Dear first-time dad,
As one dad to another, let me speak with you, some truths I believe are universal for fatherhood. I share my own stories of failure and success in Hope for New Dads.
Words of Advice
First, congratulations! It is a joy to bring a child into this world—especially your first one. So, cherish the moments! There will likely be heartaches and challenges along the way (and always hard work), but parenting is mostly great fun. Second, invest! Children need to be loved and led well. They need their father just as much as their mother. At the end of your life, you will never regret the times you have spent with them. Also, get help! Lean on family, selected friends, and your community to help you raise your children. There is wisdom in the abundance of counselors and comfort in their loving care.
The Gospel for Fathers:
As a Christian, there’s also one more point I would add. My own fatherhood is grounded in my faith (Psalm 127:1-2). I don’t know where you stand spiritually, but often becoming a parent compels us to explore deeper wells of faith (Jeremiah 29:11-14). You can be a good father in your own strength, but you can only become a godly father through God’s strength and raise godly children through the wisdom in his Word (Psalm 119:9; Proverbs 23:24).
I believe that our Creator designed the family and fatherhood specifically for our delight (Genesis 2:24). He knows the workings of the world he has made and grants us wisdom to live by (James 1:5; 3:17). He shows us, as our Father, how much he loves us (Romans 8:31-32). He forgives us when we do wrong (Proverbs 28:13) and also teaches us to forgive our children (Ephesians 4:32). God tells us that we cannot live up to the standard of his perfect holiness (Romans 3:23) and that we deserve to be separated from him for all eternity (Romans 6:23). Yet instead of requiring us to pay this infinite penalty, God sent his own beloved Son to die on our behalf (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). Jesus paid the price we could not pay in order for God to adopt us into his forever family (Romans 8:14-17). This salvation comes only by grace through faith alone, but results in good works such as being loving fathers to our children (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Two biblical principles that I try to keep in balance are affirmation and authority.
Affirmation means that you love your child, and your child knows it. You tell them with your words, show them by your actions, and model it through lifelong sacrifice. Some fathers are afraid to show emotion or demonstrate a softer side that might display their weakness, but children need to know our affirmation (Jeremiah 31:3). They must be held and snuggled, listened to, and laughed with. They must see how we consistently respond to them with abundant love, even when they mess up (Psalm 103:8). Sometimes this will come naturally, but other times it requires effort and practice (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Most importantly, we grow in love as we experience God’s supernatural love for us (1 John 4:19; see John 15:9).
Authority means that you love your child so much that you do what is best for them even when they don’t want it themselves (Proverbs 18:2; 26:11). You must teach them and instruct them in the way they should go because their natural way is foolish (Proverbs 22:6).
Many fathers are afraid to exert authority. They let their children do whatever they like and simply follow their hearts (Jeremiah 17:9). Yet biblical wisdom requires that we study God’s Word and seek to train our children accordingly (Deuteronomy 6:1-9). God commands us to instruct our children in the Word, discipline them when needed, and balance our authority with loving affirmation (Ephesians 6:4). Even secular wisdom has shown that a father’s strong leadership and authority in the home will benefit the whole family. Biblical authority, balanced with affirmation, will help a father lead his children in the right direction.
I trust that you will be an incredible dad, and I pray that you will discover God’s wisdom for parenting along the way.
Tom (father of four and child of God)