By the Rev. Dr. Joe Renfro, Ed D
Most any man can be a father; as it is a job that takes little talent. Education is irrelevant in siring a child, but not so in practicing fatherhood. There is a huge difference between sexual procreation and fatherhood. The rate for failure in fatherhood in our land is astronomical, and much of the failures in education relate to this. Fatherhood greatly influences the performance of children in school along with family bonds and education of children beyond school. Being sensitive to and involved in each vital stage of educating one’s children in the right ways are often neglected—but God calls all fathers to responsibility in this area of their children’s life.
The situation in our land is not looking good, as we see many of our children going wild, lacking discipline, and lacking that godly character or even lacking positive, responsible characteristics. There are many children, however, who are developing properly, learning to be responsible—and much more with those in private schools or in home schooling. Of those who are not, one the basic factors in the lives of those children who are going the wrong way is where there is no father, where there is a family situation where fathers fail to demonstrate positive influences, or one where this is lacking in combination with other environmental factors.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 is in the context of speaking to the heads of household in Israel, pointing back to the fathers of faith; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, so as to set the stage for the future of God’s people, saying that: “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”
1 Timothy 3:2-5 sets the pattern for a leader in the church “to be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity.” Notice the words, “able to teach,” “managing his own household” and “keeping his children under control” all relate more to the leader’s his own family than just the leadership in the church. Part of the practice of fatherhood for every father is the call to be an educator — to discipline the children and cultivate discipline in their lives! Recall Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Many children today can’t sing “Faith of our Fathers,” because they don’t know fathers of faith. Many fathers want their good times rather than the welfare of their children. Without question many people definitely underestimate the calling of fatherhood. But it is a most important task, and we are called to look to God for our example in fatherhood. He is our Heavenly Father! And fatherhood is identifying with God’s example. And what greater example of fatherhood could be have than God himself?
Today when many people think about planning their future, they consider what occupation they will pursue; which will give them the most money, prestige, and pleasure. However, few tend to as ask what is God’s calling in life. A calling is definitely more than a career. About half the people in the world have the calling to be a father—most by blood ties and others by legal arrangements. But sadly many fathers don’t see fatherhood as a high calling, but rather as an obligation they have to put up with. A calling is a feeling in your soul where you seek to glorify God through his Spirit working in you. Fatherhood is a scared trust. II Peter 1:10 points to the calling of God saying, “Therefore brethren, be more zealous to confirm your call and election, for it you do this you will never fall.” The call in God to be a Christian has many callings to service within it, and for the vast majority fatherhood of one of the callings.
Fathers are not only role models, examples, and teachers; but they are called to instill godly values in their children. Back years ago children often followed their father’s footsteps, working as apprentices. Many have reaped more fame, power and success in the same professions in which their fathers toiled, because they learned their lessons well. They followed in their father’s footsteps, and also built on his foundations! Fathers are called to establish foundations on which their children can build. It is vital that fathers can provide special footing through which their children’s talents, and abilities can develop. Family names care carried through the fathers. Fathers can instill high values and achievements in their children or they can neglect to do it and later regret it.
When fathers are involved in the lives of their children, especially when influencing their formal education, children learn more, perform better in school, and exhibit healthier behavior. Even when fathers do not share a home with their children, their active involvement can have a lasting and positive impact. Fathers and father figures by involvement in their children’s schooling can especially inspire them, even reduce bullying other students, and improve the educational environment.
Barriers often can make it more difficult for fathers to participate in the formal education of their children such as: The belief that a child’s education is a mother’s responsibility; A tendency for schools to communicate primarily with mothers; Divorced or separated mothers having sole custody of children; A lack of awareness on how to help; Fathers’ often overwhelming work schedules; A failure to recognize the importance of becoming involved; Literacy and language difficulties; and many others. But these can be handled in various ways, as fathers seek to practice true fatherhood. Rearing children in the fear and admonition of the Lord is best.
Many fathers just seek to turn the whole education of the children over to the mothers. Many mothers are crushed by the irresponsibility of many fathers. Motherhood can do many things, but fatherhood is needed in the lives of the children, and mothers mostly fall short here. Many a son or daughter has lost his or her way among strangers because his father was too busy to get acquainted with them. One of the biggest problems in our nation is the lack of true fatherhood!
Annie Murphy Paul in an article, “Why Parenting Is More Important Than Schools,” brings out that: “Given all the rolling debates about how America’s children should be taught, it may come as a surprise to learn that students spend less than fifteen percent of their time in school.” Paul observed that “parental involvement — checking homework, attending school meetings and events, discussing school activities at home — has a more powerful influence on students’ academic performance than anything about the school the students attend. She also brought out “that schools would have to increase their spending by more than $1,000 per pupil in order to achieve the same results that are gained with parental involvement (not likely in this stretched economic era)… Parental involvement is not just the mothers, but it is the fathers as well.”
The examples father’s set before their children are vital. Abraham Lincoln said, “There is just one way to bring up a child in the way he should go and this is to travel that way yourself.” The fatherly examples are vital educational tools!
General Douglas MacArthur prayed this prayer for his son: “O Lord, build me a son who will be strong enough to know when he is weak and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat and humble and gentle in victory. Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know Thee—and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge. Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail. Build me a son whose heart will be clean, whose goal with be high, a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men, one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past. After all these things are his, give him, I pray enough of a sense of humor so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength. Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, ‘I have not lived in vain!’” Fatherly examples and prayers are very much part of fatherhood, and it is part of the education of our children- to pray for them.
Near half of our children are in blended or single parent families, and in the absence of fathers many look to other male role models to fulfill this avenue in their lives. Step fathers can provide a good support, but then again it can be a real problem, for often children like to play with or to resist the power structure in a family. Other positive male figures can substitute for some of the influences of fatherhood, such as a scoutmaster, teacher, minister, or just an adult friend. A good substitute is better than none at all. But still if a child can’t relate to the meaning of true fatherhood, something is very much missing in their lives.
When mothers have to be both mother and father it is hard, but it can be done. And blended families can often be very happy and work out the many difficulties involved—especially when proper fatherhood is illustrated. Each situation is unique—something only those involved in it can work out. But without responsible fatherhood, there are major problems. A little boy defined a stepparent as “a step down,” but it doesn’t have to be that way. It can be a step up.
The Bible says to “bring up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Fathers who truly practice true fatherhood not only seek to instill in their children the quest for knowledge and understanding, but also to instill proper values for living, which come in Christ, as he is the “the way, the truth, and the life.” Wise, committed fathers are vital for children to reach their potential and to work through many of the problems of youth. It is vital in proper development for fathers or father figures to make the financial sacrifices, give the parental advice, and well-timed pats on the back, as well as corrections that are necessary to bring up a child in the way he or she should go. Here is educational fatherhood in action!
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