I can't believe 2018 is over, but we have to move on to 2019. While you've probably made your list of goals for this year, maybe you haven't thought about your role as a dad yet. Here are nine questions you should ask yourself to start the year strong.
The questions that follow come from the most-pressing struggles we have dads asking us about daily. Read this post once for you. Then, read it again and think of a dad who'd be helped if you shared this info with him. Ready, set, go!
Most dads, even the good ones, walk around wondering whether they're doing everything they should be doing as a dad. Are you not sure whether you’re winning or losing as a dad? Proverbs 22:6 tells us if we, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it,” (ESV). So, this begs the question, what are we “training up” our kids to do?
Eric Ballard recently wrote, What game are you really playing? To help you know where you stand and encourage you. Most dads understand what they say is vital—but do you realize how you act and what you do plays a major role in shaping who your child becomes? Take a second and think about all the words and actions you demonstrate in front of your kids. Are you pushing them toward the eternal or the temporary? Let's ask ourselves this tough question early and often. You can know whether you’re winning or losing—and how you can actually win.
Question #2: Why am I always angry and what can I do about it?
Anger is a deadly serious issue most dads struggle with. We must learn to deal with anger as dads or we will raise angry kids. You need to know you aren't alone in this struggle. But, just sharing a common struggle with other dads shouldn't be the end goal.
We must learn to see our anger, understand where it comes from, what really pushes our buttons and what we should do with that anger. Watch Matt Morgan, the writer of our Field Guide on anger, explain how we should see, source and submit our anger.
Ephesians 4 says:
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness...“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold...Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Do you feel angry all the time? You can learn how to inject grace and peace into your family.
Question #3: Am I losing the battle between culture and my child?
You've no doubt heard us say: “You are the most influential voice in the life your child.” While sure, it doesn't ususally feel this way, it's true. If what you're speaking into the lives of your children doesn’t match what you’re doing, then there is no way they will take what you say seriously.
Make no mistake. There is a war going on. Your children need your influence in their lives. Your children need to know your influence in the culture around them. They don’t need a silent dad. It’s time for your voice to be louder than the voices fighting for their ears. If you aren’t fighting culture—you’re losing. But here's the deal: you can win the battle between culture and your child.
Question #4: Am I distant from my child?
If we want to connect with our kids, we must find out what they love. It’s great to find those places where your kids understand you; but, as a godly father, you need to also be working to find experiences that help you know your kids.
Want to really connect with your child like never before? Remember why you are doing it, especially if it’s a hobby, movie or music—that you don’t really like. You’re doing it, watching it or listening to it not because you like it, but because they do. You can learn how to connect with your child like never before.
Question #5: How can I teach my kids given my past example as a dad?
Lynn Pryor, our guest blogger extraordinaire, says it best when he writes in his post, Removing Doubt: Why your expectations are wrong and how to fix them: "I’m glad you’re the dad whose desire has been to be the best dad ever. But let’s be frank. You’re not that dad." In spite of your best intentions and efforts, you’ve blown it along the way. You’re not alone.
Residing in each of us is a sin nature that pushes against our best intentions. “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Rom. 7:18). You’ve had failures as a father, but you are not a failure. The growing list of parenting mistakes only raises a cloud of doubt. I haven’t been a good father. I may never be a good father. Don't start here in 2019. We are here to assure you: your story is not complete. You don’t have to live in your past failure or walk around with regret.
Question #6: Does my child feel distant from me?
This is a different question than #4 on this list. But, you can still take courage knowing you can take initiative and break the barriers between you and your child. Proverbs 20:5 says, “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out." This is Tom Harpers' life verse. He unpacks this verse in how he handles creating meaningful conversations with his kids. Writing in his post, Breaking Barriers: 3 questions to ask before a big talk with your child, Tom gives a glimpse into how you can break the barriers and pull your child closer by asking smarter questions.
Question #7: Am I fighting the right battles in my home?
Question #8: I feel overwhelmed—how can I be more intentional?
Another major struggle for most dads we talk to is this: feeling overwhelmed and unfocused. In his post, Focused Father: How the godly dad can get intentional about education, Rick Prall writes: "Let's face it, the tendency is to leave school and education to mom. No one's gonna judge you. You're busy. But, the godly dad will see education as an area to be an example of godly living."
Now, Prall takes several areas us dads often delegate to others—everything from health, sports, relationships and church—and points out practical ways you can become intentional at home and in life every day.
Question #9: Who am I to lead anyone given my past mistakes?
Many dads tell us, I want to lead my kids, but who am I to lead them? I've made all kinds of mistakes. I don't know where to start. Jonathan Hayashi writes in his post, How do you handle past failures?, and says, "not every man is called to leadership in the church, but every man is called to spiritual leadership." He continues, "Biblical fatherhood understands you can use your past failures as opportunities to point to God's and His grace."
Make 2019 the year you understand that—sure—you’ve failed in the past. But, you can turn your past failures into gospel conversations.
If you've done well through the questions up until this point. Great. Would you like to know what many dads tell us? That family simply doesn't get their best. Sure, work and many other important things get their attention and energy, but not their family. Dads struggle with fitting everything in to a given day or week or lifetime!
In Power Plant: The most important part of your day, Mike Lovato writes, "Your family should clearly know your time with them is the most important part of the day." He points out further, the secret is learning to slow down once you're at home. But, slowing down helps your family know their importance. And, it helps you be more present and fully engaged. I'm not saying it's easy, but you can learn to thrive at work and at home. I believe it can happen—and it can happen in 2019!
Let's make 2019 the year we know where we stand as dads, that we get intentional in the home and in our lives, that we deal with the anger inside us and the culture around us, that we overcome past mistakes either as a dad or even before becoming a dad. There is much to overcome. The struggles are great—but we serve a great God. Let's look to Him and point to Him with our words, our actions and our lives this year. We got this, dads. Manhood Journey is here to walk with you.
Ryan Sanders is the Director of Outreach at Manhood Journey. Ryan is married to Tonia and they have three children. He serves as Lay Pastor at McLean Bible Church in Washington, D.C. Learn more about Ryan here and find him on Twitter and Instagram.