Dad, What Kind Of Legacy Are You Building?

One of the best and most important lessons that I’ve learned as a father is that as a dad I set the tempo and attitude in our home. What I mean is that my attitude at home is contagious. If I’m in a sour mood or withdrawn or frustrated or easily angered, then the whole house tends to take on that mood. The kids bicker more, are less helpful around the house, and more withdrawn themselves.

The opposite is true as well meaning that if I initiate conversation, both my wife and kids open up. If I suggest that we play a game together, everyone stops doing their own thing and wants to participate.

The bottom line is that I’m convinced that God has given dads a special role of influencer that can be used for great good or unfortunately for great harm. This took a while for me to learn though. I used to regularly come home with a “me-centered” approach to the evening or weekend. And on occasion (though by God’s grace less frequently) I still do. But several years ago I started using the drive home to get my mind and heart in the right place to invest in my family.

A few practical tips that may seem so obvious that they are boring but may (or may not) make sense for you…

1. On the drive home identify the 2 or 3 things from your work day that are most likely to stick with you and affect your ability to be fully engaged with your wife and kids. Pray about those issues asking God’s will to be done and then leave them with God. Try hard to not let the pressures of work negatively affect your family time.

2. Before you enter the house, resolve in your heart that nothing is going to rob you of a good evening with your family. If the house is a mess, homework not done, the kids have the television up to loud, that’s not going to steal your joy. Might you have to correct them? Sure. But even correction is going to be done kindly and patiently.

3. As you encounter the people in your house, go out of your way to engage with them in a positive way. Give them a hug, ask them how their day was, tell them that you are glad to see them.

4. One small thing that I often do with especially my younger boys (ages 7 and 9) is fix them ice cream and play a couple of hands of Rummy with them before bed. Rummy is a card game that’s simple to play so that it doesn’t take a lot of concentration which allows for fun and conversation. It’s not uncommon for the older kids to want to play too. On weekends or over holiday breaks or vacations we like to play Clue. It’s an old game but all the kids enjoy it. What I’ve found is that when Dad wants to play the game (no matter what the game is), then everyone wants to play.

5. While there is nothing inherently wrong with television, I’ve never found that it helps me develop a strong relationship with my wife and kids. That’s one of the main reasons that I hardly ever watch it.

6. I try hard to find each child and say good night before bed. It’s easy to overlook but just as I want to start the evening on a positive note so I also want to end it the same way.

When a child is born just about every parent wants to leave a positive legacy in their kids life. Every parent wants to be the right kind of influence. But what I’ve found is that legacies aren’t primarily made in the big moments of life. Like a wall they are built one brick at a time. One evening at a time. One conversation at a time. One game at a time. One hug at a time.

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