One of my greatest fears is that my children will grow up and forget the times we played hide-and-seek for hours, had dance parties, or the daily family scriptures and prayers. What if they only remember the times when I lost my patience, didn’t give them the extra popsicle, or when I couldn’t play with Jane’s princess castle because I had to go to Scouts?
Okay, so I know they probably won’t forget all those good times, but those thoughts do enter my mind. As a young father with two young kids, I worry that my children will forget much of the good and grow up and somehow lose their way, or that they won’t appreciate what they have. I think many of us fathers have that fear.
It seems that in the world, fathers are portrayed as dumb, lazy, or never-present, and some even preach that they are now unnecessary. So what, then, can we do to make sure that we are being the best fathers that we can be?
Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994), a Mormon Prophet, plead with the men of the church 30 years ago to be leaders in their homes and in the lives of their children. The following list has given me so much peace and has guided many of the decisions that I have made as a father.
He said, “with love in my heart for the fathers in Israel, may I suggest ten specific ways that fathers can give spiritual leadership to their children:
- “Give father’s blessings to your children. Baptize and confirm your children. Ordain your sons to the priesthood. These will become spiritual highlights in the lives of your children.
- “Personally direct family prayers, daily scripture reading, and weekly family home evenings. Your personal involvement will show your children how important these activities really are.
- “Whenever possible, attend Church meetings together as a family. Family worship under your leadership is vital to your children’s spiritual welfare.
- “Go on daddy-daughter dates and father-and-sons’ outings with your children. As a family, go on campouts and picnics, to ball games and recitals, to school programs, and so forth. Having Dad there makes all the difference.
- “Build traditions of family vacations and trips and outings. These memories will never be forgotten by your children.
- “Have regular one-on-one visits with your children. Let them talk about what they would like to. Teach them gospel principles. Teach them true values. Tell them you love them. Personal time with your children tells them where Dad puts his priorities.
- “Teach your children to work, and show them the value of working toward a worthy goal. Establishing mission funds and education funds for your children shows them what Dad considers to be important.
- “Encourage good music and art and literature in your homes. Homes that have a spirit of refinement and beauty will bless the lives of your children forever.
- “As distances allow, regularly attend the temple with your wife. Your children will then better understand the importance of temple marriage and temple vows and the eternal family unit.
- “Have your children see your joy and satisfaction in service to the Church. This can become contagious to them, so they, too, will want to serve in the Church and will love the kingdom” (Ezra Taft Benson, “To The Fathers in Israel,“ October 1987).
As I reflect on my childhood and growing up, I see that my own father followed this road map, and I can see the direct results in my life. Though all 10 of these things are super important, one that was specifically important to me was having one-on-one visits with my Dad. I always knew that I could go and talk to him and that he would listen. He was never distracted when I would approach him; he was focused intently on what I had to say.
I vividly remember one occasion as a little boy, just sitting and talking to my parents on their bed. All of a sudden my Dad looked at me and very genuinely and lovingly said, “do you know how much I love you?” That memory has carried me through many times.
It gives me peace to know that when I am not sure what to do, there are mentors and leaders that show me specifically what I can do to be my best self and the best father I can be. I am so grateful my father listened to this council from President Benson, and I hope my children will be able to say the same about me.
On this Father’s Day weekend (and always), I am grateful for my own father, father-in-law, and for all of the fathers out there, especially those who do any of these 10 things.
To end, here is a quote from the same talk President Benson gave:
“Your homes should be havens of peace and joy for your family. Surely no child should fear his own father—especially a priesthood father. A father’s duty is to make his home a place of happiness and joy. He cannot do this when there is bickering, quarreling, contention, or unrighteous behavior. The powerful effect of righteous fathers in setting an example, disciplining and training, nurturing and loving is vital to the spiritual welfare of his children” (Ezra Taft Benson, “To The Fathers in Israel,” October 1987).
Comment below and tell us what YOUR FATHER or a FATHER-FIGURE did specifically that made a difference.
SHARE THIS WITH YOUR FATHER OR A FATHER-LIKE FIGURE TO THANK THEM FOR DOING 1 OR MORE OF THESE THINGS!
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