by: NICO BOUGAS
I was blessed to have a wonderful father. He was my hero and inspiration; I would do anything for him. But to be perfectly honest, as a father he didn’t get everything right and didn’t fit the textbook mould as a model father.
There are no perfect parents
As a youngster I was involved in multiple sports activities. I represented my school at soccer, cricket, tennis (and even a little bit of rugby, (although it was a small school and I was just there to make up the numbers), plus a little golf and squash on the side. But my father never found the time to attend a single one of my sports activities. There simply weren’t enough hours, as he was working in his little café seven days a week from early in the morning till late at night. He encouraged us to go to Sunday School and church, which I attended from
an early age, but he never went to church himself whilst we were growing up – he
was simply too busy trying to earn a living at our little shop. Move along a generation and it was my turn to be a father. I was determined to be a model parent bringing up model kids. But despite my best efforts I fell woefully short. I was involved in an exciting ministry with Youth for Christ and later Today Magazine. I was surrounded by people far more talented than I was. If I was to achieve anything in life, I had to work twice as hard as everyone else. Looking back I wish I could have given my three boys and a girl more attention. They say that children are like wet cement, if you don’t reach them today, they are likely to be out of reach tomorrow. In a flash they were no longer children and the opportunity to mould them into extraordinary, super-Christian young adults was gone.
Raising children is challenging!
In writing an article about Christian Fatherhood I am reminded of the story of
the man who had a great speech for parents called, ‘How to Raise Your Children’. He travelled on speaking tours throughout America and was paid a high fee for the talk. “This guy will wow you,” people said. Then this famous speaker had his first child. His majestic speech lost its punch at 2:00 AM with the baby in full cry. But he kept trying.
Inspiring your kids
He renamed his new, modified speech, ‘Some Suggestions for Parents’, and charged bravely on. They had two more children. The speech changed again, and again. Now it’s called, ‘Feeble Hints for Fellow Strugglers’, and he begins with the question: “Does anyone here have a few words of wisdom?” So without presuming to have all the answers, here are a few ways you can inspire your children to great achievements and balanced adulthood. I may not be the perfect role model but at least I can give you the theory. Most dads have to work harder than moms to sustain and nurture the bond they have with their children, and when they share a special relationship, it’s easy to inspire their children to go on to do great things in life. In the chaos of modern life, it’s easy to lose sight of many of the important things you can do as a father. If you’re a father, here are a few ways to inspire your children:
1. Set an example
Rather than teach your children with words alone, show them what needs to be done by setting an example. If you want them to be healthy, eat healthy food and exercise regularly. If you don’t want your family to watch programming riddled with violence and sexual promiscuity then youshould not be watching it either. As the old proverb goes, your actions speak louder than your words. What do your actions say? When you’re hardworking and responsible, you teach your kids to be so too. They look up to you and want to emulate you when they grow up. As someone has said, “Don’t worry that children never listen to you. Worry that they are always watching you.”
2. Treat their mom well
Kids are very attached to their mothers as they grow up, so if you don’t treat their
mom well and accord her due respect, they’re not going to like you or respect you, let alone be inspired by you. The best thingyou can do for your children is to love their mother and be kind to her. As the Apostle Paul advised, “husbands
love your wives.” Eph 5:20. This is perhaps the most important thing a father can do to promote stability and harmony in a family. It will encourage children to grow up wanting a family of their own where love and encouragement are the key ingredients.
3. Spend time with them
If you want to inspire your children, be around for them and spend time with them; help them with their homework, play games with them, drive them around for their activities, and get to know what they like and who their friends are. This way, the bond between you becomes stronger. Make an effort to spend time with your child, no matter how busy your schedule or how tired you may be. Prioritise quality time that you can spend with your child. Whether reading a story just before bedtime or doing things that parent and child enjoy, like a game of Scrabble or chess – it becomes natural as you make this time a priority. Listen intently, and be sincere. A child knows too well when you are not paying attention. Very importantly – do not make promises you cannot keep. Set realistic expectations so your child will not feel hurt. This is a practice all parents must take to heart, especially divorced ones, when visitations may be limited or restricted. Think of fun activities you can do together. Quality time does not only mean having a conversation with your child.
4. Encourage without finding fault
Kids have a natural enthusiasm that cannotbe curbed. They are full of energy for the things they are passionate about, and as a father, it’s up to you to encourage your children to reach for the stars and achieve their goals. Don’t push them to do more than they want to or are capable of. Rather, be there for them and offer support when asked or needed. Don’t find fault because they don’t live up to your expectations. There’s nothing like negative criticism to curb enthusiasm. They need your encouragement even more when they fail than when they succeed. I remember taking our eldest son to compete in his first swimming gala when he was only about 6 or 7. At the starting gun, he shot into the lead. He was clearly the strongest swimmer. But somewhere along the race he got his direction wrong and started swimming off course. Eventually he finished stone last. I found him afterwards sitting all alone with his head in his hands. He looked up dejectedly and asked, “Did I really come last?” Youngsters can sometimes be very cruel to one another in their innocence. It was my opportunity to come alongside him and affirm him and assure him that he hadn’t failed and to me he was still a winner.
5. Teach them right from wrong
The best way to do this is to be a moral and ethical person yourself; when your kids see that dad doesn’t lie, cheat or treat other people badly, they pick up these traits naturally. As they say in Afrikaans, “Die appel val nie ver van die boom nie”. Or as the Scripture says, “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.” Matt 7:16-20. If we don’t give them direction they will receive it from their peers, media, culture and all the other places in the world that are so ready to influence them. The enemy is looking for you to abdicate your place so that he can come in with his authority and captivate your children through his ways.
Handpicked by God
You have been chosen – handpicked – by God – to father the children He has given you. No one else can take your place. No matter what you feel you are lacking, you are the perfect dad for your children. With all of your flaws and with all of your fears, you have been chosen. Your children need you; you are God’s answer for their deepest yearnings for identity, value and love. You have been chosen to express God’s heart that your children are fully accepted and unconditionally loved. God can use your heart, your presence, your hugs, your laughter and your voice to engrave His eternal identity and love into their beings.
If your children are grown up already and distant from you, remember that it is never too late. God works all things for the good (Romans 8:28) and is an expert at bringing the prodigals home. Love covers a multitude of sins – so keep reaching out in love, patience and understanding and trust the Lord to restore your lost relationship.
NICO BOUGAS is the International Coordinator of
Hellenic Ministries. For more information email:
firstname.lastname@example.org or www.hellenicministries.com