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Fatherhood: How to be the Dad Your Family Needs

Fathers have the awesome responsibility of laying a spiritual foundation in the home. But what does that mean, exactly? How can you be the dad your family needs?

Fatherhood: How to be the Dad Your Family Needs

The Importance of Fathers   —   A Spiritual Foundation for the Family

Learn how to love your daughter intentionally and be an example of Christ to her by clicking below!

Sign up for the 30-Day Intentional Dad Challenge

When you sign up for the Intentional Dad Challenge, you’ll receive one text message a day for 30 days, each with a simple challenge that will help you connect with your children and show your love to them. You can be the dad your family needs!

When you sign up you’ll also get some great videos like Jim Daly’s above, and like these from the Kendrick brothers

Alex Kendrick - Showing Affection

Stephen Kendrick - A Proper Greeting

Want even more Fatherhood resources? Click here for more ways to grow as a father and serve your family.

By Jim Daly - November 2019

Contents

Dads are Important

Fathers have the awesome responsibility of laying a spiritual foundation in the home. But what does that mean, exactly? How can you be the dad your family needs?

As a young boy, my life was virtually devoid of positive male influences, spiritual or otherwise.

As a result, much of what I’ve learned about healthy fatherhood came later in life, through the influence of mentors and, most importantly, the study of Scripture. Fathers can learn so much about what to do (and what not to do!) by looking to the Bible and learning from the example of our Heavenly Father.

With that in mind, here are six ways you can set the spiritual tone and be the dad your family needs.

Chapter One

Dad is Present

The family needs Dad to be present

Nearly 20 million children in America—that’s almost 1 in 4—live without a father in the home. Sadly, children in this situation face unique challenges. Statistically, they’re more likely to grow up with financial challenges and more likely to drop out of school. Boys from fatherless homes are more likely to be involved in a violent crime, while girls are more likely to become pregnant as teenagers. In addition:

  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from homes with absent fathers.
  • 85% of all youth in prison come from fatherless homes.
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children come from fatherless environments.
  • 70% of teen suicides occur in homes where there isn’t a dad.

A father’s involvement matters, and the earlier the better. But physical presence is only part of the equation. In many homes, the father is still on the scene in a technical sense, but emotionally absent. And again, research shows that children suffer when fathers are unable or unwilling to engage with their children on a meaningful level. In contrast, children thrive when they have involved fathers. For example, one study revealed that teens who described their fathers as “involved” or “highly involved” were 98 percent more likely to graduate from college than those who reported minimal father involvement.

Statistics aside, even fathers with the best of intentions will struggle to feel like they’re consistently and sufficiently “there” for their children physically, emotionally, and spiritually. As a result, this may leave some fathers feeling like they are bad parents. Yet, dads don’t need to be perfect, and in fact, they can’t be perfect. But the more they’re able to be an active, positive presence in their kids’ lives, the more those sons and daughters will be able to understand the heart of God Himself, who promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

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Help with becoming the father you were meant to be:

The Good Dad

The Good Dad

It's not about becoming a perfect father. It's about trying to become a better father, each and every day.

Chapter Two

Dad and Daughters

The family needs Dad to be involved with his daughters

Although we often read about how important it is for fathers to serve as healthy role models for their sons, a dad’s relationship with his daughters is no less important. A young girl’s sense of self is closely tied to her relationship with her father. That’s why it’s critical that dads validate their daughters throughout their childhood. How do they do that? By being present for important events in her life (sports, school plays, birthdays, etc.). By spending quality time with her one-on-one. By giving her appropriate physical affection, even during the teen years. And by asking her questions, soliciting her input, and treating her as an equal.

Early in your marriage, you probably learned that your wife sometimes wants you to just listen to her when she’s frustrated, rather than having you jump in and try to solve the problem. The same is true for your daughter. She wants to be heard. She wants to be understood. There will be times to offer guidance and feedback, but there will be many other times when it’s important to simply listen. You’ll soon discover that you can learn a lot from your daughter’s female perspective on various issues. Celebrate and affirm her in that!

Dedication icon of anchor for fathers
Greg
Dad and Focus on the Family supporter says:

"The thing I've learned being a father for the last 14 years is that no matter how hard it gets, no matter how big the struggle our kids always, always give more than they take. You can't put a price on hugs and kisses and being told how much they love you. You can't put a price on being able to be the strongest influence in your child's life. Being able to teach them about Jesus Christ, being able to teach them about right and wrong.”

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Chapter Three

Dad and Sons

The family needs Dad to be involved with his sons

A father’s role in the life of his son is paramount. Common sense and decades of solid research testify to this. Dr. David Popenoe, Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University, puts it this way:

“Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home. Involved fathers… provide protection and economic support and male role models. They have a parenting style that is significantly different from that of a mother and that difference is important in healthy child development.”[i]

Dad, if you want your son to grow up to be responsible and engaged, to respect women, and to demonstrate the Christ-like qualities of a servant-leader, it’s up to you to set the standard! Again, you don’t have to be perfect in this regard. In fact, it’s better if you allow your son to see you mess up sometimes and if you own your mistakes. But don’t underestimate the singular importance of your influence on him. Finally, note that what a family needs from dad is different from what is needed from mom . You are unique and indispensable!

Our society’s view of manhood is severely broken. In the absence of involved fathers, a generation of boys has grown up not knowing what it means to be men. In that void, numerous problems have emerged, whether in the form of toxic masculinity or of men who simply can’t or won’t launch into the real world. They won’t step up, they won’t commit, and they have no idea how to support themselves, let alone a wife or family. A son needs his dad to show him how it’s done.

[i] David Popenoe, Life Without Father, (New York: The Free Press, 1996)

Additional resources for your son:

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Chapter Four

Balance

The family needs Dad to balance discipline and grace

We know from Scripture that “the Lord disciplines the one he loves” (Hebrews 12:6). As fathers, we should do the same. Some dads, especially if they’re the primary breadwinner, want to be Mr. Fun-and-Games when they’re at home, leaving it up to Mom to be the enforcer, the bad cop. This is a mistake. Your family needs to see Dad apply the rules at home consistently.

Don’t let the noble desire to create quality, fun time with your kids turn into an excuse not to discipline them when it’s appropriate to do so. They need you, as well as their mom, to help them understand that there are consequences for certain actions and behaviors at every age and stage. Take heart in the knowledge that “for the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

On the other hand, if life was just about keeping the rules, God would squash every one of us into dust. But He’s not just a God of justice—He’s a God of grace and mercy and forgiveness. As dads, our families need to see us model this same spirit with our kids when they fall short of the mark, and even after they’ve been openly defiant.

This delicate balance between discipline and grace will look different depending on the ages and personalities of your children. Some kids need a bit more structure and “black-and-white” thinking in order to stay on track. Others will thrive more when mercy is extended rather than justice. The more quality time you spend with your kids, the better understanding you’ll have of when to exercise discipline and when to extend grace. It’s never an either/or proposition.

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Chapter Five

Dad Loves Mom

The family needs Dad to love his wife

One of the best ways a man can create a strong spiritual foundation in the home is to love his wife! Your kids will be more likely to grow up to have healthy opposite-sex relationships outside the home if you will model it for them while they’re still a captive audience.

This is a prime area where identity and values are “caught” more than “taught.” If you want your sons to treat girls with respect, don’t give them a lecture—consistently treat their mom with respect! Likewise, if you want your daughters to be attracted to men who are humble, kind, and gracious, model those behaviors with your wife every chance you get. Your wife will appreciate it and your children will think you are a super dad.

Being the dad your family needs will not only benefit your marriage and your parenting, it will give your kids another chance to see the deeper meaning of marriage as a picture of Christ and the church. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

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Discover the Strengths and Weaknesses of Your Marriage

We want your marriage to be thriving and healthy. Take a free marriage assessment to identify key areas where your marriage could use improvement and the tools that will help you strengthen your bond with your spouse. Take the free assessment!
Chapter Six

Commitment

The family needs Dad's dedication and commitment

Being present, understanding the unique needs of daughters and sons, exercising discipline, giving grace, and loving your kids’ mother—that’s a daunting list for any man! Don’t be afraid to mess up from time to time. Your family doesn’t need you to be perfect, Dad. That isn’t the goal; the fact that each of these practices points to the attributes of God Himself proves that we’re not up to the task on our own. We can’t be like the Almighty. Rather, through prayer and humility, we can endeavor to point our children to Him in big and small ways every day.

When you’re present, they’ll be reminded of the God who said, “Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

When you’re attuned to the different needs of your daughters and sons, you’ll spare them the frustration of a one-size-fits-all approach and will be better equipped to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Furthermore, when you discipline them, they’ll get the message that “whoever loves discipline loves knowledge” (Proverbs 12:1). And when you extend grace, they’ll understand that God “does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities… As a father shows compassion on his children, so the Lord shows compassion on those who fear him” (Psalm 103:10,13).

In addition, when you love their mom, they’ll see a faint glimpse of the unbreakable bond between Christ, the Bridegroom, and His bride, the Church: “What therefore God has joined together, let man not separate” (Mark 10:9).

Finally, when you practice dedication and commitment as a dad, you’ll point your family, albeit haltingly and imperfectly, to a Heavenly Father who is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15).

And that is the type of dad your family needs!

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Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

How a Former Abortion Doctor Became Pro-Life

As an abortion doctor at Planned Parenthood, Dr. Patti Giebink believed she was helping women. Later, she began reading scripture and God gradually changed her heart on the abortion issue. Patti tells the story of her long journey from abortion doctor to pro-life and encourages listeners to share the message of life with compassion.

Headshot image of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. Patti Giebink

Mrs. Patti Giebink

Dr. Patti Giebink is an OB-GYN who serves on the board of the Alpha Center, a well-known pregnancy center located in Sioux Falls, S.D. She also travels intermittently to work in mission hospitals in Pakistan and other countries. After completing her medical training, Dr. Giebink worked for Planned Parenthood from 1995-1997, during which she was the only abortion-provider in the state of South Dakota. She eventually experienced a radical change of heart on the issue of abortion after receiving God’s grace, forgiveness, and love, and she is now a passionate advocate for the pro-life movement.

Cover image of the book "Unexpected Choice: An Abortion Doctor’s Journey to Pro-Life"

Unexpected Choice: An Abortion Doctor’s Journey to Pro-Life

Unexpected Choice is told from the perspective of a doctor who actually performed abortions through Planned Parenthood. The book chronicles her journey from being a pro-choice physician to someone speaking on behalf of the pro-life movement.

Giving up Sugar, Tasting God's Goodness

As a latchkey kid, Wendy Speake turned to sugar for comfort. Every Friday, she would pedal to the candy show and use her allowance to fill her bag with candy. And one day, when she was older and a mom of three young boys, she came to realize that she was still “pedaling” away from her stress and using sugar as comfort, instead of turning to Jesus. She was joyless, worn out, tired, and in need of a change. In this interview, Wendy will challenge Christians to take 40 days to focus on fasting from something they turn to instead of Jesus for comfort. She invited people to break free from a dependence on sugar and taste the goodness of God.

Author Wendy Speake smiling as she holds up her book "The 40-Day Social Media Fast"

Mrs. Wendy Speake

With a background in Hollywood as a trained actress, Wendy Speake ministers to women as a bible teacher by applying the power of drama, poetry and comedy to the study of Scripture and real-life application of biblical truths. She has co-authored two books with Amber Lia titled Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses and their latest, Parenting Scripts: When What You’re Saying Isn’t Working, Say Something New. Wendy is also the co-author (with Kelli Stuart) of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom.

Cover image of the book "The 40-Day Sugar Fast"

The 40-Day Sugar Fast: Where Physical Detox Meets Spiritual Transformation

Welcome to the 40-Day Sugar Fast, a fast that begins with us giving Jesus our sugar and ends with Jesus giving us himself–the only thing that can ever truly satisfy our soul’s deep hunger. On this 40-day journey you’ll learn how to stop fixating on food and other things you use to fill the voids in life and instead fix your eyes on Christ. Anyone who runs to sugar for comfort or a reward, who eats mindlessly or out of boredom, who feels physically and spiritually lethargic, or who struggles with self-control will discover here not only freedom from their cravings but an entirely new appetite for the good things God has for us.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 1

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 2

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Seasons of Marriage - Part 2

Debra Fileta has identified the four seasons of marriage that correspond with our natural seasons – spring (new life and new love), summer (things get hot!), fall (showing our true colors), and winter (long days ahead). In this interview, she will help couples better understand the four seasons of healthy relationships, what to expect during each one, and how to carefully navigate them for a stronger marriage.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

Reconciling Faith and Science in a Medical Crisis

Dr. Lee Warren is a neurosurgeon who has faced many heavy challenges in his life – from serving in the Iraq War to removing deadly brain tumors to experiencing the loss of a teenage son. He’ll share about his difficult quest to find answers to some of life’s toughest questions, while holding onto his faith in God and the sure hope of heaven

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. W. Lee Warren

Dr. Lee Warren

W. Lee Warren, M.D., is a brain surgeon , inventor, Iraq War veteran, and author of I’ve Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon’s Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know, winner of the Christian Book Award®. His previous book, No Place to Hide, was included on the 2015 U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff’s Recommended Reading List. Dr. Warren has appeared on The 700 Club and the CBS Evening News, and his writings have been featured in Guideposts magazine. His Dr. Lee Warren Podcast, which is heard in more than 60 countries, helps listeners use the power of neuroscience, faith, and common sense to change their lives.

Cover image of Dr. Lee Warren's book "I've Seen the End of You"

I've Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon's Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know

This gripping inspirational memoir grapples with the tension between faith and science—and between death and hope—as a seasoned neurosurgeon faces insurmountable odds and grief both in the office and at home.

Praying Scripture Over Your Child’s Life - Part 1

Jodie Berndt loves to pray for her children. She’s been doing that for the past thirty years. Now she helps other parents to talk to God, asking for the salvation of their kids, and for wisdom, self-discipline, purpose, a future and much more. She offers fun and practical encouragement that moms and dads can put to work immediately in their daily lives as they prepare their children for a life in Christ.

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt is a public speaker, a Bible teacher, and the the author of 10 books. Find out more about Jodie and get some free resources (including printable prayer cards and calendars) at her website, jodieberndt.com.

Cover image of Jodie Berndt's book "Praying the Scriptures for Your Children"

Praying the Scriptures Over Your Children

You will discover how using the Bible to shape your desires and requests opens the door to God’s provision—and frees us from things like worry and fear in our parenting! This expanded edition of the bestseller features updated content on issues like technology and identity, and comes with new material designed to invite children into the family prayer circle. Purchase now and receive 10% off your product.

Mothers and Sons: Being a Godly Influence - Part 1

Rhonda Stoppe describes her early motherhood challenges of raising a son, which was intimidating to her. She found help through group of older women mentors. She urges moms to see their role as ministry in shaping sons to be good and godly men. Rhonda outlines several practical suggestions to moms about spiritual training, how to communicate with boys, and supporting the father-son relationship as a wife.

Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

Rhonda Stoppe

Drawing upon 35 years of experience as a mentor, pastor’s wife, and homeschool mom, Rhonda Stoppe offers encouragement and guidance to women as an author and public speaker. She is popularly known as the “No Regrets Woman,” as she is especially passionate about helping women live life without regrets. Rhonda’s books include Moms Raising Sons to Be MenReal Life Romance, and The Marriage Mentor, which she co-authored with her husband, Steve.

Cover image of Rhonda Stoppe's book "Moms Raising Sons to be Men"

Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

Mothers of boys have the special calling to shape future men of God. Popular speaker Rhonda Stoppe, mom to two sons, knows this opportunity is a challenge, a joy, and probably the most important work of a woman’s life. Drawing from years of experience, this inspirational resource will revive the faithfulness and fortitude a woman needs to partner with God as they shape the character and heart of a future godly man.

Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage Part 1

They were both convinced they had married the wrong person. From almost the very beginning of their marriage, Amber and Guy Lia experienced various tensions and personality clashes related to house cleaning, backseat driving, workaholism, and intimacy. In this two-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Amber and Guy discuss how they bravely faced the triggers head-on, and committed to working on their own relationships with Jesus. As you listen to the Lia’s story, you’ll feel hope that you, too, can see real marriage transformation!

Headshot of Guy and Amber Lia

Mr. and Mrs. Guy and Amber Lia and Mrs. Jean Daly

Amber Lia is a work-at-home mom, blogger, public speaker, and co-author of two best-selling books. Her husband, Guy, is a former TV, feature film, and VFX development and production executive who has worked on popular TV shows and films. Guy and Amber own Storehouse Media Group, a faith- and family-friendly TV and film production company based in Los Angeles,