Today is my dad’s 75th birthday. I’ve been thinking about my relationship with him a lot lately, especially while writing a chapter on fathers in my upcoming book, Trusting God with St. Therese. Louis Martin was St. Therese’s prime example of God’s character. God made all human fathers to be mediators between Himself and their children. Fathers are the priests of their family.
Here are 10 ways dads can help their children grow in holiness.
- Practice authoritative parenting.
Authoritative dads are firm, but affectionate. They discipline when their kids break the rules. They show mercy when their kids are repentant. They kiss owies when moms aren’t available.
- Love and respect your wife.
Fathers represent God in their families. Mothers represent the Church. Lay down your life for your wife. Tell her you love her often–in front of the kids. Never tolerate a child’s disrespect for her.
- Be humble.
Don’t pretend you have all the answers. Any kid above 10 knows it isn’t true. Admit your mistakes. Apologize. Take your whole family to Confession.
- Be grateful.
My husband Dan always says, “Thank you,” even when I do a routine job we all expect me to do. This sets the tone for the whole household.
- Say “I love you” often.
Dan leads in this area too. After the first time he told me he loved me, he began repeating it every time we met or parted. The kids (and I) follow his lead. Our toddler shouts, “Hello, I love you, Dad!” before Dan even comes in the door. Don’t expect them to know how much you love them if you don’t tell them often. Your love makes them secure.
- Sing at Mass.
Your kids, especially your sons, will follow your lead at Mass. Don’t leave them with the impression that prayer and participation are for women.
- Pray daily as a family.
Say either morning or night prayers together. Family prayer can be as simple as a fatherly blessing, or as involved as a family Rosary. Be the one who calls the family together, especially on the stressful or busy days.
- Pray daily in private. Practice daily mental prayer. Make sure your kids know you do it. Teach them how to pray from the heart themselves. Mental prayer should be the center of your spiritual life.
- Be open to life.
Using contraception is a mortal sin. Abortion is an especially grave evil. If you aren’t open to life, your kids will figure it out sooner or later. And they might question whether you really love them if you’re so opposed to having more kids.
- Be quick to listen, slow to speak.
Take this lesson from James 1:19 to heart. Be approachable when kids have problems. Don’t prejudge them. Avoid lecturing. Know what you believe and be able to give reasoned explanations for the faith and your family and personal ideals.
Happy birthday, Dad! Thanks for life and for your example in the faith. May dads everywhere model God’s Fatherhood for their children! Blessed Louis Martin, pray for us.
Share with us: What would you add to this list? What have you learned about the role of dads from your childhood or parenting your children?