By Jordan Valentine
Photo by Mia Valentine
I can’t figure out why they would ask me to write about that, I thought. I had opened an email to find a request to write about fatherhood. Sure, I have four offspring that are each a combination of lovable child and untamed beast, but that does not mean I am qualified to give advice on the topic. I mean, I consider myself a successful father if I can just keep my kids’ clothes on for a day. I don’t even care that the clothes are on backwards and the shoes are on the wrong feet.
But then I figured, if I have kept my kids alive for this long, I guess that is worth sharing. So I set off and asked Google what fathers want to know about fathering. Turns out a lot. So, we will tackle the most (probably) searched question on fathers! You’re welcome. How do you strengthen your relationship with your kids? Good news, here are five ways to do that!
- Stoop Down. I learned this from my dad. My dad was a pastor, and I was the annoying pastor’s kid. One time in particular I remember there was a child in our church that had a tough time connecting with anyone outside their family. I saw my dad kneel so he could be eye to eye. By meeting on this child’s level, he took away any distance so it would be easier to connect. This is what we want to do with our own children. I am not sure what your kids are like, but mine are little versions of me. They are cute monsters just waiting to devour my sanity. When they start acting out or not listening, my first thought is to blame them as any good parent would. What I have learned, though, is sometimes . . . only sometimes, it is my fault. I have not connected with them intentionally or in a significant way. We need to slow down, stop what we are doing, and stoop down to see what is going on. With my fourteen-year-old, this might look like grabbing a Blizzard and spending quality time alone, and then asking how he is doing. With my six-year-old, it might be digging in the dirt looking for bugs. My three-year-old loves for me to push him on the swing. Your kids might be different and hate ice cream (doubtful), but you can still find the best way THEY connect. (Just because you connect or bond a certain way does not mean they connect that same way.) This is a way we fathers can display the same love of Christ as He “stooped down” to reach us.
- Check their sources. “Bad company corrupts good morals”(1 Corinthians 15:33, NASB). In the same way that stooping down can help fathers build healthier relationships with their children, bad sources can erode our relationships. We must be diligent in seeing what inputs compromise our relationships. If I notice my sons are not responding to my parenting or they are being disrespectful, I will check what is influencing them. It does not just have to be people they are physically with; it could be a YouTube channel they are watching, a show they are binging, or a book they are reading. Kids’ books can sometimes be the worst! I would be ok with a community burning of Big Nate and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I am not sure why those books caused my son’s problems, but when we removed their influence, our relationship improved.
- Go Wild: Let your kids be kids. Party with them. Every once in a while my wife will spend time with other ladies in our church. Those nights have now been branded “DUDES’ NIGHT!” It begins with me walking in the door and yelling “DUDES’ NIGHT” as loud as I can. My four boys echo me in joyous celebration. We might start with a barbecue, or by making nachos, or grabbing food from our favorite place. It usually ends with my boys looking like Tarzan amid the sprinklers or flying on the trampoline. You may not have four wildlings, but you can find something your kids love to do and do it with them.
- Apologize. One of the greatest things you can do to build a healthy and strong relationship with your children is to apologize when you mess up. Your kids are going to learn the most from your example. A wise man once told me, “More things are caught than taught.” This is the moment they learn how to apologize and ask forgiveness. Everything they are learning from you as a father will be the foundation they use to build their relationship with the eternal Father.
- Point Up. Our main calling as fathers is to lead our kids to God. We are told in Deuteronomy to speak to our kids about Him in every situation (11:18-21). Our aim is not to be the perfect father but to point our children to the perfect Father. The healthier their relationship is with God, the healthier their relationship will be with us. When we apologize, we can point them to our God who forgives. When we remove something unhealthy from their lives, we can remind them that God does the same for us and for them out of love. Currently the sun is out; everything in our yard is growing and green, and for some reason my wildlings are half naked again, running through the sprinklers. It is at this moment that I get to teach my sons how kind God is. I get to show them His kindness for the rest of my life.
You may be raising the sweetest little angels or a carnivorous wolf pack like I am, but we can all grow closer as fathers to our kids. Just watch your toes; they bite.
About the Author
Jordan Valentine is married to an amazing woman, Mia, who can tolerate all his sarcasm! He is the father of four wild boys: John, Jedidiah, Thaddeus, and Judah. Jordan has been a youth pastor for more than ten years and now has the honor of being lead pastor at Journey Church of Open Bible in Antioch, California.
Photo by Madison Tackett