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The Power of a Father's Words

Air Date 01/29/2019

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Joe Battaglia and Joe Pellegrino encourage listening fathers to think about the powerful influence they have in their kids' lives and how they can bless their children, particularly through their words.

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Episode Transcript



Rick Carlos: (singing) Tell them who they are. Tell them they have meaning. Listen to their hopes. Listen to their dreams. Bless them from your heart. Bless them with your hands. Let ‘em know you love them and that God has a plan.

End of Teaser

John Fuller: Well, there’s no question, Dad, that you have a tremendous impact in your child’s life, for good or for bad. And today on Focus on the Family, we’ll get some insight from a couple of dads who talk about the power of a father’s words and actions. Stay with us. This is Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, many of us know the heartache of not having a dad. Maybe he’s present physically but not emotionally, or maybe absent altogether. Unfortunately today, that is the story for many, many children growing up without a dad. I saw a stat the other day that, I think, 40 percent of children born today don’t have a dad in the home. Let me give you some perspective. In 1940, it was 3.8 percent. And in the ‘60s, it was 5 percent. Today 40 percent of children born in a family don’t have a dad. That is unbelievable. And it creates a lot of problems. Our guests today will share some great examples of the father’s influence, and they’ll offer some wonderful principles that should help all of us dads do the best job that we can do.

Joe Pellegrino and Joe Battaglia - yep, two Joes, we’ll differentiate by Joe and Joey - have written a fabulous book, Fathers Say: Give the Gift of Blessing to Your Children. And in it, they tell stories of celebrities and the impact their dads had on them. Joe Pellegrino is the founder and president of a ministry for men called, Legacy Minded Men. And Joe Battaglia is the founder and president of Renaissance Communications. I want to say welcome to both of you.


Joe Battaglia: Thank you.

Joe Pellegrino: Thank you so much for having us.

Jim: Hey, let’s go with Joe P.


Okay? You heard the introduction about the power of a father’s words. Let me start with you. Tell me about your relationship with your dad. What happened? What kind of relationship did you have with your dad?

Joe P.: My dad was a very good man. But he wasn’t necessarily a great teaching father. My father used reverse psychology on me, which he believed would make me stronger. And I guess it did. But the reality is it also led me down a really bad path, because I wanted his approval so bad, and I wanted to be somebody so badly that I did a lot of things that I wish - I wish I never did. As a matter of fact guys, I told so many lies when I was younger that to this day, I don’t know what actually happened in my childhood, because I made up this whole fantasy world and...

Jim: About having the good dad?

Joe P.: ...Not - not necessarily about having a good dad, about being a good man, me personally.

Jim: Okay. What were some of those lies? What’d they sound like?

Joe P.: Oh, my goodness. I don’t know. I was probably the captain of “Lost in Space,” you know, that kind of stuff. I - look, everything. I made myself look better than I was, because I didn’t have a good grasp on who I was. I didn’t have a man who was speaking into my life, telling me and encouraging me what a man really looks like. You know, I grew up with the idea that a man had to be strong, had to have a lot of women, and that kind of thing. And that’s just not what a man is.

Jim: Yeah. Let me go a little further, though. What drives that insecurity? I mean, where does that come from for many of us guys? It’s kind of a male thing to be bigger, show yourself bigger, than you truly are, or better than you truly are.

Joe P.: Oh, I believe we’re hard-wired. I believe God has hard-wired men to have an understanding of who they are. And...

Jim: And who they’re not.

Joe P.: ...And correct - actually, the who they’re not is probably more important than who they are in a lot of ways, because we need to eliminate all those things that society is telling us and really focus on that which God crafted us to do. And when we study Scripture and we look at it, we can get a very good sense of who we are in Christ. And when we do that, it changes the game.

Jim: Well, and that’s what we talk about in terms of being rooted in Him, His truth, transcendental truth, bigger truth than what we are. And that’s what you’re driving at.

Joe P.: That’s right.

Jim: All right. Joe, you have a daughter.

Joe B.: I do.

Jim: Share an occasion where your words made a big impression on her. Let’s put you right on the firing line here.

Joe P.: I know this story.

Joe B.: Well, this is a great story. You know - basically, what happened one day was my daughter said, “Hey, Dad, let’s go for a trip to the mall,” which is teenage euphemism for, “Dad, I want you to buy me something.”


Jim: Right.

John: Retail therapy.

Joe B.: Retail therapy, yes. And so - and this is the important thing is that I went with her, right? And so we go to the mall. And we go into - and I won’t mention the store on air...

Jim: Okay.

Joe B.: ...But it was one of those places where when I walked into the store, there were pictures of half-naked young women - adolescent young women - lying on top of equally unattired young men. And at this point, I’m steaming. And I’m saying, “What’s this about?” And my daughter is about 13 or 14 and elbows me in the ribs and say - says, “Dad, don’t,” because she knows I will say something. And so, we walk up to the counter. And there are two young people standing there. Of course, you know, they’re just working. And so, she says again, “Dad, don’t.” So I put the shirt on the counter. And then I asked the young man, “I want you to tell your manager, please, that I really don’t like what I see on the walls here because I don’t like the messages it’s giving out, and I think it’s dishonoring to our children.” And so he kind of sheepishly turns away. And then I look to the young lady. And I say, “Young lady, do you like what you see up here? How does it represent what you feel about yourself?” And she kind of sheepishly turns away as well, at which point my daughter yells out, “Dad, they don’t care.” On cue, the young man turns back to me and says, “I wish my father cared as much.”

Jim: Hm.

Joe B.: Silence. And as we walked out of the mall that day, my daughter said to me, “Well, Dad, you know, he had to say that.” And I said, “Honey, you will learn that people will only say what is on their heart to say.” And so, I think it’s incumbent upon us as men, and particularly as fathers, to understand that our role is a teacher. In Deuteronomy 11:18 to 19, Moses assembles the men from the camp. And he says this to them, “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you walk along the road, when you sit at home, when you lie down, and when you get up.” The reality is that we are teachers primarily and basically. That’s what we do. And my call to men is to say when you are with your children, go with them. Walk along the road, and be with them. Don’t just give them 20 bucks and have them sit, you know, by themselves, or go by themselves. And so, what I like to just leave men with is to say that our children will learn something from us, even if it’s nothing.

Joe P.: Yeah.

Jim: So true.

Joe P.: If I can interject here, in Psalm 119:9, it says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your Word.” But if they don’t know what the Word says, if nobody’s pointing to the Word, how can they learn? How can young men learn? We need to come alongside these men and encourage them, edify them, build them up, but give them truth, so that they will understand what the world holds for them. And we are not understanding that our words and our actions go - will go so far for these kids to grow and be who they are in Christ, because no matter what - we know one thing, everybody was carved out for purpose. Everybody has purpose built into them. But in order for that purpose to come out, we need to be able to help stimulate the conversation, so that they can recognize that they are crafted for purpose. And I think we’re seeing so many people on drugs and alcohol and all this, because they’re losing their way. They don’t recognize purpose in their lives. And they - there’s no hope there. And a father brings hope. A man brings hope.

Jim: Let me - let me describe that in the stats - I mentioned it in the opening, some people have joined us since we started - but let me just give you an idea of the fatherless homes. And you remember, I came from one. So, I’m not speaking down to anybody, because I have come from a home like that. With God, all things are possible...

Joe P.: Amen.

Jim: ...And that’s the key point looking forward. But when you look at the data, 63 percent of youth suicides, which is almost epidemic right now, are from fatherless homes, five times the average. Ninety percent of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes, 32 times the average. Eighty-five percent of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes. Now, I don’t want to paint a picture for the single parent mom, because again, my mom was in that spot. And I think she did an incredible job raising five kids. And we’ve all become Christian and the Lord’s hand was there, I think mostly because my mom honored the Lord. And she kind of filled that role that a dad would fill. And yet, man, it really stacks the deck against us. So, the question in here is why are we at this point? Why have men given up on family? Why have we abandoned our role? And then secondly, speak to that single parent mom who may feel hopeless because she’s got a troubled teen boy or a troubled teen girl and doesn’t quite know what to do. Those are two big questions.

Joe B.: Yeah. I think a father’s role has been so misunderstood in the home, because I don’t think they understand what happens when you’re not there. And I’d like to speak about that for just a moment to those who may be listening and wondering, “Well, I’m not really that important to the home. I’m not that really needed.”

Jim: And the culture tells you that all day long.

Joe P.: All day long.

Joe B.: Yeah, and they feed us these lies. And let me tell you why it’s important, and I’ll give you another story. Men help absorb feelings and help kids process things in a way that a mother cannot. It’s a matter of security and identity as well. You know my situation, you know, with my family. And my wife suffered from MS for years...

John: Describe a little bit of that for our listeners.

Joe B.: ...Yeah, and so, she was unable to do the things that all the soccer moms in my particular area were able to do, because it was a rather affluent area. And so, one day when my daughter - and she was about 10 - could not go out and do something, because my wife could not take her, she just was not capable, she then just burst into tears, ran downstairs and started crying. And said, “It’s just not fair.” And what does a dad do? It’s not what you say. It’s just by being present, just holding her and saying nothing, because you don’t need to say anything. It’s not about the words. It’s about the presence. It’s about enabling your child to understand that there’s a process of how you filter these things, these feelings, that they’re too young to understand.

Their brains aren’t developed enough - right? - At that age to understand all these things coming at them. They just don’t like it. They have anxiety. That’s what they’re really experiencing. And so, when the father is not there, he provides strength and security just by his presence. And that alone enables a child to help process feelings and not feel abandoned and alone. And I think men don’t understand that fully, because they’ve been lied to. They’ve been told they’re not necessary. They’re not part of the equation. The culture tells us that. And so that is something that is so untrue that men must stand up and have courage. And I think a lot of it has to do with courage. People in our current politically correct climate - to say everything is okay, whatever you do, whatever abhorrent behavior is out there is okay, we need to stand up and say, in as civil a way as we can, as winsomely as we can, “No, not everything is right, not everything is correct.”

And we need to stand our ground. And we need to fight that, because most of what we believe as Christians is counterintuitive and countercultural to what the culture would say. Jesus is my North Star. Period. When I follow Him, I have a definite line in the sand that I will not cross. And my children need to see that. And so the fun thing is that years later, the story I mentioned earlier - my daughter called me one day, she was with her friends, she was in her 20s now - she said, “Dad, I’m reading your book with my story in it to my friends. They think it’s really cool that you stood up and said that.” And so, what will happen is that you don’t know it now, but when you stand for what is right and what is true and what is honorable, your kids will process that later on, and it will make sense to them. “And they will rise up and call you blessed,” as Scripture says.

Jim: Answer the question about that single parent mom who doesn’t have that influence in her home. Where does she derive some hope that her son or daughter can get that kind of influence, that kind of steadiness?

Joe P.: So we - we use the word “fathers say” or the phrase “fathers say” - we’re not only talking about the words from a father. We’re talking about from a grandfather, or from a mentor. Now, there are single women - single moms in the church are probably the most underserved people in the church. And what we need to see are more men stepping up to the plate and saying, “Listen, let me come along your son. Let me help him. Let me take him to the ballgame. Let me - let me teach him a little bit”...

Jim: Men got to do that.

Joe P.: ...They have to do it. It’s their responsibility. And you know, when I talk to men, “Oh, I don’t have any sons,” or - guess what, you always have a son that you can adopt into your life. And it makes all the difference in the world. Right now, I’m mentoring three young men, three young men who have come from severe drug backgrounds, one who attempted suicide, and they just never had a model in the home of a man who was - would love them unconditionally, would teach them. And you come alongside them, and you start giving them this love and this discipline in words, because we’re not - it’s not all, you know, flowery - it’s gotta be truth. And you have to tell them, “You can’t do this. This is not pleasing to the Lord. And do you understand why?” And what you do is they come back to you. And then, they’ll send you that text that says, “Thank you so much, I tried that, it worked, thank you.” The bottom line is gentlemen, when you’re listening to this show, step out, rise up and say, “I’m going to reach another life, a young man who has not been blessed like I’ve been blessed,” or, “who is not understanding of what I know right now.” Step up guys. We need to step up.

John: That is some great passion from our guest Joe Pellegrino, and Joe Battaglia in the studio, as well, with us today on Focus on the Family. And they’ve captured so much of this energy and passion that they’re sharing just a little bit of with us today. And the book is called, Fathers Say: Give the Gift of Blessing to Your Children. We’ve got that and a CD or download of this conversation at

And I love what you guys are saying. I’m just thinking there are guys who are feeling like, “I am such a hypocrite. I can’t do that. I mean, I’ve - I’ve messed up so much in my life. You guys - you’ve got it together.” So what can I do today to get over that sense of guilt that I don’t measure up, and I don’t even have purpose, how do I give it to a kid?

Joe P.: Okay. That is - that is the one million dollar question. Here, I will give you the answer, based on my own life. I’ve made every mistake in the book. I have screwed up. And you know, my first son, Joey, was - he was my first. And you know, he didn’t come with instructions. So, we had to learn...

Jim: Poor firstborns.

Joe P.: ...Yeah. And I - unfortunately, Joey had to bear the brunt of our learning. And one time - I’m a big baseball guy. I love baseball. And I took Joey on the side of my house. And I told him, “If you hit the ball over my head, I’m gonna buy you that pirate Lego ship you always wanted.” And you know, he was practicing - he never hit the ball over my head, or so I say. Years later, it would always come up, “You know, you never got me that pirate Lego ship.” I said, “You never hit the ball over my head.”

John: So this is good-natured back-and-forth?

Joe P.: Well, I thought it was, until I moved him down to Jacksonville, Florida, when he was 24 years old. And on the drive down, you know, we’re very similar. I mean, my son is a great man of God. But we were butting heads all the way down. And when we got down there, we went to Wal-Mart to get him stuff for his apartment. And as God would have it, he led me through the Lego aisle.


John: Subtle.

Joe P.: And I saw the brand new version of the pirate Lego ship. And the Holy Spirit spoke boldly to me. I knew exactly what I had to do. When I got on that plane, I went back to New Jersey. And the next morning, I went right to Wal-Mart. I bought that pirate Lego ship. I wrapped it. I took a piece of Legacy Minded Men stationery. And I wrote words similar to this: “Dear Joey, forgive the tardiness of this note, for I’ve witnessed so many home runs in your life, and I’m so proud of you, Love Dad.” And I determined I was gonna give it to him at Christmas when he came home. So Christmas comes. We give out all of our gifts. And I had this one gift. And I said, “Joe, this is from me to you, but before you open it, you have to read the card.” He reads the card. He throws his head back, and he puts his head on the box, and he says, “I know what’s in here.”

That afternoon we went by my brother-in-law for Christmas. And he stood next to me. And my brother-in-law said, “What’d you get for Christmas, Joe?” And he put his arm around me, which was, you know, it wasn’t as normal. And he said to me, “My dad got me something that he never has to get me anything else again.” And from that point forward, I have noticed an unbelievable change. We are so close. He’s a great man of God. I’m so proud of him. But gentlemen, the point is this: it’s never too late. It’s never too late to write that note, to send a video, to - to speak boldly into the life of your child and simply say, “I was wrong. I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I was wrong.” Because guys, I can tell you this. I truly believe he did not hit that ball over my head, because I wouldn’t have done that. But he believed it. And therefore, I had to be the man to step up and say something needs to be done, because this relationship’s got a little bit of brokenness to it.

Jim: Yeah.

Joe B.: Yeah.

Jim: I mean, we all got tears in our eyes. It’s the power of a dad right there.

Joe B.: Yeah. I mean, people have to understand, particularly men, that brokenness is de rigueur for the Christian life, that Jesus does not accept us because we’re right and perfect. The foot of the cross is the greatest level playing field of all time...

Joe P.: Amen.

Joe B.: ...and everybody has to come there. And when you can come there and see someone dying for you, then that makes a whole lot of more sense of - I am not perfect, no one’s expecting me to be, but I can learn to be someone better.

Joe P.: Uh, Men’s Discipleship Network did a survey. It said 90 percent of Christian men surveyed say they do not believe in the totality of the Bible. Why? Because they’re not being trained in the totality of the Bible, what it means, how everything connects. And then, it goes on to say 7 out of 8 Christian men said they feel inadequate to share their faith. Ninety percent of over 500 men surveyed that claim to be born-again said the number one reason for disconnect with God was due to an undisciplined, lustful and fantasizing thought life. This is where men do not feel like they can be the man God created them to be. They believe there’s a blockade, a wall between them. And you know what? The answer is, yes, there is. But we can break down that wall.

Jim: Well, and it’s so well said. And if you think of the Garden, we’re still there. Shame. We’re feeling shame rather than freedom in Christ. And you’re hitting the very core of the nature of manhood. You talk about celebrities in the book. We haven’t even touched on that.

Joe P.: Oh, yeah. There’s a book, right?

Joe B.: There’s a book, yes.

Jim: You compiled these stories. Give us one or two examples. Why did you go with celebrities? What do they show that maybe normal folk like us don’t possess? I mean, what...?


Joe B.: Well, the simple truth of that, Jim, is that we went with celebrities, because people are more apt to want to hear and read about somebody that they know. You know, a friend of mine says...

Jim: Okay. Familiarity.

Joe B.: ...There is familiarity, and that’s important. And so, these are all people that are friends of mine that I know. And we decided...

Joe P.: I know some of them, too.


Joe B.: Let me see, which...

Joe P.: I mean, come on.

Jim: New Jersey and New York, going at it right here. I love it.

Joe B.: Yeah, you may know - you may know a couple of them.


John: Come on, please.

Jim: This is the Giants versus the Jets.

Joe B.: It is. But you know, you’re not a Jets fan.

Joe P.: No, I’m not.

Joe B.: No, I know that.

Joe P.: Strike that, please.

Joe B.: Strike that, yeah. And so, you know, the reality of having these people who we only know one-dimensionally - right? We only know them by how we see them on television, how we see them perform on the field, or so forth, and so, the idea of getting people outside their meilleur of how they’re understood is a really good way of engaging people to read their stories. And so, that’s why we chose the celebrities...

Jim: What’s an example of one or two that really popped for you guys?

Joe P.: My favorite is Corbin Bernsen, L.A. Law. And he talks about his father. He starts off by saying, “This is not a man that should be in a book like this.” But what he taught us is that no matter how difficult or disconnected the father might be, there are always some great teaching words that can come from it. And that’s what Corbin - he learned when his father would say, “Don’t blame others for your failures.” And that impacted him mightily. Because - because of his father’s struggles with fidelity, his mother took to the bottle. And because of that, the mother was disconnected from him. And he was upset with his mother. And his father said this out of the blue. And it just impacted him tremendously. And again, the power of words. And here’s a man who has been very successful in life, but he recognized that there was a major nugget there. And I also love the fact that he was so honest about it. He spoke boldly about his father. He loved his father. But the reality was, he wasn’t a great dad.

Jim: And that’s what happens. What sticks out for you? What story?

Joe B.: Well, I like Delilah’s story. She is an incredible...

Jim: That’s the radio personality?

Joe B.: ...That’s the radio host, yes. And most people just know her as, you know, the subtle seven to midnight evening host. But she is an amazing believer and a strong Christian. And what she has done to personally save orphans in a refugee camp in Ghana is a movie in and of itself. It’s just amazing. But with her dad, it was really grass-roots. And she remembers him saying, “Can’t means you won’t.” That’s what sticks out. And so the reality of - “Don’t tell me you can’t, because it’s really about you won’t.” And the issue of men stepping forward to say, “Well, I can’t do that,” is really more about, “I won’t do that.”

Joe P.: That’s right. It’s a choice.

Joe B.: And I think when we talk to men, the opportunity to say, “Oh, well, I can’t do that because I’m busy, I’m playing golf,” or, “I’m, you know, out with the boys,” or, “I can’t, because, you know, I’m just too busy at work,” or whatever, the reality is a priority will always take priority, over everything. And so, the obvious is really obvious here. And so, to me, it always resonates when I say “Well, I can’t,” that always comes back to me, is it really I can’t? Or, is it because I won’t?

Joe P.: Right.

Joe B.: What is the responsibility that God has called me to?

Jim: Well, I think we’re all feeling a bit of that guilt right now, because there’s things I wish I wouldn’t have done last weekend, like take too much time on some of the chores, rather than with the boys. At the end here, how do we tie this in a bow for the guys that this is real life, this is what happens? I am working hard. I do travel a lot. I - I am distracted from my core mission of raising my sons or my daughters. Give it to me. Grab me by the ears.

Joe P.: What I would love to see is for people to recognize that the world is telling them what men are supposed to do. And when they do, they - they’re putting men down, they’re holding them down. The reality is we would love to see a movement of people coming out and telling their story about the power of a man’s words in their life. If we could start doing that, we could start really encouraging men to recognize and step up to “It’s great to be a dad! It’s great to be a man!” But you know what? We need to encourage them! And your words, listeners, your words are the ones that are gonna make it happen! Encourage them! Let them know that their words matter. Let them know that it makes a difference in this world, because the greatest problem in the world today are men who have abdicated their role as leaders, husbands and fathers! And we need to step up to the plate! Let’s do it!

Jim: Man, that is...

John: Amen!

Jim: ...Were you a football coach? I’m ready to go!



Jim: Man, you are connecting with me. I’m just like, “Mm.” There was a football coach I had in high school who grabbed me by the facemask, and called me out, said, “If you’re gonna be the quarterback, you finish the wind sprints first.” And that - now, I’m telling you, when I’m feeling low, that scene, that story, comes back to my 16-year-old presence, you know, of that coach grabbing me, yanking my head, probably illegal today. But, did he get my attention just like you just did. That’s the heart of manhood. You guys have brought it today.

Thank you so much for being with us here at Focus on the Family. Thanks for sharing your stories, for compiling this great book, Fathers Say. And I’m telling you folks, this is the kind of resource, or tool, that you need. Focus is here for you. This is why we exist is to strengthen you in your marriage, in your parenting, to give you that tool, that resource. And I want to encourage you to make a gift to Focus on the Family. And our way of saying thank you will be to send a copy of Joe and Joe, their book, Fathers Say: Give the Gift of Blessing to Your Children. It’s not too late. Even if your kids are 30s and 40s, they’ll have ideas in there about how you can mend that relationship. So do it today.

John: Yeah. We hope you’ve been encouraged. And you can donate when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY - or stop by

Coming up next time on Focus on the Family, sharing the Gospel by practicing ordinary hospitality.


Rosaria Champagne Butterfield: I’m not talking about a shallow relationship with my neighbors. God never gets the address wrong. He gave me these neighbors. He appointed these relationships. And I’m going to build them for as long as He keeps me there.

End of Teaser

John: On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening to Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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Joe Battaglia

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Joe Battaglia is a broadcaster, an author, and the president of Renaissance Communications, a company whose mission is to provide media platforms for gifted communicators of Biblical truth. He is also an executive producer and the general manager of Keep the Faith, the No. 1 faith-based music radio program in the country with a weekly audience of more than 2 million listeners. Joe has been involved in the promotion of highly successful faith-based movies including Soul Surfer, Heaven is For Real, and God’s Not Dead. He and his wife, LuAnn, reside in New Jersey and have one grown daughter.


Joe Pellegrino

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Joe Pellegrino is a men's pastor, author, speaker, certified professional life coach, consultant and entrepreneur. He is the president and founder of Legacy Minded Men whose mission is to transform men's lives by encouraging and equipping them to build a Christ-centered legacy. He has made numerous media appearances and co-authored several books including Safe at Home, Transformed, and That's My Dad! Joe and his wife, Bethanne, have three children.