It’s impossible to watch your children at ALL times. Nor is it even healthy. At some point you have to start to trust them… and teach them responsibility. And yet, we have our healthy fears for their safety. We live in a dangerous world!
I grew up in a family with multiple kids, so we had a fun numbering system. If all the kids were not in sight, but were in ear-shot, one parent could just call out, “One!” and one by one, in birth order we’d chime out, “Two!” – “Three!” – “Four” – until we were all accounted for and then the other parent would end the count concluding the operation. If a number wasn’t called, we all could begin to search for the missing child! Since I only have one child, I simple call out, “Luke, say hi” and listen for a “Hi, Dad” from around a corner or over a display, and know my little boy is still nearby if he has left my immediate line of sight for a moment.
But keeping focused on our kids involves a lot more than knowing where they are physically. It has to do with knowing where they are in others areas of their development as well. Keeping them safe from physical harm is certainly important – but they can be safe in your home, and their heart can be miles away if you’ve not worked to keep in touch with where they are in their relationships with their friends, peers, siblings, teachers, classmates… and yes, YOU.
When is the last time you asked, “How’s it going?” and actually took the time to listen to the long answer? Don’t settle for the pat, “fine” or “O.K.” Focused conversations take time and need to be earned through repeated attempts and by listening without correcting, judging or launching into unwanted advice.
The Bible offers some pretty good advice:
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
– Colossians 4:2
Start out by praying for your kid. Ask God to give you the wisdom to be watchful – to SEE things that might concern you. Ask Him to help you to be watchful for things things that you might want to ask about. Notice I said, “ask about,” not lecture about! But God also is quick to point out that you also need to be thankful! Your kid is still growing up, so don’t expect perfection – give them time to figure things out. Remember the old bumper sticker? “Please be patient, God isn’t finished with me yet.” Be sure to notice all the GOOD things, and mention them to your kids – compliment them! Too often, they think all you notice is the bad stuff. It is said that negative comments are heard seven times louder, so you have to say seven times more positive things for every negative thing you say just to make it even! Even more, if you want to be considered more positive than negative! You might have some work to do, huh?
The Focused Dad is not just concerned with surviving each day and making sure his kid(s) get their responsibilities done – he is carefully watching to see where and how he can be used as a refining tool in his kid’s life. Gently, but intentionally. He wants to be a guide for his children. He wants to be coach and a mentor in his children’s lives rather than just a corrector or bringer of discipline when they mess up. This requires focus. At the end of a work day, this can be hard. But years from now – a Focused Dad is a dad kids are going to honor and thank. For they are going to be better off because you made the effort.
Study your kids character and ask yourself – how can I help mold them, not just scold them? That is what a focused dad does.