[I] don’t know about you, but as a dad, there are days when I feel absolutely overwhelmed by all the decisions I have to make. Do you ever feel like you’ve been nailed by a two-hundred pound spitball trying to juggle your roles as a dad, a husband, and a work-guy? I mean, you’re the man. Your wife and your kids are looking to you for leadership, direction, wisdom, and a compass for how to navigate this life. Your decisions, good and bad, have everything to do with who you are and who they become. So what does all this have to do with your #1 Dad Decision? Absolutely everything. Read on…
Out of every decision I face as a dad, my most important #1 Dad Decision is this: Loving my children unconditionally.
I love the simplicity and clarity of 1 John 4:10-11 “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.“
You wouldn’t think it’s difficult to tell a dad or a mom to love their children without conditions. But, BUT, we all have big BUTS when it comes to loving unconditionally as God loves us. From the friends I have and all the men I’ve spoken with over the years, it’s clear that the majority of men find their value and identity in their work, performance and success. It is both blessing and curse because God gave Adam a garden to work, cultivate and tend, which makes work a holy calling. At the same time, Adam and Eve tried this little experiment in being like God and living independently from God. God essentially said, “Okay, have it your way. If that’s the line of work you want, have at it.” Apart from finding our identity and resting in God’s unconditional love for us, we have been working, striving, performing, and grasping ever since. This whole business of God’s unconditional love sounds so soft. So sentimental. So un-masculine.
Without embracing the strength, power and radical nature of God’s unconditional love, we will pass our Adam-esque driving and striving onto our kids. Adam’s independence from God was his weakness, not his strength!
So how can you make your #1 Dad Decision to love your kids unconditionally? As a dad of two daughters and two sons, I’ve have a few ideas…
- Tell your kids that you love them for WHO they are and not WHAT they do. School, sports, arts, and activities are all good and fine, but let your kids know you just love them because of who they are and not what they do.
- Separate your “I Love You” from “I’m Proud of You.” Tell your kids you’re proud of them when the make the right choices that lead to a strong character. Praise them for generosity, standing up for the weak, and resisting the pressure of the crowd. Let your “I Love You” simply be what it is.
- Let your kids know there’s nothing they can do to ever lose your love. My kids may mess up, screw up, and even fail to fess up for all they do wrong, but there’s nothing they can do to lose my love. As men, does God treat us any other way? Kids need to live with the consequences of wrong choices, but Hebrews 12 reminds us the most practical principle ever written about loving parenting, “What children are not disciplined by their father?”
- Never underestimate the power of your presence. 99% of life is showing up. Every game, play performance, dance recital, and tuba concert you show up for (along with the rest of the parent paparazzi) communicates the power of your presence. Being there is everything, but don’t obsess about having to attend every single game or performance. That’s pathology, not parenting. Don’t fall into the cultural hysteria of helicopter parenting where “hover and smother” is the obnoxious norm of the day. As God is present, be present. And relaxed…
As God loves us unconditionally, love your children unconditionally. Your #1 Dad Decision of loving your kids unconditionally will reap huge dividends in their lives and yours. It’s a decision you’ll never regret.
Questions: What ways do you show unconditional love to your children? What have you learned about God’s unconditonal love that you are passing onto your children?