How to Be a Good Father
AN ARTICLE in the Economist magazine about the deterioration of family life began with the arresting statement: “Making children is easy, making a good father is not.”
While many things in life are hard to do, one of the hardest—as well as most important—is to be a good father. Every father should want to be a good one, since the welfare and happiness of his family is at stake.
Why It Is Not Easy
Simply stated, a major reason why being a good father is not easy is inherited imperfection—both of parents and of their children. “The inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up,” says the Bible. (Genesis 8:21) Thus, a Bible writer acknowledged: “In sin my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12) The inclination to do bad because of inherited sin is only one obstacle that makes being a good father difficult.
This world, or system of things, is also a huge obstacle. Why so? Because, as the Bible explains, “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one,” who is identified as “the one called Devil and Satan.” The Bible also calls Satan “the god of this system of things.” No wonder Jesus said that like him, his followers should be “no part of the world”!—1 John 5:19; Revelation 12:9; 2 Corinthians 4:4; John 17:16.
Vital to being a good father is constant awareness of our inherited imperfection, Satan the Devil, and this world under his control. These obstacles are not imaginary. They are real! But where can a man go to learn how to combat them and how to become a good father?
For help in overcoming the obstacles mentioned above, a father can go to the Bible. Wonderful examples are provided there. Jesus identified the best one when he taught his followers to pray: “Our Father in the heavens.” Describing our heavenly Father, the Bible says simply: “God is love.” How should a human father respond to this loving example? “Become imitators of God,” the apostle Paul urged, “and go on walking in love.”—Matthew 6:9, 10; 1 John 4:8; Ephesians 5:1, 2.
If you are a father, consider what you can learn from just one instance when God dealt with Jesus, his Son. Matthew 3:17 tells us that at Jesus’ water baptism, God’s voice was heard from heaven, saying: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” What can we learn from this?
First, think of the effect it has upon a child when a father proudly says to someone, ‘This is my son’ or ‘This is my daughter.’ Young ones thrive when receiving a parent’s attention, especially positive acknowledgment. A child will likely be moved to try harder to prove worthy of favorable recognition.
Second, God expressed how he felt about Jesus, referring to him as “the beloved.” That expression of endearment from his Father must have warmed Jesus’ heart. Your children too will be encouraged if you show by your words—as well as by your time, attention, and concern—that you dearly love them.
Third, God told his Son: “I have approved you.” (Mark 1:11) That too is a vital thing for a father to do, that is, tell his children that he is pleased with them. True, a child will often fall short. We all do. But as a father, are you looking for opportunities to express approval of the good things your children do or say?
Jesus learned well from his heavenly Father. While on earth, he demonstrated by word and example just how his Father feels about His earthly children. (John 14:9) Even when Jesus was busy and under stress, he took time to sit and talk with children. “Let the young children come to me,” he told his disciples, “do not try to stop them.” (Mark 10:14) Can you fathers follow the example of Jehovah God and his Son more fully?
Good Example Vital
The importance of setting a good example for your children cannot be overemphasized. Your efforts to “go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah” will likely have little effect if you yourself are not submitting to God’s discipline and allowing your life to be regulated by it. (Ephesians 6:4) Yet, with God’s help, you can overcome any obstacle to fulfilling his command to care for your children.
Consider the example of Viktor Gutschmidt, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the former Soviet Union. In October 1957, he was sentenced to ten years in prison for talking about his faith. He left behind two young daughters along with his wife, Polina. While in prison, he was allowed to write letters to his family but was forbidden to say anything about God or any religious subject. Even in the face of this hardship, Viktor was determined to be a good father, and he knew that teaching his children about God was vitally important. So what did he do?
“I found material in the Soviet magazines Young Naturalist and Nature,” Viktor relates. “On postcards I drew pictures of animals and people and included a story or an experience regarding nature.”
“As soon as we received these postcards,” Polina says, “we immediately connected them with Bible subjects. For instance, when they included the beauty of nature, forests, or rivers, I read Isaiah chapter 65,” which tells about God’s promises to make the earth a paradise.
Viktor’s daughter Yulia relates: “Mama would then pray with us, and we would cry. These cards played a big role in our upbringing.” Polina says that as a result, “the girls loved God very much from childhood.” What is the situation with the family now?
Viktor explains, “Now my daughters are both married to Christian elders, and both of them have spiritually strong families with children who are faithfully serving Jehovah.”
Setting a good example often requires not only ingenuity but also great effort. The hearts of children will likely be touched when they see their father really trying. A son who spent many years in the full-time ministry said appreciatively of his father, “Sometimes Dad would be so tired from work he could hardly keep awake, but we would have our Bible study regardless, and this helped us to appreciate the seriousness of it.”
Clearly, setting a fine example—in both word and deed—is vital to being a good father. You need to do so if you want to realize the truth of the Bible proverb that says: “Train up a boy according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.”—Proverbs 22:6.
So, remember, it is not only what you say that matters; it is particularly what you do—the example you set. A Canadian expert in early-childhood education wrote: “The best way to get our children to behave [as we would like] is to demonstrate the desired behaviour ourselves.” Indeed, if you want your children to value spiritual matters, it is essential that you do so yourself.
Find Time for Them!
Your children must see your good example. That means you need to spend time with them—lots of it, not just snatches here and there. Wisely heed the Bible advice to ‘buy out time,’ that is, forgo less important things in order to be with them. (Ephesians 5:15, 16) Really, what is more important than your children? A large-screen TV, a professional set of golf clubs, a beautiful house, your job?
There is a familiar saying, ‘Pay now, or pay later.’ Fathers whose children have been lost to immoral activity or even to a life-style devoid of spirituality often feel deep remorse. They lament that they failed to be with their little ones more often when they really needed a father.
Remember, when your children are young is the time to think about the consequences of your choices. The Bible calls your children “an inheritance from Jehovah,” something that God himself has entrusted to you. (Psalm 127:3) So never forget that you are answerable to God for them!
Help Is Available
A good father is eager to receive help that will benefit his children. After an angel told Manoah’s wife that she was going to bear a child, Manoah prayed to God: “Let him, please, come again to us and instruct us as to what we ought to do to the child that will be born.” (Judges 13:8, 9) Like parents today, what kind of help did Manoah need? Let us see.
Brent Burgoyne, a teacher at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, observed: “One of the greatest gifts one can give a child is to teach him or her a value system.” That children need to be taught such a system can be seen from a report in Japan’s Daily Yomiuri, which noted: “[A] survey shows that 71 percent of Japanese children have never been told by their fathers not to tell lies.” Is that not a sad commentary?
Who can provide a reliable value system? The same one who gave Manoah guidance—God himself! To provide help, God sent his own dear Son, Jesus, as Teacher—the term by which he was commonly addressed. Now the book Learn From the Great Teacher, which draws lessons from Jesus’ teachings, is available in many languages for your use when teaching young ones.
Learn From the Great Teacher not only explains values based on God’s Word but also illustrates the written text with more than 160 pictures that have pointed questions. For example, chapter 22, entitled “Why We Should Not Lie,” contains the picture shown on page 32 of this magazine. The written text on the page where this picture appears says: “Perhaps a boy tells his father: ‘No, I didn’t kick the ball in the house.’ But what if he really did? Would it be wrong to say that he didn’t?”
Powerful lessons are also taught in chapters entitled “Obedience Protects You,” “We Need to Resist Temptations,” “A Lesson on Being Kind,” “Never Become a Thief!,” “Do All Parties Please God?,” “How to Make God Happy,” and “Why We Need to Work,” to name just a few of the 48 in the book.
The foreword of the book concludes: “Children especially need to be directed to the Source of all wisdom, our heavenly Father, Jehovah God. This is what Jesus, the Great Teacher, always did. We sincerely hope that this book will help you and your family to mold your lives so as to be pleasing to Jehovah, to your eternal blessing.”*
Clearly, being a good father includes setting a good example for your children, spending plenty of time with them, and helping them to live according to God’s standards as he has revealed them in the Bible.
My Book of Bible Stories, Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work, and The Secret of Family Happiness are other books Jehovah’s Witnesses provide to assist families.
[Picture on page 8]
Although in prison, Viktor Gutschmidt managed to be a good father
[Pictures on page 8, 9]
While he was imprisoned for his faith, Viktor drew these pictures to teach his children
[Picture on page 9]
Viktor’s daughters in 1965
[Picture on page 10]
Fathers should be actively involved in teaching their children