Write a few words in a card … check.
Eat meals together … check.
Buy him a new shirt … check.
Do your kids run a similar checklist through their heads each time Father’s Day circles round? How about giving them some creative ideas for how they can honor their father?
As far as influencing children about their father, mothers hold an unequaled voice. Proverbs 1:8 says, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching,” affirming the influential role mothers possess. And Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:2 that we should teach children to “‘Honor your father and mother.’” With Father’s Day coming up, consider suggesting to your kids a few practical ways to display honor to their father.
Here are 10 ideas to get you started, with appropriate ages assigned to each:
- Obey your father (age 3 and up).
Your kids’ obedience can be the highlight of their dad’s day. Disobedience, on the other hand, can weigh it down like a sand bag.
When I was about 10 years old, my family enjoyed a special day out together. The four of us were driving home and, despite my parents’ repeated requests, my sister and I would not quit bickering. Our disobedience crossed the line and scored us a substantial consequence. The air was thick with emotions, and sadly, this is the only part I remember about that day.
Kids will be kids—they can’t help it. But kids also have the God-given ability to obey if you present clear expectations. Christ daily displayed an allegiance to His Father, obeying Him even to the point of death (Philippians 2:8).
Mothers, you occupy the prime position to encourage your children to obey their father, despite his failures. You may be surprised how a respite from dealing with disobedience can honor him.
- Replace complaints with praise (age 4 and up).
A child’s nagging and whining can sap everyone’s capacity to experience the goodness of a moment. As a mother, you know this well.
Since complaints spring from a heart of discontent, consider priming your kids to develop a posture of thankfulness for all their dad does for them. Suggest they think of three things they admire about their dad to tell him on Father’s Day.
Contemplate what a word of esteem, as small as it may be, could do for his spirit. You may not know the impact a few words of thanks can have.
- Start a “Dad journal” (age 5 and up).
Before each Father’s Day, help the kids record any remarkable or even just plain silly things the kids did with Dad over the past year. (I would write about the new dance moves he debuted in our kitchen while listening to Imagine Dragons.) Make a tradition of rewrapping the journal for him to open each year and laughing together as you read each new entry. It will give him something to look forward to every Father’s Day, knowing his kids have captured what meant most to them.
By the time your kids are grown, the journal will be saturated with memories that honor the role he has played as a father. Creating a fun, personal method of capturing memories is perfect for reflecting moments down the road. Priceless.
- Surround him with his favorite things (age 5 and up).
How do parents determine a theme for their child’s birthday parties? Most likely, the theme reflects the child’s favorite movie, activity, or location. We celebrate the child by surrounding him or her with what they enjoy.
Why can’t Father’s Day be the same way? While you don’t need to throw a party, you can create an atmosphere that creatively celebrates who he is.
Turn on his favorite ‘80s tunes and listen as a family. Play his favorite card game after dinner (“Up and Down the River,” anybody?). Make his favorite treat. Simple but meaningful things on Father’s Day can honor the quirks, tastes, and personality God gave him.
- Volunteer service (age 8 and up).
Encourage your kids to honor their father by washing his car without being asked, or by completing one of his household chores.
We see Jesus honoring His disciples when He washed the grime and filth off their callused feet (John 13:5). He truly loved others well, even when it required something of Him. Maybe your kids need a little nudge in the direction of self-sacrifice this Father’s Day.
- Ask him questions (age 10 and up).
I’m guessing your kids already know how to ask questions. Maybe too many!
However, the skill of asking good questions is invaluable. Good questions can make recipients feel valued and interesting, especially when paired with good listening skills. I’ve loved watching my dad light up when he talks about how many hours he played basketball in his backyard or reminisces about the chocolate chip cookies his mom used to make.
Prompt your kids to ask their dad questions like:
- What were your childhood birthday traditions?
- What was your favorite thing to do with your friends growing up?
- Who were the most influential people in your life (aside from your parents)?
- What toys were special to you when you were young?
- Which candy bar was your favorite?
- When did you learn how to play (insert an instrument or sport)?
- What made you fall in love with Mom?
There’s nothing wrong with feeding your children some thoughtful, bite-sized, questions they can ask during a Fathers’ Day meal or as you’re driving in the car.
- Reflect on the past (age 12 and up).
Does their father grow nostalgic at times? Does he reminisce about when his kiddos were just wee ones and fit snuggly in his arms? My own dad often remembers my “rosebud lips” that he loved pinching when I was little. Their father may not express it often, but he probably wishes he could have those sweet, early years back every once in a while.
If your kids are old enough to reflect on the past, encourage them to designate space during Father’s Day to look back on the past together. Sit on the couch and flip through photos and watch home videos. Pull out a board game that once frequented your dinner table. Let your sides ache from laughter and cheeks grow wet with tears.
You might be amazed at how a father is honored by the fact you would reflect with him. It communicates: “I have not forgotten. You were special to me then, and you still are today. I will never be too old to treasure what we have.”
- Extend forgiveness (age 13 and up).
I’m sure you cannot count how many times you’ve told your children to forgive each other. Among many other things, they hit, tattle, lie, and provoke each other, meriting the classic script: “I’m sorry for what I did. Will you forgive me?”
Yet, have your children ever extended forgiveness to their parents? I’m sure they have for trivial things, like when dad was late to pick them up from choir practice or when he ordered the wrong kind of pizza. But what about those deeply seeded offenses that your kids have buried in their hearts? Have they festered to the point of resentment?
Remind your children of the power in forgiveness. Paul entreats us to, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Because Christ has forgiven us of so much, He helps us forgive others in turn. This Father’s Day could turn their relationship 180 degrees through the simple statement: “I forgive you, Dad.”
- Encourage a restored relationship (age 16 and up).
But maybe you feel it’s too late. Perhaps your children never developed a secure relationship with their father. Or something happened to sever it. If this is the case, I want to encourage you to at least think through helping your kids restore their relationship with their dad.
I understand. Maybe this isn’t the appropriate season for restoration. Or maybe you simply see it as an impossibility. But it is also possible that your children need your confidence and support to make the first move toward reconciliation. God is in the business of making broken things whole and old things new. Your family dynamics are not out of His bounds.
A simple phone call on Father’s Day can be an honorable first step.
- Let your kids see you honor your dad (any age).
Lessons about honoring parents are caught just as well as taught.
Have you ever sat down and written a tribute to your father? Consider collecting a list of things you admire about your dad. Even if he hasn’t been the perfect model of fatherhood, can you recall snapshot moments in your youth when you were happy together, or specific things he said that built you up? During your Father’s Day celebration, step up to present it to him in the presence of your family. Honoring him publicly with your words can have a lasting impact on all involved.
(As a guide to help you write a tribute, consider reading The Forgotten Commandment, by Dennis Rainey.)
Your position as a mother is a gift. Use it this Father’s Day. May your children be greatly inspired to honor their father this holiday and over the years.
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