6 Habits of Highly Effective Fathers
Want to be the world’s greatest dad? Take these key steps for your faith and your family
By Chris Erickson
(This article is adapted from Fathers for Good, an initiative of the Knights of Columbus.)
In fatherless homes, children are more likely to be treated for behavioral problems, to be expelled from school and to be arrested for juvenile crime. While these stats refer to physically absent fathers, children can be fatherless in other ways.
In fact, faithlessness is the crisis of our time and has a close connection to fatherlessness. Studies have shown that a father’s example and influence are key to his children’s faith life as they move to adulthood. Thus, fathers must be present to their children and make the Catholic faith their bond with them. The “first evangelization” begins in your own heart and your faith should radiate out to your family.
Here are 6 ways to give your family the greatest gift:
Rediscover the faith. God’s Word has inherent power to transform you. Read from the Bible a few minutes a day and experience a gradual growth into the heroic father God’s calling you to be. Take another 10 minutes of your 24-hour day and bite off little pieces of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Make engagement with the faith a lifelong pursuit.
Pray. It’s not enough to believe in God or to know about God; you need to know God. It’s all about love. Do you want the Lord to hear you when you turn to him? If so, give him at least another 10 or 15 minutes of daily prayer. It will fuel your ability to protect, to help, to forgive, and to love your family. Your children are watching and learning from you. Several minutes of nightly prayer with your smaller children will carry those “seeds of faith” into their adult lives. Don’t underestimate its value, and consider the abundant harvest you could reap if you found more time for family prayer. Make it a priority to make weekly Mass and regular Confession together as a family. Form these strong family bonds in the faith and no crisis will tear them apart.
Share your faith from your own experience. You may not be an expert on the faith, but you are your children’s first and best teacher. Teach them about God from your own experience. Ordinary conversation while fixing cars, camping, fishing, hiking, gardening or driving offer opportunities to share with them simple stories of faith that reveal how you relate to God in everyday situations. Tell them about your first Communion, first Confession and other memorable faith occasions. God ought to be as real to them as you are. You can’t leave it to religious education or even Catholic school. God must be a part of every moment of every day and only you and your wife can make that happen.
Guard the windows to the soul. Keep a careful check over media influences, being mindful of inappropriate nuances. Would you let a stranger into the house who told dirty jokes or was sexually suggestive? Yet many fathers allow the same behavior into their homes through the media, which strikes at your fundamental moral values. Fathers, don’t dull your family’s sense of sin! The world is already doing it. Find wholesome alternatives that reinforce your values, and as your children grow, they will be much more apt to freely apply these same values when viewing entertainment on their own.
Monitor your children’s friends. Get to know your children’s friends, or at least try to determine whether their influence is good or bad. No child is going to be perfect, so avoid being too scrupulous. If a friend is a thorn in the growth of your child’s faith, talk about it with your child and give him the opportunity to set a higher example for his friend. If it still continues, talk to his friend about what you expect if the relationship is to continue. With older children, appeal to their values and concepts of right and wrong.
Make your home tranquil and love your wife. Love your wife as Christ loves the Church (Eph. 5:25). Your sons will relate to women in much the same way you relate to your wife, and your daughters will learn what to desire and expect from men from your example. St. John Chrysostom said the home should be a “little church” or domestic church that reflects the kingdom of God. Provide great love, admit mistakes, ask forgiveness, and laugh a lot. Adorn your home with constant reminders of your Catholic faith — crucifixes, sacred pictures, statues, an open Bible remind us of what is most important in life.
In today’s world you need three essential virtues: courage, confidence in God and relentless self-giving. You are what you habitually do. Form faithful habits and be the life-force of your family, and then turn them loose upon the world!
(For resources on Catholic fatherhood and family life, consult the domestic church initiative of the Knights of Columbus.)
About the Author
Chris Erickson is senior editor for Emmaus Road Publishing.