1– A Builder of My Family’s Identity
It is not by accident that when most couples get married, the wife assumes the last name of her husband. The exception to this rule is brief over the history of time. God ordained this way in the book of Genesis through the words, “the two shall become one flesh.” If the family is taking the last name of the father, it seems quite logical that the father should also be the standard-bearer in this regard for the family.
We worked diligently to build family unity particularly when our kids were small. Whether it was passing on my college nickname “Crawdad” to my kids, or getting them all individually numbered “Crawdad shirts”, this general idea permeated much of what I did as a young dad. As mentioned elsewhere on this site, every kid wants to belong to a great family…and your family is a great family! Linda put together a family photo album (volume 1) that we had printed as a hardcover book for the kids’ Christmas and of course, on the back cover beneath a picture of the 4 kids is the phrase “Family Crawdad.” The room fell silent that Christmas when they all simultaneously opened their gifts and realized what it was. They loved it.
I would pose the question directly or indirectly to my kids fairly frequently, “What does it mean to be a Crawford?” or “What are Crawfords to be known for?” And when they were young, I would tell them the answers with my own life-example, stories, and funny stories. Linda and I both saw to it that our kids knew our family history and why they were unique and special in this regard. They knew, for instance, that during the World War I time frame that Linda’s grandfather had been a Mennonite preacher and was almost hung from a tree for his faith because he was originally from Germany and could obviously speak German. They knew that Linda’s dad had served in the U.S. Army during World War II. They knew that my dad had served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War and that my grandfather had taught men to build pontoon bridges across the Potomac River (near Washington, D.C.) as a member of the U.S. Army during World War I. They knew that both of their grandmas had taught Sunday school for years and years. We made an effort to highlight whatever was right, honorable, and true about our family and their lineage just as we are told to do in the book of Joshua:
Joshua 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.
I also instructed my kids that to be a Crawford was to be truthful, to be hard-working, to be kind, to be faithful, etc. To my kids, our last name is more than just a name. It is synonymous with a road that we have chosen to take in life. And so it should be in your family too.
If dad is not proud of his family, no one else in the family will be proud either. Throughout the ages, the father has been the protector, the leader, the provider for the family. Obviously, some of these traditions have changed some, particularly with two-income households or in single-parent households. But the principles should remain the same; we are to follow God’s blueprint for the family.
2– Exhibit Genuine Love for My Wife
Having become one flesh as God describes marriage in the book of Genesis, a father who does not love his own wife is the same as not loving himself. God intended marriage on earth be “until death do us part.” Ephesians 5:25 states this very clearly, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church.”
In the context of raising children, the father should lead in showing love to his wife just as he should lead the family in other important areas.
If you have young children ( less than say 6 years old ) at home, I suggested that right before dinner some night that dad sweep mom off her feet in the kitchen right in front of the kids and start dancing together and having fun, and then watch what happens next. I can predict the outcome. The kid(s) will get wild and crazy too, being full of joy. When mom and dad genuinely love each other, kids feel protected, safe, happy, and loved. Similarly, if mom and dad are not getting along, this ripples down to the children too.
Just as Christ chose to love us first even when we were sinners and unlovable, so should fathers choose to love their wives first.
3– Regard for Matters Close to My Child’s Heart
Every one of us has certain areas of our lives that are very precious to us. The more precious an item, the less inclined we are to share that area with anyone who we do not completely trust. If you had a special watch or other fine jewelry that had been given to you by a special grandparent, you would never loan it to a complete stranger. In general, we do not loan or share precious items with people unless we confidently know how well they will take care of it. And so it is with our kid’s private world.
Our kid’s private world can come in many forms. It may be a secret vulnerability or weakness that they have. Maybe they are afraid that they are not as smart as Mom, or that they will not be as strong as Dad. Perhaps they are afraid of not having friends or being made fun of. Whatever the secret is that they are hiding in their private world, we parents cannot force ourselves into their world like an unwelcomed or untrustworthy friend. Rather, we must wait until our child invites us into their private world.
One of the best ways I know to measure your relationship with an older son or daughter is to see what information they choose to share with you. Many people will tell you that kids just tune the parents out around Junior High. In general though, if things are right between you and your son or daughter, they will want to tell you about things that are important to them and seek out your advise.
I would leave you with one additional thought regarding this topic. Whatever your son or daughter chooses to share with you, remember that it is very precious to them. Never place your own value on what they are telling you or feeling; rather be sure to place their value on it. After all, it is their private world, not yours.
4– Be a Promise Keeper
A promise is not a promise if it is not kept. Children will remember your promises-made like a precision tape recorder, even if they pretend otherwise. If a father above all people will not keep his promises made to his children, who on earth will? A father who does not keep his promises almost assuredly polarizes his children into one of two camps: (i) complete apathy and the belief that no one keeps their promises so why should they, or (ii) resentment toward the father and a vow to never break promises like the father habitually does.
When a child makes a promise to you, you obviously expect the child to keep their promise. If they promise to pick up their room after dinner, you expect them to do it, even if in the big scope of things this is a little matter. You should be no less diligent in fulfilling even the “little things” that you promise to your children.
5– Able to Accept Less Than Perfection
A father must demonstrate a love for self-discipline & excellence in his own life, but at the same time be capable of love and compassion when his children try their very best and yet fail. It is no different than us trying our very best to live a righteous life and yet falling short before our heavenly Father in heaven.
Unconditional love for sons and daughters is the best demonstration of giving them the freedom to fail that I know of. A father should always attempt to “love his kids up” to accomplish new goals and objectives rather than drive his kids down with criticism or lofty (or simply unattainable) expectations. Most kids want to be a success so desperately in a father’s eyes that it can haunt them like a bad dream throughout their life even as adults. High expectations should always be accompanied with an equal dose of unconditional love.
6– Flag Bearer and Encourager of My Family
How many people do you know who have said to you something like, “I could never please my Dad, even now.” How many adults do you know who are still trying to please or impress their dad? I know of too many, including myself. It is the way we were made.
Some Dads grew up with abusive fathers who verbally ridiculed them or far worse. And these Dads know all too well how much they still long to hear a kind and affirming word from their Dad even though it simply may not be in him to give. We never forget these things.
I loved my dad growing up as a kid, and I know that he loved me too. But hearing one word of encouragement was like waiting for pigs to fly. It just didn’t happen. I came to expect this in a way, but it came to a head for me when I came home from college during my junior year and I proudly showed him my report card with five A+’s in subjects like quantum mechanics and partial differential equations, and all he could muster as a response was a bit of sarcasm something like, “Next time you’ll just have to try harder.” I am glad to say that my dad has improved a lot in this area over the subsequent years that have passed.
Rarely in life will the world genuinely encourage us or our kids. Who cannot use an encouraging word these days? With so much gloom all around, if we do not look at our kids’ futures with encouragement, how can they?
My own personal lesson in this area is quite simple: never fail to praise my kids and affirm them when they achieve authentic and worthwhile objectives. My praise cannot be for stupid, counterfeit or frivolous stuff though, or contrived, or handed out “just to be fair.” My praise must be for a worthy thing. We fathers must simply not put the bar so high that our children can never attain our praise.
And when it comes to our families, I hope that you can honestly attest verbally for all to hear, “I love my family!” And, “I love my family so much because…..” Find the words dads, and do not keep them to yourself- they are meant to be given away.
7– A Champion of Mutual Respect
Even though you may be much more wise, accomplished, learned, etc. than your young children (which is the way it should be, right?), and you find yourself disciplining them and teaching them, they always deserve your respect. God made us in such a way that when that is absent, it hurts us deeply. Respect for one another was one of the themes that we taught our kids about frequently in our family meetings. Your children are made in God’s image just as you are, and as such they always deserve your respect.
If you want to be respected by your children, you must also respect them. Respect for one another knows no boundaries of age or circumstances.
8– Centered on God & His Word
Navigating life these days without God’s Word the Bible is a lot like being lost out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with no compass or GPS. Pick any lifestyle or bad habit you want, and you can find a book and special interest group that supports it.
In the case of young children, Christianity is more often caught than it is taught. We talked a great deal about how parents are to behave with their children on this website, but until we are doing all of this for God rather than ourselves, however, it will always be out of reach and unattainable. It must be real in our own lives.
Father & Son Acrostics:
Grounded in their faith.
orchestrators of family unity.
young at heart.
trainers and teachers.
heads of their families.
sources of wisdom.
reliable and consistent.
Loving toward their family.
open to their father’s instruction.
valuing of their family.
eager to seek God.
devoted to doing their best.
Sorry for their mistakes.
obedient toward their parents.
not far off.
 From Son I Need You, ©2008 J.A. Crawford.