It’s true that we are the most influential people in our children’s lives. It’s also true that we tend to treat strangers with more kindness than our own families because it’s impossible to keep our “nice” masks on for long at home. These two facts lead to a third truth: Our children’s negative perceptions of God are shaped by our behavior toward them.
How many times have I heard people say they don’t pray because they think God is too busy with “important things”? How many times have I skipped prayer because I felt like my own interests didn’t matter much in the “grand scheme of things”? Where in the world do we learn to believe these lies if not from our parents? And where will my own children learn it if not from me?
You have twenty-four hours in your day. On average you sleep 7.7 hours, work 8.8 hours, and spend 6.3 hours doing all sorts of other activities. This leaves 1.2 hours (or 72 minutes) to care for your children. Of course, these 72 minutes are time women spend caring for their children. Men spend only 26 minutes of each day providing the same kinds of care. In fact, fathers spend only five minutes of meaningful time with their children on a daily basis. Five minutes.
When I was working back in Seattle I really only had two hours of each workday to spend with my kids: 6pm to 8pm. This was the gap between when I got home from work and when my kids went to bed. You’d think two hours would go a long way, but you know how it is: You get home and you want to relax, get changed, maybe take a shower to wash work off of you, cook dinner, eat dinner…and before you know it, it’s 8pm and the kids are off to bed.
I know the kind of Dad I want to be, and I know the kind of God I want my children to know. Below is a list of things my wife and I do to “create” time to spend with our kids. Not all of them will be relevant to you, but with a little tweaking I believe they can help you positively model God to your children:
- Three words: Daddy-Daughter (or Mommy-Son) Dates. My oldest daughter and I go on one “date night” every month. She looks forward to it more than any other day of the month
- We canceled cable TV
- I limit my hobbies. Do I deserve that time? Sure. But my kids deserve it even more
- We limit after-school events. Say what you want, but my kids and I won’t ever be run ragged driving from school to ballet to Girl Scouts with dinner crammed in between
- We eat dinner together nearly every night. At home. 99% of the time my wife or I cook. If you want to miss dinner at our house, you better have a good reason
- I play with dolls. Or trains. Or color in coloring books. Whatever it takes. Because my kids’ idea of quality time does not include reading the latest financial news
How do you want your kids to pray 20 years from now? Do you want them to send up a desperate, “If you’re there…” kind of prayer, or do you want them praying confidently, “Father, I thank you that you hear me…”? It’s your responsibility, and I’m guessing you’ve got some tough choices ahead of you. Good luck!
How do you spend quality time with your kids?