Good dads model consistency, loyalty and faithfulness
As the father of twin preschool-age girls, I am constantly asking people what their fathers did in raising them. I want to be the best father I can and am anxious to learn.
I spoke once with one of my church members who is particularly bright, happy and emotionally grounded, and who has a healthy faith perspective. I also knew that she has always had a wonderful relationship with her dad. I asked her, "What do you think were the qualities that made him a great father when you were growing up?" She answered, "He was consistent, loyal and faithful."
Consistency is providing a stable and loving environment, where the boundaries are clear, the discipline fair and proportional, and where verbal communication and parental behavior match. This is a tough one. My heart just breaks to hear them cry or plead with me at times when they test the limit or are being disciplined, which for my wife and me does not include corporal punishment. But I know that consistency is going to keep my children grounded.
Loyalty is prioritizing relationships and communicating by word and action that family comes first. A loyal father always communicates his love for his children. I take this seriously and say to my girls constantly that I love them. But I must also back up my words by prioritizing them in my lives. Fathers usually have busy careers and hobbies and can come up with compelling reasons to miss outings, parties and events that involve their children.
Michael Gurian, author of "The Wonder of Girls: Understanding the Hidden Nature of Our Daughters" (New York: Simon and Schuster), has fathers pledge to make it to no less than 2/3 of their daughters' events. I'm sure the same is true for sons. I know that this is important for my children. The reaction of happiness or disappointment is clear when they ask, "Are you coming, Daddy?"
Faithfulness has two aspects. One of them is the sense you give that your relationships will endure no matter what. In the Hebrew Testament of the Bible, there is a word called "hesed," which is often translated as steadfast love, the kind of love that remains constant even if everything else is chaotic. It is the love that is most often ascribed to God. In the New Testament, the concept of grace, or unconditional love, is absolutely essential to convey to children.
Being faithful in a religious sense is immeasurable in its importance. I'm sure that most fathers are concerned about the development of their children's minds, their bodies, even their financial portfolios. But what about the development of their children's souls, their spiritual lives? I'm much less sure that the same numbers of fathers are as concerned about the spiritual development of their children. I have found that too many fathers abdicate this responsibility to mothers. This is, in my opinion, a serious mistake.
A well-nurtured soul is what ultimately determines a child's happiness and sense of meaning. If there is no systematic way of nurturing a soul -- through church, synagogue, mosque or other house of worship -- it can result in a chaotic or impoverished soul. Fathers who encourage and model faithfulness in nurturing their own souls and their families' souls give their children the best chance of a joyful and fulfilled life because the joy and fulfillment will come from within and will not be dependent on external factors.
Dads, what would be a better Father's Day present than knowing that you are doing that?
The Rev. Tom Choi is the senior pastor of the Kailua United Methodist Church.