By Steve Farrar, Crosswalk.com
The command to fathers in Ephesians 6:4 is to “bring them up.” The word translated as “bring them up” means “to nourish, to provide for with tender care.” Tenderness is sensitivity toward others.
Masculine men are tender men. This does not mean they cease being strong with their children; it just means there is a tender side to their strength.
Children can quickly become embittered toward fathers when tenderness is missing. Allow me to let you in on a secret: it’s easier for me to define tenderness than to practice it. This is a weakness of mine. Some people are tender by personality and temperament. I am not. It’s something I’ve spent a lifetime learning how to overcome, because if I allow it to go unchecked, I may end up embittering my children. And now I have grandchildren. I can’t give myself permission to ignore this as I get older, and neither can you. That’s why I work on it every day of my life. Unfortunately, as a father, I know I’m not alone in this weakness, so let’s take a closer look at it.
Tenderness has different facets, like a carefully cut diamond. If you look at tenderness from one angle, you’ll see sympathy. From another, you’ll notice compassion. Tenderness also carries the postures of responsiveness, warmth, and kindness.
Our children need to feel these things from us (from our wives too). It is especially important that fathers be tender toward their daughters. A man who does not convey acceptance, warmth, tenderness, and compassion can easily embitter his daughter. If a young girl has a warm, loving, and tender relationship with her father, she will not bring into marriage the deeply embedded feelings of alienation that afflict young women without such dads. She will intuitively expect her husband to treat her in a tender way, just as her father treated her. She will look to marry a man with the same positive, tender characteristics she enjoyed with her father.
Let me suggest five tips that can help a man develop tenderness with his children:
1. Listen to them and respect their feelings.
Children need to feel that you are the kind of father who stops and listens. You want your kids to come to you about the concerns of their hearts rather than turning to their peers, who are as confused as they are.
2. If you have been wrong or too harsh with them, clearly confess and admit your wrongdoing and ask their forgiveness.
Don’t make excuses; make a confession. As Corrie ten Boom is credited with saying, “The blood of Jesus never cleansed an excuse.” Don’t say, “I’m sorry if I was wrong”; say, “I was wrong. It was my fault.” Spell it out with a repentant heart, and they will respect you and grow in their love for you.
Although it happened many years ago, I still remember blowing up at my then ten-year-old daughter, Rachel, just before bedtime. Actually, I blew up about forty-five minutes after she was supposed to be in bed. It had been a long day, and I was extremely tired. For some reason, she kept lingering and hovering around the house. I wanted peace and quiet. Finally, Mount Saint Helens blew. I’m sure the neighbors wondered what had so angered me. I told Rachel that she had fifteen seconds to be in bed—I repeated, in her bed.
She went to bed crying as the hot lava of my wrath pursued her up the stairs. After I came back down, Mary told me there were several good reasons she had been up. Some special event was to take place at school the next morning, and Rachel was getting ready for it. She wasn’t lingering; she was preparing.
I felt like a real jerk. If I had bothered to ask Rachel what was going on, I could have discovered that for myself. But I didn’t. I just vented on her. I made my way back up the stairs (careful not to step in the remaining pools of lava) and asked her forgiveness. We prayed together, and I tucked her in and decided the safest place for me was in bed as well. I told Mary I was turning in. But I couldn’t drop off to sleep. My explosion had unsettled me too. I kept thinking of the enormous damage I could inflict on my exquisite ten-year-old daughter without even realizing it. The last thing I wanted to do was crush her delicate spirit. Although we had patched it up and she had forgiven me, I couldn’t get her off my mind.
After an hour or so, I got up, got in the car, and drove down to the twenty-four-hour supermarket. I found a red rose in a nice little vase and a card with a man peering out of a doghouse, and I headed home. I wrote Rachel a note telling her that I really did love her and that I really was wrong. Then I placed the rose and the card on the kitchen table. It was the first thing she saw the next morning when she walked into the kitchen.
I figured that after ruining her evening, the least I could do was make her day. It was worth the late-night trip. Instead of going off to school with memories of the red-hot lava, she could think of her serene red rose . . . and a dad who was genuinely sorry.
3. Listen to the input your wife gives you about each child.
Usually, she is more in tune with their emotional needs than you are. She can be a tremendous resource—but you have to listen to her.
4. Be “high touch” and dispense liberal doses of encouragement to both sons and daughters (and don’t forget your wife while you’re at it).
You can never be too encouraging. I don’t say that lightly. Author John Trent calls this “the blessing.” Give your kids verbal encouragement every time you turn around. It will nourish them and give them life.
5. Consider their temperaments.
I have more to say about this later in Point Man, but some children, by their very temperaments, require an extra dose of tenderness from their fathers.
Excerpted from Point Man, Revised and Updated by Steve Farrar. Copyright © 2022 by Steve Farrar. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Steve Farrar was the author of numerous books for men, including the bestselling Point Man: How a Man Can Lead His Family, Revised and Updated, from which the above excerpt was taken. He also wrote the books Finishing Strong, Battle Ready, and King Me. The founder and chairman of Men’s Leadership Ministries, he and his wife, Mary, raised three children in suburban Dallas, Texas. Steve Farrar died in 2022.