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Rod and his wife, Janna, have been married almost 21 years and they have four children, Brooke (21), Derek (19), Jake (18) and Trent (14) and reside in Lee's Summit, Missouri.

Successful Dad To-Do List

For nearly 22 years, I’ve had the privilege of being called Dad and just a few days ago, my third (of four) child graduated from high school.

Rod Handley

Rod Handley

As a young dad, I was told, the time will fly by and it is true. I can vividly remember like it was yesterday coming home from the hospital holding each of my children like a football in one arm and now, my wife and I are very close to becoming empty nesters.

My responsibilities as a dad will never end in the years to come, but certainly having them under my roof 24/7 is coming to a screeching halt.

My 20-plus years as a dad has been a life changing experience. There are countless lessons and memories, some of which I will cherish forever and others I would like to forget. I have made my share of mistakes, and I have succeeded from time to time as well.

A wise person once stated, you can learn a lot by looking. From my perspective looking back, here is my top 10 recommendation list for dads:

#10 Laugh Frequently: Life is too short to be so serious. Create memorable moments by initiating laughter in your home. Laughter and a joyful heart is good medicine for the soul (Proverbs 17:22). As I look through old photo albums and homemade videos, I’m reminded of many humorous events over the last 20 years. As a dad, set the atmosphere and mood of your home where laughter is welcome. Let me encourage you to look for opportunities to laugh at yourself and with your family.

#9 Connect With Others: People were never meant to walk solo in this life. My wife and I worked hard in our home stressing that family relationships were priority so our kids grew up knowing we had an expectation they would be each other’s best friend. We also recognized the importance of them connecting with adults as well as kids their own age. There are several families who became surrogate parents to our kids and we did the same for their children. These relationships shaped and strengthened our kids. I’m grateful for the power of relationships.

#8 Continue to Romance Your Wife: Too often, shortly after being married and having kids, many men stop pursuing their wife romantically. One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is for them to see you loving and romancing your wife deeply. While this will take work and effort, it will be well worth it. Children flourish and grow when they see mom and dad caring for each other. It is very tough on children to see their parents bickering, arguing and fighting. At the end of the day, they need to know you and mom are committed to one another both in words and deeds.

#7 Take Advantage of Teachable Moments: Pretty much every day there are multiple opportunities to teach and train your kids. One of my dear friends told me every time he gets into the car with one of his kids, he keeps his eyes and ears open seeking a way to share an important life lesson. While it may take some work, you can draw upon both positive and negative experiences to speak life into your kids. Let me encourage you to even discuss difficult and messy situations with them because the learning opportunities are great.

#6 Cherish the Time: I will admit there have been times when I wanted to strangle my kids and I couldn’t wait for them to grow up and go away. Today, I’m singing a whole different tune. Rather than having this attitude, I wish I would have enjoyed more fully the simple moments of just being together. I recently was with a dad who years ago demanded his kids be in competitive sports during their pre-teen and teenage years. He confided to me, I wish we would have taken more vacations during those years. He will never be able to regain time that was lost.

#5 Let Your Children Pursue Their Dreams and Passions: One of the greatest things a dad can do for their child is to help them achieve their God-given potential. Rather than forcing your agenda on your kid, help them discover and develop into the unique person God has created them to be. Many fathers live vicariously through their children wanting them to excel and achieve in their interest areas. Helpful dads encourage their kids to pursue their own dreams.

#4 Speak Positive and Encouraging Words: Proverbs 18:21 says, death and life are in the power of the tongue. Our words can make or break our kids. Before speaking, evaluate not only the words you are about to speak but also the tone of voice you will have in delivering those words. I have subscribed to what is known by many as the Magic Ratio which states we need to have five positive messages for a single negative message. This 5:1 ratio will allow your kids to mature and develop fully.

#3 Listen Closely: There is a reason God gave us two ears and one mouth. It is so easy to get on our personal soap box and start preaching a sermonette. Stephen Covey stated in his “Principles of Highly Successful People” to, “Seek to understand, before you are understood.” The principle here is to closely listen to your kids and hear them out before you give your opinions or thoughts. Some of the most profound lessons I have learned is by closely listening.

#2 Make Sure They Know They Are Loved: Scripture reminds us: “Love covers a multitude of sins.” Make sure your kids know you love them no matter if they succeed or fail. Your love for them is not based on their performance. You love them unconditionally because they are yours. While you can certainly be demanding and at times even be tough, it is imperative they know your love for them is unfailing. To love effectively, it is also important you know their specific love language (words of affirmation; quality time; acts of service; gift giving; and/or touch) and to extend forgiveness regularly.

#1 Devote Yourself to Christ: Leading your family spiritually has to be your top priority. The only way to lead as a dad is to make sure you are personally committed to Christ. A man who is devoted to Christ and committed to following the Scriptures, is prepared to successfully lead. This means you strive daily to study and memorize God’s Word, pray and actively be part of a local church or parish. Great dads have a dynamic, growing relationship with Christ.

Rod Handley is the Founder & President of Character that Counts, a ministry he established 15 years ago. He and his wife Janna have been married 23 years and they have four children (ages 21, 20, 18 and 14). For more information, visit: www.characterthatcounts.org )

— By Rod Handley | Character That Counts