As the council argued over who would destroy the One Ring in the movie The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, hobbit Frodo Baggins stood up. Trying to be heard over the “I will take it. I will take the ring to Mordor. Though I do not know the way.”
Like Frodo, embedded in the DNA of all children is a deep sense that they are on this planet to do something impactful, to make a difference, to build a better world. But they often don’t know what it is or how to do it. They don’t know the way.
While a child’s body will mature with or without the input of others, character is forged in a child when adults, especially dads, instill a vision for how to be a good man or woman — a person who can be counted on, does the right thing, serves others, seeks the greater good, uses his or her unique gifts and talents for godly purposes and takes up his or her cross and follows Jesus.
Here are some ideas for how dads can give their sons and daughters these ideals to strive toward:
Give a blessing
Before Jesus began His ministry, His Father armed Him with His blessing during His baptism. God said, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased" (Mark 1:11).
Children need to know their father is proud of them and that he loves them. If they don't, they will live with a gaping father wound and will often try to fill it in the wrong way. My father's father was an alcoholic. He abandoned my dad's family. As a result, my dad lived his life trying to earn his dad’s love.
The good news is that Dad didn’t pass along that wound to his children. Instead, through his words, involvement, hugs and affirmation, he gave us the blessings we craved. This empowered us to be who God created us to be.
As a parent, continually look for opportunities to bless your children. Look them in the eyes, put your hand on their shoulders, and say, "I’m proud of you. I love you and will always love you."
Model adulthood well
By modeling the way you interact with your spouse and friends at work, you train your children to be confident individuals. But there are specific moments in a child’s life that lend themselves to more intensive training opportunities.
- Turning 13, for example, is a great time to help your children begin to process what it means to be a man or woman, inviting each to answer the question, "What kind of man (woman) do you want to be and what will you do now to be that kind of man (woman)?"
- Turning 16 and getting a driver’s license is an opportune time to talk about responsibility.
- Going on a date is a time to chat about how individuals should treat members of the opposite sex.
Invite them to follow you as you follow Jesus
This invitation may seem daunting, as so many of us feel unqualified to lead our children in the adventure of faith. But here’s the good news: Leading your children on the faith journey isn’t about being perfect or even qualified. It’s about living in the promise that you're God’s beloved child, and He is fully pleased with you.
The support of your faith community, the influence of those who love your child, your prayer and worship life, energized by God’s Spirit, will empower you to point and lead your children into their God-given purpose: to follow Jesus into adulthood.Tim Wright is the pastor of Community of Grace Lutheran Church in Peoria, Arizona. He is a national speaker on the issues facing our boys and girls in the 21st Century.