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6 Habits of Highly Effective Fathers

Gifts you can give to your family for Father’s Day and after

By Chris Erickson

In fatherless homes, children are twice as likely to be treated for behavioral problems, twice as likely to be expelled from school, and twice as likely to be arrested for juvenile crime. While those stats refer to physically absent fathers, children are fatherless in other more deadly ways.

Faithlessness is the crisis of our time. Faith is the foundation of right living. Fathers, be present to your children and make the faith your bond. The “first evangelization” begins in your own heart, and being contagious within your family, you will unleash your children as forces of good upon the world. Here’s how.

Highly Effective Fathers

Rediscover the faith. God’s Word has inherent power to transform you. Simply read 10 or 15 minutes a day from the Bible, and as the days go by it will unconsciously transform you into that heroic father God’s calling you to be. A good Catholic website can help bring your Bible to life (e.g., salvationhistory.com). Take another 10 minutes of your 24-hour day and bite off little pieces of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The next time you’re surfing the net, check out what Pope Benedict XVI is reflecting on and the current dangers he’s pointing to (e.g., vatican.va). Then turbo charge your learning with some of the many excellent books available on marriage and family issues covering every conceivable topic you’ll confront. You can’t pass on to your children what you haven’t taken the time to learn.

Pray. It’s not enough to believe in God or to know about God; you need to know God. It’s all about love. Do you want the Lord to hear you when you turn to him? If so, I’d give him at least another 10 or 15 minutes of daily one-on-one prayer. It will fuel your ability to protect, to help, to forgive, and to love your family. Your children are watching and learning from you.

Several minutes of nightly prayer with your smaller children will carry those “seeds of faith” into their adult lives. Don’t underestimate its value, and consider the abundant harvest you could reap if you found more time for family prayer. Try your best to go to Mass and to Confession together as a family. Form these strong family bonds in the Faith and no crisis will tear them apart.

Share your faith from your own experience. Don’t let the pursuit of success cause you to miss your child’s fundamental need to know you as a father. Teach your children about God through your own experience. Ordinary conversation while fixing cars, camping, fishing, hiking, gardening, or other hobbies offer opportunities to share with them simple stories of faith that reveal how you relate to God in your everyday situations. God ought to be as real to them as you are. You can’t leave it to Sunday school. If your children’s faith is a subject set aside for an hour on Sundays, aren’t you instinctively telling them that God is merely a matter for Sundays? Wouldn’t you protest if your child was instructed only one hour each week in literature or science or mathematics?

Guard the windows to the soul. Keep a careful check over media influences, being mindful that age-appropriate nuances are involved. For example, let’s say that in place of DVDs on a family movie night, Dad invited a couple into the home to entertain his family. The family comes together to enjoy the entertainment, only to discover that the couple’s idea of entertainment includes sexual innuendos and groping one another. What would you say about a father who allowed that into his home? Yet many fathers allow the same behavior into their homes through the media, which strikes at your fundamental moral values. Fathers, don’t dull your family’s sense of sin! The world is already doing it. Find wholesome alternatives that reinforce your values, and as your children grow, they will be much more apt to freely apply these same values when viewing entertainment on their own.

Be vigilant over your children’s friends. Get to know your children’s friends, or at least try to determine whether their influence is good or bad. No child is going to be perfect, so avoid being too scrupulous. If a friend is a thorn in the growth of your child’s faith, talk about it with your child and give him the opportunity to set a higher example for his friend. If it still continues, talk to his friend about what you expect if the relationship is to continue. With older children, appeal to their values and concepts of right and wrong. Build trust, build trust, build trust. If you play cat and mouse with your teenager, no one wins. And remember that the best aid a father can have in guiding his teenager is a good memory!

Make your home tranquil and love your wife. Love your wife as Christ loves the Church (Eph. 5:25). Your sons will relate to women in much the same way you relate to your wife, and your daughters will learn what to desire and expect from men from your example. St. John Chrysostom said the home should be a “little church,” a miniature kingdom of God. Is your home too stern, too demanding on the children? Is Dad too busy and Mom often irritable? Does the mood reflect a menacing storm? If so, each will seek their freedom and go their own way. Provide great love, admit mistakes, ask forgiveness, and laugh a lot. Adorn your home with constant reminders of your Christian faith — crucifixes, sacred pictures, statues, an open Bible remind us of what is most important in life.

In today’s world you’ll need three essential virtues: courage, confidence in God, relentless self-giving. You are what you habitually do. Form faithful habits and be the life-force of your family, and then turn them loose upon the world!

Chris Erickson is Senior Editor and Marketing Assistant for Emmaus Road Publishing, and Special Projects Editor for Catholics United for the Faith.