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The old saying, “Kids don’t come with instructions” is so true. One day you and your wife are carefree, going and doing what you want when you want. Then a baby is born, and you have a third person added to the equation.

Now life revolves around eating schedules, nap times, and doctor appointments. How do you feed this new person? How do you hold them? How do you change a diaper? As they get older it can get complicated. What will you allow them to watch on TV? When should they have a phone? How much sports participation is too much?

One of the biggest responsibilities of being a dad is being an example of true manhood for both your sons and daughters. Good examples of Christian manhood are not found on TV or movies.

The best example of Christian manhood is found right in your own home. Scary as it sounds you as a dad are the best at exemplifying Christian manhood. Your kids know you, trust you and look to you for security. It can be hard because sometimes we must admit we don’t do such a good job. But kids are resilient – they have such a built-in boundless love and joyful expectation of dad, they can overlook our flaws.

Love your spouse and show it in front of your kids.

Hold hands, open doors, hug and kiss – yes, the “yucky” stuff that boys turn away from. Show true love between you and your spouse. There are no classes your children will take that teach this – it is caught by seeing how dad treats mom. Boys learn how a real man treats a woman. Girls learn how a husband cherishes and cares for his wife. Kids see and hear so much false information about what love is. Show them by the way you treat your wife what real, deep, lasting, faithful love is.

Be consistent in the way you live.

Kids are watching all the time. If you are not honest with money, they will learn not to be honest. If you are not trustworthy, they will not learn to trust or be a person others can trust. If you break promises, they will learn it’s okay to not be a promise keeper. If you use foul language, they will too. If you say one thing and do another, they will follow your example as they get older – they learn from watching and listening to you! Strive to be as consistent as you can in all areas of life. Being consistent builds a sense of security.

Love your kids with no strings attached.

Real love seeks to build up, to listen, is built on trust, and is not conditional. Conditional love says, “I’ll love you if”, not “I love you no matter what.” Strings could be, “I’ll love you if you make good grades.”, “I’ll love you if you choose the right college.” I’ll love you if you follow in my footsteps in choosing a vocation.” You may not say it in those words, but kids see learn to know the strings are there. Kids need to know that you will love them unconditionally when they fail, when they disobey and when they don’t make the team. That’s the way God loves you – model His unconditional love in the way you show love to your children.

Don’t major on the minors.

Hairstyles will change, clothing styles come and go, music is always changing. Don’t’ let the things that won’t make a long-term difference cause resentment in your kids.  One day they will look at the pictures and say “Oh, man, look at my hair.” Or “Wow I can’t believe I wore those clothes.” Majoring on the minors can break a child’s spirit, cause resentment and break close fellowship with the parent. Decide what the “minors” will be and just know – this too shall pass.

Serve others and bring your kids along.

Take your kids to a food bank to pack boxes. Let them come with you to deliver Christmas gifts to those in need. Let them go with you to help an elderly person. If you have a chance to do a family mission trip, that can go along way in helping your children see you in a different way. If they serve alongside you, your relationship is strengthened, they learn the joy of serving, and that can set a lifelong pattern of serving others.

Be an example of true manhood and one day around the Thanksgiving table, you will hear your kids say, “remember how surprised the store clerk was the time you returned the 20 dollars she mistakenly gave you back in the change? ” or “I appreciated you and mom taking us on that mission trip to . . .” or “ I can’t believe you let me . . .” You will laugh and you will remember how these 5 little things you did made a huge difference and how letting the minor things slide made the major things easier to handle – for everyone.

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About the Author: John Garner is the Connections Pastor at ClearView Baptist Church.