The Four Gifts a Dad Should Give
by Bryan Loritts
What does it look like to let loose on our society’s well-fathered children who live out the purposes of God for their moment in history? You and I must give our daughters and sons four gifts: Relationship. Integrity. Teaching. Experiences. Or to make it simple, this is what it means to parent RITE.
To parent RITE does not guarantee great, God-fearing kids. So if your children don’t turn out exactly as you had hoped, please don’t ask for your money back! As my father loves to say, parents tend to take too much credit when their kids turn out “good” and too much blame when they don’t. We can’t manufacture good or great kids. Yet just like good eating habits make long life possible, so parenting RITE enhances the probability that our children will hit the targets God has intended for them.
The first gift a dad must give his children is the gift of relationships. We cannot lead effectively those we are not connected to intimately. Healthy relationships demand presence, grace, and time. There is not a single page on the mental scrapbook of my childhood where I felt Dad’s absence. I see him on the banks of Georgia lakes fishing with me. There he is through rearview mirrors smiling. And he’s down the third-base line, just outside the fence, loosened tie and rolled-up sleeves glistening in the southern humidity cheering me on. Dad was there. One can never gift relationship without presence. Dad was present.
Great fathers give their kids the gift of integrity. More than listening to what we say, our children will watch what we do. When actions and words become one, we call that integrity. My father never made a promise to me he did not keep. The more I think about it, Dad didn’t make too many promises. His word was so good, phrases like “You can trust me,” “I promise you,” or “I’m serious this time,” were unnecessary. If Dad said it, he did it. Crawford Loritts was a man of integrity.
But what exactly does integrity mean? If I had to define the term, I would say integrity is the alignment of words with deeds. Or, to say it more succinctly, integrity means we do what we say. Transformative leadership happens when a person embodies the ideals and values they seek to pass on to those who follow them. While integrity may seem to mean less and less in certain sectors of our society, in our homes it’s a matter of life and death.
Great dads gift their children with a kind of upright teaching that prepares them to meet the challenges of life and walk in their God-ordained purpose. Doing this well necessitates vision and intentionality. Fathers are the tenured professors of their homes. Our children will graduate with a degree in either manhood or what to expect from a man with just about all of the classes taught by Dr. Dad. They are watching our work ethic, how we relate to women, how we handle money, how we deal with conflict, and a whole host of other things we do. When our kids graduate from our homes, they will either copy and paste the lessons learned from us or make up their minds to go in the opposite direction. I have friends who refuse to touch alcohol because of what it did to their father. I also know of men who treat women in a condescending way, a way they learned from their father. To be a dad is to be in a perpetual state of teaching.
Great fathers place a premium on giving their children the RITE kind of experiences over gifts. Things wear out and expire. Experiences endure, marking us forever. Experience matters. All experiences shape us—good ones and bad ones. When Dad would get agitated with us because of some poor decision we made, he would often quip, “Experience isn’t always the best teacher, but it is the only school the fool will attend.” In context, he was saying that some people will learn only the hard way, through negative experiences. In the Bible, the book of Proverbs alludes to this when the writers says that “the way of transgressors is hard” (Prov. 13:15 KJV). Dads, our kids are a lot more resilient than we think. Sadly, neither we nor our children will discover this well of resiliency if we don’t put them in positions where they have to dig deep to find it.
Dads who father RITE, from a gospel undercurrent, teach their children to put gospel distance between who they are and their report cards, stat sheets, and social media followers. And dads who father RITE will mark their kids not just for this life, but for the life to come.
Excerpted from The Dad Difference: The 4 Most Important Gifts You Can Give to Your Kids by Bryan Loritts (Moody Publishers, June 2020).
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