During the month of January, four different men have contributed guest posts in our "The Family Man that Follows Jesus" series. It has given me a month off, so I can spend time with my growing family. The series has been very well received, and you can get links to all the posts at the series page.
I have enjoyed it so much that I wanted to write a post for the series as well. So, here is my contribution to The Family Man that Follows Jesus series.
Present and Engaged fathers
The number one predictor of at risk behavior in a teenager may not be what you think. It isn't race. It isn't gender. It isn't socio-economic standing. The number one factor for whether a teenager will engage in at-risk behavior is whether there is an involved father in their lives. Unfortunately, one out of every three children in America grow up in a biological father-absent home.
Sadly, even in homes where a father is physically present, they are often unengaged. As husbands and fathers who desire to follow Jesus and honor God, we cannot just be physically present, we must also be intentionally engaged. And not just with our children, but with our wives as well.
Admittedly, it can be difficult at times. After a long day, it is easy to detach from our family and enter the worlds of media, technology or sports. We might still be thinking about the work we left behind or just longing for bedtime. But, I believe that God calls us to more as husbands and fathers.
5 ways to be more present at home
The first step is to get home. Work or other factors may pull you away from your family, so fight the current and find ways to be physically present in your home. Once you are there, here are some ways to be more engaged.
1. Turn off the phone or device
While your children and wife are awake, get rid of the phones, tablets and laptops. I am bad at this. If I have my phone in my pocket, I am prone to pull it out and check my email, social media accounts, news, sports scores, blogs, etc. As a way of reducing the number of times I reach for my phone, I have designated two spots in my home that I try to keep my phone. When I get home, the phone comes out of my pocket and onto my kitchen counter or fireplace mantel.
When our wives and children want to engage with us, but see that we consistently prioritize our devices over them, a message is sent that we care more about technology and the outside world than we do about them. Do whatever it takes to limit your phone usage at home, and engage with your family instead.
2. Ask good questions
When we ask good questions, we show that we care. Good questions require more than casually asking, "How was your day?" It means that we think about what we know about our wife and kids, and ask specific questions. "How was your time at the library today?" "Did you read any good books today?" Or to our wives, "Were you able to get some time to think today?" "Did you have any particularly meaningful times with the kids today?"
Simply asking, "How was your day?" is a bit lazy. Being intentional to ask good questions shows you care and also gets a far more transparent and revealing answer.
3. Involve them in your work
When I come home at the end of the day, I do not always have the margin to simply play with my kids or sit around and talk. I often have projects I need to do around the house, chores that need to be completed or other miscellaneous work to be done. Rather than getting home and just ignoring our family to complete the projects, find ways to involve them. I have tried to make it a habit to involve my three year old son (my oldest) in the work that I do. Whether it is building our dining room table, shoveling our driveway or doing the laundry, it is great when he can join me. It may not always be a reality, but be creative and find ways to involve your family in your work.
4. Get on their level
This goes in the opposite direction of the last one. When you are not pressed by a necessary project or chore, then engage them on their level. Get on the ground and wrestle with them. Build something epic with their Legos. Go outside and make a snowman. Have a tea party. Read a book with them. Don't expect them to come to you, join them in their interests. This goes for our wives as well. Watch the show they want to watch (even if it is totally lame...). If they want to play a game, read a book, have conversation, get a back rub... The list can go on and on. Know your wife and engage her in her areas of interest.
5. Read with them
The older I get the more I appreciate books, more specifically, the more I appreciate words. Words are absolutely crucial. God has chosen to communicate with us through words (The Bible), and language is foundational to nearly everything we want to do in the world. One of the most important things you can do for the development of your child is to read books with them. I hear about study after study regarding the importance of reading, and what a better way to reinforce the value of reading than having their father read them a book. I recently read Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt. She does a masterful job of articulating the value of reading in the home.
I would also argue that reading with your wife can be a really special time. Whether it is a classic novel, a book about parenting, or a book about faith, it can be very meaningful to share that time with your wife. Reading is a great way to engage with your family when you are home.