By Whitney Hopler, Crosswalk.com
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of John Fuller with Paul Batura's book, First-Time Dad: The Stuff You Really Need to Know, (Moody Publishers, 2011).
When you become a father for the first time, your life changes in significant ways. All those changes can feel overwhelming, but if you rely on God’s help to navigate them, you can experience the joy He intends for you as you adjust to life with your new child.
Here’s how you can get off to a great start parenting your first child:
Consider your expectations. Spend some time with your wife and some veteran parents you admire discussing what you expect fatherhood to be like, and why. Talk about your relationship with your own father and how that has influenced your expectations of what fatherhood will be like. Ask God to help you identify whatever unrealistic expectations you may have.
Tackle your fears. Be honest with God about the fears you have about becoming a dad. After expressing your fears in prayer, ask God to give you the faith you need to move forward with confidence and the strength you need to be the kind of father your new child needs.
Commit to being an active dad. Recognize how crucial it is for you to be actively engage in your child’s life. The task God has given you of raising your son or daughter to become the person God wants him or her to become is a monumental one, especially while living in a culture that discounts the importance of fathers. Get to know the alarming statistics that reveal how children who grow up without active fathers in their lives are dramatically more likely to get involved in dangerous behaviors, like getting poor grades in school, abusing alcohol or drugs, having premarital sex, committing crimes, and even committing suicide. Commit before God that you’ll do whatever you can to stay actively engage in your child’s life as he or she grows up.
Change your schedule to make time with your child a top priority. Your child needs you to be present with him or her as much as possible to develop in healthy ways. Also, spending lots of time with your child is the best way to communicate your love to him or her, since time is what children want most from their parents. Realize, too, that your wife needs your help during this demanding season of caring for a new child. So examine your motives for spending time away from home, whether it’s for work or a hobby like playing golf. If you see that you’re spending too much time away from home (perhaps to escape some of the intense demands of new fatherhood), pray for the help you need to focus your time and energy more toward home. Be willing to take a pay cut to move to a less-demanding job, give up a hobby for a while, or whatever else you have to do to make time to spend with your new child. Take advantage parent-child bonding times like bedtime and mealtimes to give your new extra attention.
Seek healing for unhealthy baggage from your past. Ask God to make you aware of unhealthy attitudes and behaviors you’ve taken on from your past experiences. Figure out what issues you need to work on. Then address each one specifically, working to change to become a healthier person for your child. Seek help from a professional counselor or support group, such as a small group at your church.
Keep investing in your marriage. Accept the reality that your relationship with your wife will change as she adjusts to motherhood. You and she both may be so tired from caring for your child that you all begin to neglect your marriage. But it’s vital to invest time and energy into your marriage now to keep it strong to endure all the new demands that parenthood puts on it. Work together to figure out a schedule that allows both of you to get adequate sleep and time to have some fun together regularly to release some of the stress of parenting demands. Make time to talk with your wife often about issues that concern her. Commit to treating your wife with kindness no matter how stressed you feel. Do whatever you can to help out with childcare and household chores so she can continue to pursue some personal goals and not be swallowed up by domestic demands.
Adjust your parenting to your unique child. There are no one-size-fits all parenting styles. Get to know your new child’s personality well, and ask God to give you the wisdom you need to develop a parenting style that will be effective for your child distinctively.
Teach your child how to succeed from God’s perspective. True success isn’t a list of accomplishments like good grades or sports trophies. Success, in God’s eyes, is developing good character, healthy curiosity, and common sense. So focus on teaching those qualities to your child.
Connect with your child’s heart. Your child needs an emotionally warm relationship with you to be motivated to follow the rules you set for him or her. So spend lots of time talking with your child and enjoying fun activities together. Also, be sure to apologize whenever you hurt your child emotionally, so anger doesn’t fester in his or her heart and lead to bitterness that can poison your relationship.
Teach your child about Jesus and help him or her grow spiritually. You must be intentional about teaching biblical values and modeling a dynamic relationship with Jesus to your child, or the culture will simply fill the void and your child will learn a hodgepodge of information about God that may not reflect the truth. So don’t leave your child’s spiritual training to chance. Join a church and actively participate in it, read Bible stories to your child, pray together, and make your own relationship with Jesus your highest priority so you can be the kind of role model your child needs.
Adapted from First-Time Dad: The Stuff You Really Need to Know, copyright 2011 by John Fuller with Paul Batura. Published by Moody Publishers, Chicago, Ill., www.moodypublishers.com.
John Fuller is vice president of Audio and New Media at Focus on the Family and co-host of the daily “Focus on the Family” broadcast. He leads the team that produces more than a dozen Focus programs reaching millions of listeners around the world. Many of these features and podcasts are also available at www.focusonthefamily.com.A media veteran of more than 30 years, John writes and speaks about creativity, media trends, influential leadership, excellence, and social media. As a father of six, he writes and speaks about strong marriages and effective parenting. John and his wife Dena are also advocates for orphan care and adoption. John has a M.A. from the University of Northern Colorado, and serves an elected member of the board of the National Religious Broadcasters.
Paul Baturaserves as senior writer for Focus on the Family President Jim Daly. He is the author of Good Day! The Paul Harvey Story, the bestselling biography of ABC's legendary newsman, Mentored by the King: Arnold Palmer's Success Lessons For Golf, Business and Lifeand Gadzooks! The Highly Practical Life and Leadership Principles of Dr. James Dobson. Paul also runs a full-service writing shop designed to provide articulate, creative and spirit-filled material for corporations, organizations, celebrities, politicians and other professional entities. A veteran of 63 marathons, he now lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with his wife Julie and their two sons Riley Hamilton and Will Connolly. Visit www.PaulBatura.com.
Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles (http://angels.about.com/). Contact Whitney at: [email protected]to send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience.