How Any Dad Can Hurt His Kids Without Even Knowing

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. –Frederick Douglass

Countless lives testify to this reality. Every child grows up in an environment that either fosters health and wholeness or takes away from the potential of a noteworthy existence. Most often, the influence and teaching of a father drives one of these two options.

father on computer ignoring son

As the following points substantiate, fathers make a lasting impression on their kids. What they do, and do not do, will stay with them for years to come. Such a role must be taken seriously and given the utmost attention. Fathers who want to positively impact their children should avoid the following:

Communicating Inconsistently

One of the essential tenets of a good relationship is consistent and honest communication. Intimacy forms the closer you connect with someone, and connecting with someone involves sharing your heart with him or her and taking the time daily to grow in your knowledge of him or her as well. Growing up in a household filled with healthy communication gives children a safety net of sorts and an example to follow. It teaches kids that it is good and right to share openly, ask questions, and seek help.

However, a lack of regular communication stifles a healthy mindset regarding problems in life and even goals and desires. It hinders the development of maturity, a readiness to admit fault, and a willingness to apologize. It causes children to keep their feelings to themselves and can propel them to looking for acceptance and a listening ear in possibly dangerous places since they aren’t receiving teaching and admonition in the home.

Withholding Encouraging Words

The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice. –Unknown

Words are powerful. They can be life-giving or can drain the very life from us. I’m amazed at how simple children are. The smallest compliment can make their face light up with joy or make a bad day so much better. On the contrary, a rude comment in passing or being put down by their father can crush their spirit and weaken their ability to cope with the comments of people outside the home who are often more careless and cruel in what they choose to say.

Kids should not just be acknowledged for good grades or accomplishments out on the field. They should be praised for their character and the times they make good choices that honor their parents, as this will serve as motivation to continue on the right path.

Related: The One Way to Parent Well in the Digital Age

If children constantly feel they aren’t living up to their father’s standard, it often leaves them with a heavy heart that can lead to believing they can’t do anything right. This can lead to a series of poor choices intended to prove to themselves that they are worth more than they have been made to feel.

Showing Inadequate Appropriate Affection

One of the primary love languages of human beings is affection. We are wired to crave intimacy through knowing and being known. Children who grow up in a household where appropriate affection is a part of daily life feel loved and acknowledged by their father.

When a dad is affectionate with his kids, it forms a bond with his kids because it communicates in a simple, yet emotionally powerful way that he cares, is approachable, and loves them. A father then becomes a champion in the sight of his children as he spends time with them on a level that speaks to them directly (listening, play-time, taking walks, playing sports, etc.), and they find the comfort they need in their father’s embrace. Simple acts of love by a father toward his kids build in them a healthy self-esteem and open their eyes to their God-given worth.

A man of tremendous value takes his role seriously, not only as provider and protector, but also by humbly serving his family with gentle affection and actions that make them feel special.

Fathers who do not hug and kiss their children deprive them of one of the basic and fundamental needs of every person: to be acknowledged. Children who are not shown affection rightly feel that something is missing. With a distant father, they feel unworthy of love and acceptance. The amount of fatherly attention and affection a child receives speaks volumes to their own worth.

Related: 6 Ways to Raise a Sex Addict

Unbeknownst to many men, boys need affection too, and any lack of it will drive them to search for affirmation through what the culture deems worthwhile. They will begin to take cues from society about what it means to be a man and how to treat a woman.

Girls and boys who grow up without the affection of their fathers will often in time seek to fulfill their longing for acceptance through sexual promiscuity, pornography, or poor relationships. Kids have a love tank that must be filled, and if they aren’t receiving adequate attention at home, a host of problems can commence.

Avoiding Leadership and Discipline

Men, you are the leaders of your families. You might be reluctant to assume that role. You might even deny that it falls to you. Nonetheless, you are your family’s de facto leader, whether you choose to believe it or not. Leaders are always the highest-priority targets in any war. The enemy knows that if he can kill the commander, the troops will be easier to defeat. Cut off the head and the body dies. The body in this case is your family–you are the head. One way to fight back and be the leaders God created us to be is to be aware of our roles, our responsibilities, and our influence with those we lead. –Rick Johnson

From the time a child is young, they are like a blank chalkboard that is influenced by everything they experience and are exposed to. What they are taught or what they pick up from the culture becomes like writing on that chalkboard. Over time, the lack of fatherly structure or teaching brings a mess that many make of their lives

Related: How to Parent for Purity in the 21st Century

Unfortunately, such an upbringing results in chaos. If a father does not display leadership skills through enforcing clear, disciplinary consequences for a child’s misconduct or does not explain what he expects of his children, they will lack both the ability to think long-term about their choices and a model for healthy decision-making.

Ignoring the Choices of Friends and Entertainment

Fathers have a moral and ethical responsibility to protect their children’s hearts and minds.

Involved and dedicated fathers are cautious about their children’s choices in entertainment and friends. They realize that entertainment (which is unrealistic and exaggerated) can shape a child’s sexual tastes and attractions from a young age or cause their sexual appetite to rage uncontrollably.

Unless a father is present with his kids and regularly spends focused time with them teaching them what qualities to look for and to avoid in a friend, he may unknowingly be throwing his kids to the wolves of bad company.

The murky waters of friends and entertainment can be difficult for kids to navigate without a father’s daily wisdom and direction. 

A father that honors the Lord in his parenting takes God’s call on his life to train up the next generation very seriously. He cares too much about his children to let them be swayed by the world or influenced by the majority who mock their convictions and consider them foolish.

Modeling Bad Behaviors and Attitudes

Children look to their father for an example of what they should grow up to be like. They cannot live by the motto, “Do as I say, not as I do,” because the fact in life is, “More is caught than taught.” A dad hurts his influence and credibility in the eyes of his children if he barks out orders and holds his children to a standard that he does not live up to himself.

Kids will adopt what is modeled to them about how they should deal with (or ignore) life’s unpleasant circumstances or relationship troubles, and even how to steward their time, talents, resources, and health.

Related: Failure–The Making of a Mentor

Does a father treat his wife with respect? Is he generous toward others with his time and money? Does he give a tithe? Does he cheat on his taxes? Does he talk badly about people behind their backs? Does he exude pride and immaturity in his dealings with others? Does he cut people off when driving or not wait his turn in line at the grocery store? Such questions are worth considering when a man realizes that his kids are watching and will emulate what they see in him, for better or ill.

Removing God From His Rightful Place

Teaching God’s truth to your children will shape their character and determine their destiny. –Elizabeth George

Kids learn by example. If they see their father reading God’s word, praying down on his knees, attending church weekly, and studying the Bible, they will grow up having seen what a commitment to God looks like and why it’s imperative to pattern their own lives after that.

You can’t give what you don’t possess, and a child who grows up in a home without learning what it means to serve God on a daily basis lacks the know-how to give God the top priority of his life, and may not even see the need to.

I have to be intentional. There’s just too much turbulence out there to rely on autopilot. I can’t afford to drift from one day to the next, one decision to the next, one assignment to the next, and expect to be successful. I will fail, or at the very least under-deliver–as a husband, dad, and friend–if I’m always in reactive mode. If my life is to have a purpose, then I must live it purposefully. –Dennis Rainey

Fathers, we know you don’t want to let your children go astray. You want the best for them. To get there, you must take the initiative yourselves. You have been ordained by God as a leader. The Bible is full of practical advice for fathers to live by so that their children become godly and productive members of society and have healthy minds. Healthy minds lead to healthy actions, which lead to healthy lives, which lead to a healthy world.


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