Monday, January 6, 2014


From Stephen:

Ok dads, who's in the mood for some more gift giving? To catch up with us, check out Part 1 when you have a moment. Let's start the year off with bang, and this next gift for your kids is a huge one, especially important in the current prevailing gender-neutral cultural atmosphere.

3. Take Your Leadership & Authority Role in Your Family

Surveys have shown that many men feel inadequate in their fathering role. Some have expressed that they even feel as if they were an impostor, having to pretend to be someone they are not. This feeling of inadequacy can impair your impact and effectiveness as a father to your children, adopted or biological. In one survey, only 1/3 of fathers "strongly agreed" that they had the necessary knowledge & skills to be a good father. This goes to the foundational questions that we (men & boys) all have: "Do I have what it takes?" In this case, do I have what it takes to really be a good father to these children living in my home? 

The answer, of course, is a resounding YES!

When you adopted your children or when your wife gave birth, God placed a mantle of authority on your life to be their father, to lead them, to guide them, to comfort them and to provide for them. He called you to this place, and those He calls, He equips. He will not leave you stranded or on your own to live out this role of father, but from the riches of heaven He will pour out all you need for every child in every different circumstance, because He has called you to this role. He, Father God Himself, has placed this mantle of authority and leadership on your life, whether you feel adequate or not. In fact, if you are feeling a bit weak and inadequate, you're not in a bad spot...
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

The wonderful thing about God is that He uses us as we are, in all our strengths and weaknesses. When we speak of taking the role of leadership and authority in your family, some may have the idea that they are now going to have to become a larger-than-life, commanding figure. Not at all! This mantle of God-given authority is for all personality types and all types of people, from the quiet deferential type who is more likely to follow rather that lead, to the decisive, high leadership gifting type who can naturally lead a crowd. If you are more naturally a follower than a leader, that's just fine-- God will use you in your own skin to lead your family. You don't have to have all the answers or all the ideas for your family--that's one of the reasons God gave us marriage. Your wife may have more natural leadership gifting or more creative ideas, and that's great. Get together, talk out the plan for your kids and for your family, but do not abdicate your authority and leadership role to your wife. You must step into this fatherly role, for if you shrink back and force your wife into it, it will create endless frustration for her and then in turn for you and your family. 
Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)

4. Get Into Their World and Develop Deep Relationships

As fathers, we typically have many competing pressures for our time and attention. We have our wives, our work, our involvement at church, our own interests, hobbies or sport, not to mention those little people, our children. Depending on the season of life you are in and your own personality and temperament, it can be challenging to find to find enough time to invest in your children's lives on a daily basis. For all children, especially our adopted children, a true, deep, and connected relationship with their father has a tremendous impact on their lives and understanding of who they really are. 

Many adopted children struggle with identity issues.They struggle with the question, "Who am I really?" Parents have an amazing influence and ability to help define who their children are. Fathers, especially, have the power to define and validate their child. Moms are most often the place of mercy and tenderness and they are often where our kids run  with physical or emotional hurts, whereas Dads are often the font of validation for their children. Now these roles are shared with you and your wife, but don't ever underestimate the power you have as a father to define and validate who your child is. It goes back to the mantle of authority God gave us when He called us to adopt. By getting into your child's world and developing a deep relationship with him or her, you open wide the door of positive influence and impact you have on your child's life.

Having seven children, I've found that with some of my kids I instantly and naturally connect with them, while with some, especially during some seasons of their life, I've had to be more intentional at making and maintaining those deep connections. I think that's pretty normal, so don't be discouraged if at times you feel like you're not really connecting with your child. Keep pressing in, and ask The Lord for new and creative ways to connect.

By having those real relationships with your children, you can answer the foundational question that your son and daughter have. For our daughters, 
Am I worth fighting for? Do you see me?Do you think I'm lovely?
And for our sons,
Do I have what it takes?Am I strong enough, powerful enough, smart enough?
In truly connected relationships, we dads find a thousand ways to answer these foundational questions in a positive and encouraging manner.

Let's Get Practical:

For some of us, and for some of our children, these relationships will happen so naturally without any apparent work on our part, but for others it may seem like a lot of work. So let's talk about a few practical suggestions. I'm sure you'll come up with many more and we'd appreciate you sharing them with us in the comments. 

For our girls, pursue her heart. What does she love? What interests her? Go there! If she loves to play pretend, then pretend with the best of them. Have a pretend tea party, play pretend house, go on walks and tell her great pretend stories full of pretend characters who have new adventures each day. One such character that my girls still talk about is Racilla, the garden fairy that made her home in the foxglove flowers and went on grand adventures. 

As they get older, take them on a Date with Daddy. Make it special. We dads want to model how a real man acts so that when they are older, they won't be fooled by some joker. 

Go to their events, not just the performances or games, but find a way to take them to and perhaps even be involved in the practices and rehearsals. 

And all the while, in subtle and direct ways, repeatedly answer her foundational question with, "Yes, my daughter, you are lovely and wonderful, and I'd go a thousand miles to see you!"

Also for our sons, get into their world. Look for your son's interests and engage him there. Is it sports, chess, music, outdoor adventures? Make intentional efforts to spend time with him and connect with him. Think back about your relationship with your father--what did you crave from him? How did you two connect? You can certainly start with some of those activities. For me, I loved it when my dad would ask me if I wanted to go throw the football with him. He'd throw me long bombs, and I'd do my best to catch them. Sometimes he'd pretend we were in a real football game and he'd be throwing me the game winning pass and we'd celebrate together if I caught it. He'd also always come to my swim meets. I have a distinct memory of seeing him on the side of the pool, realizing he had taken time off work to see my mid-afternoon race. It reinforced that he was for me and loved to see me succeed. 

Some of the connection points I've had with my sons include weekends away just with dad, one son at a time. For me and for them, those one-on-one weekends have brought great memories and great connection points. All our boys played baseball when they were young, and we'd all enjoy playing catch and batting after dinner in the summer. 

It's great to "catch" your son doing well and affirm him in his success. As with your daughter, look for hundreds of ways to tell him, "Yes, son you do have what it takes!"

Appropriate physical touch is also huge in developing your relationship with your children. I remember spending lots of time wrestling with my newly adopted son. He loved challenging dad, and that physical touch was very helpful in connecting with him. One of my favorite games as a dad was jumping on top of my sons to get them out of bed when they were major sleepy heads. They protested, but loved every minute of it. Regular, appropriate hugs and kisses for your daughters are so great for them and for you. Snuggling with them in front of the fire, tv, and especially for a bedtime story is invaluable.

As fathers, we have to invest time in our relationships with our children, biological and adopted. And I guarantee that all the time you spend with your children will pay off in great dividends, because you will have one of the most valuable things there is, a fantastic relationship with your child that will bring you both great happiness and satisfaction.

Stay tuned for more gift ideas as Stephen completes his list in the next few posts. Ready to read Part 3?

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1 comment:

  1. Please will you direct me to where you may have already addressed this question, or answer me if you haven't. We have 2 new foster sons, and 6 bio children. Our eldest is 17, and the foster baby 8 mths. We have been anticipating adding to our family through adoption/fostering for 10+ years. One thing I never anticipated is not finding a child physically attractive, and how I would deal with that. I cannot see beauty in the eldest foster boy (3). I have been praying every day for the 4 weeks we've had them that God would open my eyes to the beauty he put in him, but I cannot see it. If anything he's getting uglier in my eyes (hand over mouth, did I really say that outloud? yes, because I need help!). I've been praying for His grace to parent this child, but it doesn't feel like it has come. I have been praying for God's heart for him, but I know I do not have it. I have been praying for compassion and understanding and patience, but they are not there. The baby is physically attractive to me, and I have grace and warmth and nurturing for him. I am concerned that if I cannot see a child's beauty that I am not the right mother for him. we can still say no to the placement which would be a permanent one. thanks for your help and perspective.