The answer to “how to be a good dad” could fill volumes. (Scroll to the end for a few.) But there’s one key that can help translate all the other advice for Christian dads, like the Rosetta Stone.
That’s allowing yourself to be a father shaped by grace.
Read why that matters so much and what it looks like in the excerpt below, adapted from Splashing in Puddles: How to Be a Father to Your Daughter. Though author David Van Heemst may have aimed his book toward fathers of daughters, we think fathers of sons will find it just as meaningful.
Grace shapes our understanding of salvation, sanctification, and glorification. It also shapes our approach to our daughters. . . . That’s a pretty tall order. How can you begin?
A grace-shaped dad
A daughter needs her dad to bond with her. As a Christian dad, you get to bathe the entire bonding process in grace. A grace-filled dad is one who is wholly and unconditionally passionate about the growth and maturation of his daughter.
I long to see my daughters love Jesus and his kingdom. I yearn to invest in them so that they will grow up loving God and his people. I long to see them filled with joy, focused on others, and positive. I want to see them develop their talents for the benefit of others. I long for them to be healthily connected to friends, family, and one day, a spouse. I know that my daughters’ understanding of me will shape a large part of their understanding of God.
I long to give grace to them in a million ways so that they will flourish. I hope to do nothing to hinder their love for the Lord; instead, I aspire to fan the flames of their love for him. I hope to be part of God’s reconciling work in the fibers of their hearts. I hope to get close to loving them as they should be loved.
Grace and love
Grace-based fathering means this: loving your daughter as she deserves to be loved.
Grace means love. One of my students captured this father-daughter love eloquently, “I suggest cherishing daughters to any fathers who want their daughters to expect love and respect from their boyfriends, or to fathers who want their daughters to know that they are valuable, and because of this, they don’t need to give themselves away carelessly to men. A little love goes a long way.”
How do you practice grace toward your daughter?
Sacrifice and humility
Sacrifice and humility are good starting points. I can remember literally going from a lecture hall filled with one hundred students who were hanging on my every word to coming home and cleaning up poop (during potty training), cloth diapers, and vomit on bed sheets. What if you started sacrificing by giving up some of the small things—such as one hour a week of television—and replacing it with one hour of your daughter’s favorite activity? What if you started practicing humility by being honest with your daughter instead of pretending to be the all-knowing guru?
. . .
Humility also prevents us from establishing practices that are too strict and frees us from the rigidity of sticking with our direction, regardless of consequences; instead, humility provides us with the freedom to practice trial and error. If we begin to live humbly, we will then have given ourselves the freedom to keep what works and chuck what doesn’t. Humility produces the honesty and self-awareness that we need to give and receive a lot of help in raising our daughters.
We find ourselves beginning to live out of a covenantal commitment to our daughters. Something about how we’ve connected with them in the past gives them a confident trust in how we’ll treat them in the future.
. . .
Giving & receiving grace
As a dad, you are able to give the specific gifts of grace, sacrifice, and humility to your daughter because you are experiencing the reign of grace. We can articulate the specific ways in which, in the words of the prophet Jeremiah, we have experienced a God who “super-abounds” in giving grace to us. His grace rains upon us. In fact, it’s the very particular ways of relating healthily that shape us into the type of dad who engages his daughter in a covenantal manner.
What might the impact be on your daughter if you started engaging with her with grace-shaped eyes?
These grace-shaped eyes equip you to focus on what’s really important: your daughter’s heart.
By heart, I mean her insides, her core, her fundamental character, her inner being, her emotional, psychological, and spiritual health—who she is, the part from which all of her activities flow. Grace-shaped eyes see not only the heart as it is, they also dream what it might become. To always be committed to the well-being of your daughter—that comprises the heart and soul of grace-based parenting.
Splashing in Puddles: How to Be a Father to Your Daughter is available now from Lexham Press.
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- The Good Dad Guide: 7 Things That Matter Most to Your Kids