by Dr. Herb Fain
Images of fathers behaving responsibly resonate well with the public. Fathers holding their children’s hands as they walk across the street or giving their sons or daughters a hug in those positive back-to-school commercials connect with the audience. Experience and years spent studying the word have caused me to view fatherhood from a Biblical perspective instead of a media-driven narrative.
Fatherhood is an important concept for the church. Christian leaders must remind their followers that fatherhood is not just about being present. It’s about showing up emotionally and economically for the child regardless of whether the father lives inside or outside the home. Oftentimes, the images projected on television commercials and shows, or in the movies fail to show the entire picture. But, in the Christian teachings, we have a model of the ideal parent. Therefore, we don’t have to rely on fictitious images to define fatherhood.
When counseling congregants through their spiritual struggles, it’s important to emphasize that the Bible is clear about the role of fatherhood and it’s value in sustaining society. For instance, being present does not have to mean spending a great deal of money. Simply taking your child to a free concert in the park, a festival, or visiting a bookstore is a way to make yourself accessible. In these moments, the father and his child have time to think and reflect on their relationship. Also, the child will have an opportunity to speak on their concerns with respect to family, school, and the world. Therefore, the father’s presence becomes not just a physical connection, but also an emotional bond that assists in building a strong sense of self-worth in his child. When parents listen to their children’s voices and provide constructive feedback, the child feels valued.
With regard to economics, fathers should be willing and enthusiastically support their family. And, if they experience a change in job status, they may seek from the court a modification of the child support order. However, low-income status should not interfere with the emotional opportunities to connect a father with his child. Fathers experiencing a comfortable financial status should be willing to share these blessings with the family. Attending events, symphonies, watching plays, and traveling offer a child a head start in life that will leave lifelong memories.
Lastly, in terms of discipline, fathers should always explain to their children what is wrong in their behavior. And when they make positive choices, they must be quick to praise their children. Oftentimes, a simple system of reward for positive behavior and withholding privileges for negative behaviors will correct wrong behavior. Remember, our Heavenly Father is always willing to forgive us. Thus, in order for fathers to be their best selves, they need to model forgiveness and love when raising their children.
Herb S. Fain, Jr. is Professor of Legal and Social Ethics at Houston Graduate School of Theology.