rates almost 70 percent of suicide, teen suicide occurs without a dad living in the home. You start seeing that as the silver bullet. And of course, we have spiritual overtones to all of this, but a dad who is not engaged with his kids, you can also be living at home and not be engaged, that’s another problem.

But when you look at the woes that we are facing in this culture and around the world, a lot of it rolls up to the fact that dads just aren’t there. What can we do? What can churches do to begin to bring a solution to this that can get fathers engaged and point us in a better direction?

Roland: Yeah, you know, it’s interesting you mention the church, because, you know, one of the motivators for me writing the book really frankly was some frustration I had with the fact that the church was not engaged on this issue.

Jim: Now I need to say, I mean, I talk to a lot of pastors, they’ve got a lot to do.

Roland: Absolutely.

Jim: And I’m just recognizing that, ’cause I know we’re gonna get the mail and we know and appreciate everything that pastors do. But this seems to be a critical one.

Roland: It is, you know, my younger son said something to me that just was very profound. He said, “You know, Jesus started with men’s ministry.”

Jim: Huh.

Roland: He started with men’s ministry. And you know, if you look at the typical church plant, I mean, what do we think about? Well, we need to have something for the kids and in most churches, the men’s ministry is the weakest ministry in the church. And Jesus started with men’s ministry.

And one of the things in terms of solutions that we have to do is, we have to do what Jesus did. Jesus called and missioned men. Most of the stories of the women in the Bible that are connected to Jesus, they just followed. But the men had to be called and missioned. “You, fisher of men,” “You up the tree, come down, we’re gonna go do a power lunch.”

Roland: I mean, He’s calling and He’s missioning men and I really do believe that we’ve lost that particular perspective in the church in the same way. And as a result, if you’re not doing that, then you’re not gonna have a robust community of fathers that are gonna be models for the young boys and gonna be role models for the young girls or something the girls can aspire to have in their life and to have for their children.

John: Hm.

Jim: Let me keep goin’ down this path because a lot of criticism will come at churches that they’re really set up mostly for women. I mean, I have heard that.

Roland: Yeah.

Jim: And that men don’t feel comfortable there. They don’t like singing. They don’t like holding hands.

Roland: Right.

Jim: They go once or twice and then they’re goin’, “Wow, this is not for me.” What can church leadership do to create an environment that men will feel a part of?

Roland: Well, you know, it’s interesting, ’cause there’s a good point there, too in terms of the Gospel. There’s some research that I cover in my book in other places, as well, that talks about if kids are going to actually live out their faith as adults, they’re much more likely to do that if the father is worshipping, irrespectable [sic] of what the mom’s doing.

So, if you really are in the business of trying to move the Gospel forward, then this fatherhood perspective is really, really key. And you know, just from a solution perspective, again, a big part of it is just identifying the fact that you’re not doing anything in your church.

Like most of the pastors that I would talk to when I was with National Fatherhood Initiative, I’d raise the fatherhood issue. They’d say, “Yes, it’s a big, big issue.” They’d talk about their own fatherhood story, journeys. And then when I say, “Specifically what are you doing to make sure that the men in your church are the kind of fathers that God needs them to be?” When I asked that question typically, there was nothing.

Jim: They don’t know, I don’t think.

Roland: They don’t know. Yeah and so, I really do believe that the pastor also has to be very, very intentional in terms of making sure that, that happens. And what I’ve also heard in some cases is, that pastors are reluctant to do that, because they’re concerned about what the women will think if he over-focuses, so to speak, on the fathers. (Laughter)

Jim: It’s a tightrope.

Roland: It’s a tightrope.

Jim: But I mean, I would again, coming to the defense of the pastor, we also need men in the church that can come alongside the pastor. He can’t do it all and you need men to come together to say, “Let’s do something.”

Roland: Absolutely and the way that I kinda look at it is, that the pastors make a call and pick a person. And that’s where the men in the church step up and take the responsibility for the community of men within the church, with the pastor providing that leadership and the vision from the pulpit.

Jim: Well, let’s with a great sigh of relief from pastors (Laughter), let’s move the spotlight off them and let’s talk about your journey, my journey. When you look at it, learning the tools of the trade, so to speak, to be a good dad, what did you do, because you didn’t have a good father? I had to go through that. How did you aspire to want to be a better father than what you had?

Roland: You know it’s a really interesting question I get a lot. You know, and it’s funny when I think about it, because there were bits and pieces of role models. And it was almost sort of a quilt that God put together in my life. And I can look at certain patches that He put in. This football coach here that modeled this piece and I had a stepfather for a period of time that modeled a certain piece. And through that sort of the Gospel was sort of the thread that held all of that together.

But the other thing for me, you know, pain is an interesting thing. You know, the pain then was part of the happiness now for me, in the sense that I just didn’t want to be what was modeled for me. And I had this perspective that I need things to be different, for myself and for my children. And it was a healing process for me to try to make those things different. So, I just sorta became a student of fatherhood. I watched guys do it, some good examples, some not good examples, but it just became a process where God was leading me to different people who were helping me see the way that I should go and that made an enormous difference in my life.

Jim: Let’s point to some of those biblical examples. Your book is called The Bad Dads of the Bible. You know what was really interesting as I read the book and thought of the title, there’s not a lot of good examples of dads in the Bible. There’s a lot of bad dads in the Bible.

Roland: Yeah.

Jim: And that’s what overwhelmed me when I started thinking about it.

Roland: Yeah. (Laughter)

Jim: What we some of the highlights or lowlights that stuck out for you?

Roland: Well, I think one of the things that was very clear for me was focusing on, you know, the bad dad mistakes. I mean, we go through seasons where we make mistakes. And one of the things I try to do with this book is, to make sure, ’cause I know the title can be a little off-putting to some people, because you know, mistakes are not who we are; it’s what we do.

And the other thing for me was, that the mistakes of these fathers in the Bible were front and center. Like God didn’t just like, you know, kind of varnish over those, but they’re front and center.

Jim: They’ve been shared for 2,000 years—

Roland: Shared for—

Jim: –in the New Testament–

Roland: –2,000 years.

Jim: –many more years in the Old.

Roland: Absolutely and there’s a principle. You know, wise men learn from their mistakes, but the wisest learn from the mistakes of others. And so, their examples are great examples for us and we should be taking them and learning from them in the best interest of our kids.

Jim: Give us a couple here. I mean, one for me would be David.

Roland: Sure.

Jim: You know, he did some things well. He did some other things terribly—

Roland: Yeah.

Jim: –not so well.

Roland: Yeah.

Jim: But talk about David as a dad.

Roland: Yeah, you know, it’s interesting. When you look at David through the lens of fatherhood, you know, his mistake was, he was paralyzed by his past. And the story that I look at there was how he responded when his son Amnon raped Tamar and the impact that had on Absalom.

And the question I kept going to was, why didn’t he do something? You know, the Scripture says, he knew about this, but he did nothing. And what kinda struck me was, this notion that when you think about what Amnon did with Tamar, it was very, very similar to what David did with Bathsheba. He took a woman who was not his woman and didn’t take responsibility for that. And as a result, there were consequences. And you know, if you add some humanity to this, they’re in a palace. Everybody knows the story. And so, I would think that it may have been a situation and the evil one likes to whisper, ” Who are you to say anything in this situation?”

Jim: You didn’t do it so well.

Roland: Exactly and he was paralyzed by his past. And I think that so often that can be something that can really hurt a father from doin’ what God needs him to do in a very specific situation.

Jim: Well, and I think for men particularly, Roland, when you think about it, we’re very performance- oriented. When you have Satan whispering in your thoughts and in your head, “You’re not good at this,” “Like you failed,” we gravitate toward that.

Roland: Yeah.

Jim: We believe it. We hang onto it. We self-doubt. And we forget that God’s in our corner and saying, “You can do it and try these things,” which are typically the opposite of what a man’s flesh wants to do. We want to react with anger. We want to fight. We want to do whatever we can do to get out of that situation. And Jesus says that, “Well, try it this way. Try forgiveness. Try a calm spirit, a joyful heart. See if that’ll work.” So often a man’s pursuit comes right out of our flesh, even for those of us who claim Christ. Just look at road rage.

Roland: Yeah.

Jim: (Laughter) Yes, even for the Christians. I mean, we tend to want to react out of our manhood, not out of our Christhood.

Roland: Yes and for me, that was a very real piece to this story, because you know, I was struggling a bit when it came time for me to try to talk to my sons about, you know, sexual purity and saving sex for marriage and you know, I’d gotten my girlfriend, now wife of 32 years, pregnant while we were in college. And you know, when it came time for me to have this conversation with Jamie, my oldest son, I was in many ways, very paralyzed by that.

Jim: Was he aware of that?

Roland: He wasn’t.

Jim: He wasn’t, so it—

Roland: No.

Jim: –out of the blue.

Roland: Yeah, we just made sure the calendars were not marked the right way and (Laughter) you know. We really, it was just somethin’ that we, you know, frankly, hadn’t looked forward to sharing with him.

Jim: How old was he when he began to have these questions or you began to talk with him about it?

Roland: He was about 13 when we really started to connect the dots for him, ’cause we figured he’d probably do the math eventually. And that was when I had that moment. And what God gave me in that moment is that, there’s a bit difference between hypocrisy and growth.

Jim: Explain it.

Roland: Well, hypocrisy is, if you’re tryin’ to get your child not to do something that you’re doing. So, if you were smokin’ dope and you’re tellin’ your kid, “Don’t smoke dope,” you’re a hypocrite. He’ll probably call you out on it.

Growth is when you tell your kid not to do something that you once did, that God showed you through that. And that’s really the distinction between the two. And so often, I think a lot of times guys will say, “You know what? I can’t tell my kid not to do drugs.” Or “I can’t tell them to have a certain perspective about sexuality,” whatever it is, because of how I behaved and they get paralyzed by that. And the reality is that, that is spiritual growth. That’s exactly why God put you in their lives, so you can help them avoid the mistake—

Jim: Let ask you—

Roland:–that you made.

Jim: –again a practical question I hope, because some parents are living in that right now. They may have committed their life to Christ later as a 20-something, a 30-something, maybe much later. But they messed up somewhere along the line.

Be very specific on your recommendation, on how you talk to a 13-, 14-, 15-year-old son or daughter about those delicate issues. What’s your advice? If you were sitting on the counseling line here at Focus with a parent who is struggling because their daughter is giving signs that maybe she could become sexually active, like you were as a teenager—

Roland: Right.

Jim: –what would you say to them?

Roland: Well, the first thing is, that you’ve gotta be age-appropriate. So, you know, you don’t want to cover things with them that you shouldn’t. But I do think that there is something that happens when you’re vulnerable. You know, there’s no intimacy without vulnerability. If I want to hug you, I’ve gotta open myself up.

Jim: Even with your child.

Roland: Even with your child and if you think about it, that’s the model with Christ. I mean, how did He come into the world? As a baby, vulnerable. How did He die? With His arms open, vulnerable. And what did that cause, people to be drawn to Him.

So, don’t be afraid of that. You’re actually modeling what Christ did when you’re vulnerable with your … with your child. Again, age appropriate, but you want to share these things. And the other thing is, that you want to say, “Look, this is my hope. This is my hope for you. That’s the reason why I’m here.” I mean, if a blind person got sight and avoided a ditch, would you expect that person to have other people who are blind, just let ’em walk into the ditch? You’d say no, I mean, you’re not a hypocrite when you do this. You’re a hero and that’s exactly why God put you in their life, to help them avoid those mistakes and that’s why those mistakes are in the Bible.

Jim: And the important part there is, that you have to make sure that, that conversation contains the second part—

Roland: Yes.

Jim: –that this is wisdom I want to give you.

Roland: Absolutely.

Jim: I blew it; you don’t have to do that.

Roland: Absolutely.

Jim: And I hope I can help you see differently than where I was when I was 14 or 15.

Roland: Absolutely.

Jim: That’s the point.

Roland: That’s the point.

John: Well, some great encouragement from Roland Warren today on “Focus on the Family” with Jim Daly. His book, Bad Dads of the Bible. You can find out more about that and some other resources and helps we have, as well as a CD or a download of our conversation, when you stop by

Jim: Roland, let me ask you a question about Jesus and parenting. (Laughter) You know

Roland: Okay.

Jim: –He was not an earthly father, but in Matthew 7, He says something that most of us would run right by, I think, if we don’t slow down and really look at it. He talks there about the heart, the intent of the heart, Him knowing the heart and the fact that if you’re evil and can give your children good things like bread when your child asks for it, you don’t give them a serpent that will hurt them.

Roland: Yeah.

Jim: He’s actually informing us a bit there about how to parent, isn’t He?

Roland: Absolutely. I think that was one of the most powerful fatherhood examples there, ’cause He … He’s talking to, obviously which is a group of men and he says, “Which of you,” right, if your child asks you for bread, I would give ’em a stone? And which is you, if your child asks you for a fish, would give him a serpent or a snake?

And He links that back to this notion. And what I took away from that is, that there’s the presumption that fathers would be good, even if they’re not followers of Christ. So, it’s almost that fatherhood in a big way is sort of like common grace. It’s like rain and you know, air, all the kinds of things that good fathers, even if they’re not followers of Christ, that there’s something good from that. It’s not saving grace, but it’s common grace and that it’s part of the path that leads a child to have a saving relationship with Christ.

So, there’s a call and that’s why as Christians and the work I did at National Fatherhood Initiative, I felt was so important to engage the culture, because even if fathers don’t become Christians, if they are good fathers, it provides a pathway for their children to come to know Christ and to have a relationship with a heavenly Father.

Jim: Right, it’s like Paul writes, it’s spiritual truth.

Roland: Absolutely.

Jim: And it’s right there. I think it’s one of the reasons we’re so drawn to moms.

Roland: Yeah.

Jim: They do this better than we do, that common grace that you’re talking about. Moms are just good. That’s why they’re doing the soup commercials and you know, it is. Moms are good—

Roland: Yeah.

Jim: –at being good to their kids.

Roland: Well, it’s very difficult for mothers to disconnect from their kids–

Jim: Right.

Roland: –in many ways and that’s why all over the world we don’t have this issue with mothers leaving their kids than we do with fathers. But I actually think that, you know, there’s something very special that God did with fathers, that makes their presence so significant. I think kids know for sure that, you know, this guy had the choice to leave me in a way that mom did not and he chose to stay.

I mean, one of the ways I kinda talk about this, think about if you had a birthday party and you had this big crowd of folks when you came downstairs. And you meet the first person and you say, “Thanks for comin’ to my party.” And the person says, “Well, you know, they paid me to come.” And you’re like, “Oh, great.” And you go to the next person and he says, “Well, they paid me to come.” And you go, “Great.”

And then you go the next person and they say, “Well, I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.” All that whole room didn’t really matter to you. What mattered was that one person who chose you in a very, very special way. And so, that’s the thing that I think that God has given fathers in a special way, this notion that you’re choosing your children and the power of choice. And I think that, that’s why when fathers choose children it has an enormously positive impact. But also when they reject their children, it has an enormously negative impact, as well.

Jim: Yeah. When you use that term “choose your children,” what do you mean by that so it’s clear?

Roland: Yeah, you know, it’s this notion of affirmation. You know, one of the things that God kinda gave me early on when I was thinking about the fatherhood issue, was in Matthew, chapter 3, verses 16 and then goin’ on chapter 4, verse 1 [FYI: Chapter 4 is about Jesus’ temptation], where it talks about the baptism of Jesus. And at the end where He comes out of the water and He says, “This is My Son, Whom I love. I’m well-pleased with Him.” And then Jesus goes in chapter 4 and He’s tempted. God gave me this perspective, affirmation before temptation. Here was Jesus, fully man and fully God, but God the Father knew the power of a Father’s affirmation.

Because all kids are gonna be tempted. We know that. The tempter will come. But kids who know who they are and know whose they are, will know the difference between a real affirmation and what the world will provide. So, there’s something powerful. There’s a fatherhood message

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