Fathers have an awesome responsibility to their children to “raise them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Ep 6:4) Though fathers are uniquely suited for this work, nurturing and admonishing isn’t easy for men, even in a perfect world.
To nurture is to care for and encourage the growth or development of someone, providing a safe and inviting atmosphere that enables a child to realize all the potential God has designed into them. Admonition is authoritative counsel or warning. At a high level, I think nurturing and admonishing our children involves at least the following:
- Constantly initiating open family discussions about how to align our lives with God (De 6:6-7), sharing life experiences with them and warning them of the dangers of disobedience;
- Giving children freedom to choose when consequences are reasonable, and allowing them to experience the consequences of their choices (2Th 3:10); and
- Asking them penetrating questions, challenging them, and teaching them how to think for themselves. (Mt 18:12)
If we’re content with merely paying the bills and providing a lot of nice things, and we neglect to engage our children spiritually, should we be surprised if we ultimately lose them to the world? If we don’t teach our children how to think, how to make wise decisions, and how to pursue God, who will? But in order to teach these things to our children, we must first learn them ourselves.