Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Daddy Sang Bass. . .

Sitcoms are filled with references to how mothers influence their children but precious little attention is given to how dads influence their kids. Yet the marks dads leave, even if they are absent, are huge. Fatherly influence is important to both boys and girls and goes way beyond genetics. Here's a very small sampling of ways that fathers influence their children:
  • Preschoolers with actively involved fathers have stronger verbal skills.
  • Children tend to embrace the food preferences of their fathers.
  • Children with actively involved fathers display fewer behavior problems in school.
  • Girls with strong relationships with their fathers do better in mathematics.
  • Fathers role model what it means to be an adult to adolescent sons.
  • A father's presence or absence significantly impacts a child's security.
  • Fathers who attend church regularly are more likely to see their children continue in the church as adults.
  • A young girl's positive relationship with her father fosters better relationships in the workplace and with authority figures in adulthood.
Sounds like a very tall order! What is an actively involved father? How do we get all these benefits for our kids? Let me propose a ridiculously simple exercise to get you started: Sing in church!

Active participation in church means more than standing up and sitting down at the appropriate times. It means folding your hands and closing your eyes during the prayers, and encouraging your child to do the same. It means singing along with the hymns. Not all of you sing like Blake Shelton or Josh Groban. No problem. Just sing along as best you can, and you will get better. More importantly, your kids will want to sing with you. Reading along with your kids in the hymnal, whispering the meanings of words they don't know, or singing your favorite choruses in the car after church will make a big impression on them. When you don't sing along it says to them that you are not involved, and they will copy you.

What follows is a generalization that will not hold true in every family, but it is still worth thinking about. Most children spend significantly more time with their mothers than with their fathers. This makes a dad an object of greater mystery and interest than a mom who is far more available. Your kids are watching. Intently. They know what you do, and they imitate it.

My mother deliberately taught me a thousand things before I started school, including how to love my kids. My dad taught me to tie my shoes. Guess what I remember in exquisite detail? You got it! Learning to tie my shoes still ranks as a big achievement because it earned my dad's approval.

So sing to the Lord. Sing with gusto and enthusiasm, in tune or out. Sing out your wonder and awe at the amazing child entrusted to you by God Almighty. Someone is watching you.

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