Train Up a Child: Dad reflects God to children

By Pat Lamb, Author

Everyone who believes in God has an image in mind of what He is like. The mental image we have of our Heavenly Father is greatly determined by the image we have of our earthly father. Children naturally associate the word “father”. They reason that what one father is like, the other father is probably also like.

If children have a father who has left the family and is not meeting his responsibilities, they are likely to decide that God, the Heavenly Father, cannot be trusted. If they have had trust placed in their dad betrayed, why should they believe that any other father can be trusted?

Children may have an earthly father who has not left the family physically, but who does not meet his responsibilities in the home. This situation can have the same or similar effect of the father who has left the home. They again see an individual who cannot be relied upon.

If dads have unreasonable expectations of children and are too strict with them, children may develop an image of God as a stern taskmaster who will not love them if they make a mistake. If they never seem to please their earthly dad, they may reason that they will never measure up to God’s expectations and simply give up without trying. They may fear punishment from God to the extent that they want to avoid Him.

When dad fails to express verbally his love for his children, they may not believe that God really loves them.

If dad is always “goofing off” and everything is fun and games to him, children may not develop a sense of seriousness about what the Heavenly Father expects from them. Dismissing all actions of children and not holding them accountable for those actions may result in children feeling that God will let them get by with anything

If dad doesn’t think it is important to study the Bible and go to church, the children will probably think that God is not important enough to spend time on and give attention to in worship.

If, however, dad is a godly man who truly loves his children in a scriptural way, children will probably grow up realizing the importance of God in their lives and want to serve and worship Him.

What an awesome responsibility to be a dad! Truly, children not only walk in dad’s footsteps, but they form their lifelong beliefs by dad’s behavior. If we adults truly examine our image of God, we will probably find that at least part of it is similar to our earthly father. Fortunately, Bible study can correct much of the negative views of God as we read about God’s true characteristics. The sad truth is that when children have been raised with wrong attitudes, they may never seek the truth and may never learn the difference in order to form a correct image of God.

There is no doubt that dad sets the tone of the home. He is designed to be the head of the home and whether or not he consciously accepts that designation, there are results of his behavior that cannot be avoided. It is not a matter of do as I say and not as I do in raising children. Good examples produce good outcomes. Bad examples produce unwanted outcomes. Our children are with us for such a short time in the whole scheme of our lives. While they are young, we need to be willing to give up personal pleasures and do all we can to obtain the tools we need to raise our children with a realistic image of God.


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