It's important for fathers and sons to do things together - like when my son helped me with the yard work so we could bond. I remember one day when my oldest son was about five. It was a hot day. I was mowing and my son was following around after me clipping. I looked over to him and I smiled. About five minutes later he came over and yelled over the mower, "Daddy, could you please do that again?" I said, "Could I do what again, son?" He said, "Daddy, could you smile at me again? Your smile keeps me going."
Ephesians 6:4 has some great parenting instructions: "Fathers do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." God says, "Don't tear your children down. Bring them up." A father has incredible power to be either one - to make your son or daughter feel inadequate and small, never good enough, or to make your son or daughter feel competent, worthy, appreciated, and valued. It's clear which one God expects from a father, and from a mother.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12, Paul is likening the lives of believers to a positive father. Here's what he says, "For we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God." Do you see the verbs there? Three words that are the godly ways of a father - to encourage your child, comfort your child, and urge him or her to live a godly life.
How are you doing? Did I just describe most of the conversations you have with your son or daughter - you're encouraging, you're comforting, are you urging? Think about the comments, for example, made years ago by one of President Clinton's most impressive advisors, a man named Bill Galston. The news article I read back then said he was at the peak of his career when he resigned from his position. No one could believe it! Why?
Well, Bill Galston had worked hard trying to balance time with his ten-year-old son and his hugely significant job. He took his son to his White House office so they could talk while he worked. He even woke up at 6:00 in the morning so they could spend a few minutes together. But Bill was at the breaking point. He couldn't do both. His son wrote him a letter saying, "Baseball is not fun when there's no one there to applaud you."
There's just no substitute for a father. In the moments that matter to our children: the proud moments, the hurting moments, the amusing moments, the arriving home moments, the serious moments. And there are few sources more influential on earth than your approval of your son or your daughter. Could it be that there's been too much emphasis on what's wrong with your son or daughter, on what you want them to improve, on their weak points rather than majoring on the positive?
So much of the sense of security and sense of worth comes from knowing that Dad is pleased with them, that Mom is pleased with them. Focusing on the encouraging, on praising what's good about them, on noticing even the slightest improvement, on building up not tearing down, concentrating on the things that matter to them. Realize what your most important job is. Bill Galston told the President of the United States, "You can replace me. My son can't."
Does your son or daughter need to hear your applause again, see your smile again? Maybe you need to make a new beginning by asking their forgiveness. Or start now to make it your daily mission to build them up, focus on their good points, and give them all of you sometime during that day. Your son or daughter is looking your way for something only you can give them; the smile that keeps them going, because a father's smile is powerful, life-giving encouragement.