A few years ago I was watching a football game at my cousin’s house. My husband and I were engrossed in the game when David, Betsy’s husband, came down the stairs. Both of David and Betsy’s sons jumped up from their comfortable chairs and said, “Hey Dad, sit here!” In that moment, Luke and Lee showed us more about the fifth commandment than we had seen in a long time. They truly honor their father, and this was just more proof of it. We resolved even further to raise our children to see the value in honoring their parents.
Exodus 20:12: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”
Ephesians 6:1-4: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
We know God’s commands are for our good. I love that He gives his promise so directly in this passage. It’s clear that this command is near and dear to the heart of God, as it is the first command with a promise.
Other cultures—even non-Christian cultures—have mastered this much better than many believers have. Cultivating a culture of honor is not easy. It is the fruit of loving, consistent discipline and guidance. That’s why the Holy Spirit inspired verse 4 as a warning! Provoking our children by forcing them to obey a rigid set of rules without a connection will not bring us the honor we desire. Neither will letting our children rule the roost. Continue to seek God’s Word and the Holy Spirit for wisdom so your children rise up and call you blessed. (Of course our goal is to point them to Christ. The blessing of respect is the icing on the cake!)
Father’s Day is approaching, but the biblical principle of honoring fathers was never intended to be confined to one day. I certainly want to be appreciated year-round! Of course there are obvious tips we do to encourage our children on this path, such as abstaining from making complaints about your husband—especially when your kids are nearby, and ensuring kids speak to their father in a respectful tone. Here are some additional simple ways to encourage your children to honor their father throughout the year: (Note: My boys are young, but I want to be intentional about instilling “Father Honor” in them. If I wait to teach them to honor their father, the ship may have started to sail. I’d rather start now, in baby steps, to prepare them for more. That said, these are basic tips for young kiddos.)
- Providing Acts of Service: We can already tell that my two year old, Ryder, is an “Acts of Service Man.” When he hears his daddy come home from work, he rushes to give a giant leap of a hug, and then takes Travis’ hat and puts it in the closet. He is showing selflessness, and you bet we praise him for it! Of course when we do, his older brother wants to come over and help too. Sometimes this means getting Daddy’s shoes and putting them on the shoe rack. I hope to encourage the boys to turn these small feats (no pun intended) into bigger tasks as they age. It’s a great idea to prep your kids, “Daddy’s going to be home soon! Maybe he’s thirsty or hungry after a long day at work. Wouldn’t it be thoughtful if we had an ice water and a snack ready for him?” (Side note: I realize this makes my home seem idyllic. I too have children screaming at my ankles while I am preparing dinner. I am just offering this tip for the occasionally calm day that allows an extra step of training.. :-) )
- Teaching Them to Put Your Marriage First: This tip often comes into play at mealtimes and car rides. “Kids, Daddy and I love each of you very much, and we want to hear what you have to say, but sometimes mommies and daddies need time to talk to each other too.” Do my kids collaborate with this request each time? Hardly! The training is beginning though. They are learning they are not the center of our family. Kids feel secure when the marriage bond is strong, so although they may not enjoy being ignored for a few minutes, they will learn the sacrifice is well worth it. Your husband may be the kind of man that really appreciates a quiet entrance into the home. If this is the case, perhaps you teach them to let you have a moment with their father before they come barreling to the door. Another option is to have them give a quick hug, and then play while you two have a moment to download the day.
- Setting Aside Quality Time: Just as we need quality individual time with our kids, dads do too. Consider blocking out some time on the weekends for your husband to spend one-on-one with the kids. Perhaps it’s not every weekend, but occasionally let Dad get some relationship-building time doing something he loves to do with the kids. It could be taking them to the hardware store, or going for a donut run, but it should have the purpose of getting to know each child’s heart. This may help an overwhelmed dad gain perspective.
- Giving Words of Affirmation: I strive to give meaningful encouragement in my verbal and written communication. I want my children to do the same. If we make a card for Daddy, I’d like them to include a thoughtful comment or two. This takes lots of training, but it will certainly bless their future friendships and marriages! So skip the quickly scribbled Father’s Day card, and block out some time to ask your children why their dad is so special. These words will make your husband appreciative, and your children more aware of his sacrifice.
- Buying Gifts: Teach your children to set aside a small amount of money for Father’s Day, his birthday, and Christmas to buy Dad a small gift. Also, when you go to the grocery store have them on the lookout for Dad’s favorite snacks. I try to buy one thing just for Travis each trip. Getting the kids involved helps them to become more thoughtful...and it gives them something to do while I shop!
- Training Savvy Conversationalists: We aren’t supposed to ask our kids the same, “How was school today?” types of questions every day if we want authentic answers. It’s hard, isn’t it? That’s why we need to start training our kids to ask great questions when they are young. Have a brainstorming session with your kids about good questions to ask Dad about his day. At dinnertime, help model the process, and let them give it a try. It will take lots of reinforcement, but the conversations are sure to gain vibrancy.
- Praying Faithfully: Praying for your husband during his day not only has amazing spiritual implications for your man, it blesses your children. When they take part in this activity, they learn selflessness, power of prayer, and how hard Daddy works. They may also begin to understand that the real world requires hard work, and their dad goes to work because he loves them and wants to provide well.
- Thanking Frequently: Sometimes when we go grocery shopping or we run errands I say, “I’m so thankful Daddy is working hard right now so we can have this for our family.” Encourage your kids to thank Dad for their blessings. Model it for them as much as possible.
I’m sure there are endless ways for children to bless their dads. We’d love to hear your ideas, especially if you have tips for older children!