I am continually reminded about the importance of laying a firm foundation in every area of life if what we are attempting to build is to stand the test of time. This principle remains true whether we are building our new home, considering a career change or planning for a family. Building something that will last requires time, effort and a considerable amount of wisdom. Continuing our short series on the foundation principles of our Dads’ UNI organisation that are found within our acronym UNI, we progress to the word Nurturing.
Dads’ UNI is based upon the three foundation precepts of Understanding, Nurturing and Imparting. These three areas address the needs of the mind, the emotions and the spirit of man and seek to bring them into a position where they can receive the fullness of God’s blessing and abundant life.
Dads’ UNI - Nurturing
Verb - Caring for and protecting (someone or something) while they are growing
Helping or encouraging the development of (someone or something)
Cherishing (a hope, belief, or ambition).
When I write about Nurturing my mind inevitably reverts to the illustration which I believe best describes the process of Nurture and the picture is that of a plant conservatory. In a well prepared and thought out plant conservatory all the elements that are needed to bring a plant from seedling to full maturity are present.
The basic elements required for plants to thrive are water, sunshine, good soil, clean air and room to grow. There needs to be the right amount of each element, distributed at the correct time for the plant to truly thrive. It is also important that each plant be positioned in the correct location for its own requirements. Every plant is different and has differing needs and so it is with children, they are all unique and it is our job as a father to identify their individual needs and provide the best environment for them to grow and truly prosper in life.
Every gardener knows that plants don’t just need attention when they are seedlings, but constant care is also required while they continue to grow into maturity. This principle is relevant in our role of fatherhood, we are the gardeners and our children are our plantings. Like plants, our children will require the correct amount of nutrients to be added to their lives at the right times to help them grow. They will also require a constant weeding around them to keep them free of the restraints of bad influences. In our nurturing role we will need to ensure that our children are receiving those elements they require daily and we must be prepared to prune away the wrong attitudes that all children develop.
Deuteronomy 11:18-21 “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as front lets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth.
Like the nurturing father described in the scripture above, our role must be constant and vigilant to ensure that our children are raised in the best possible way and thereby given the best possible chance of a wonderful life and eternity. What follows is a short list of some of the areas we will need to be diligent in as a father.
To nurture our children physically we as fathers need to provide for them the basics of life such as food, clothing and shelter. These components will sustain the natural physical life of a human being so that they can grow into full maturity, from a child into an adult. A balanced and nutrient rich diet containing fruit and vegetables, proteins and grains is broadly recommended by nutritionists. It is also our responsibility to provide clean well-fitting clothes and a safe and secure place to live to ensure that our child is physically prepared for life.
If we as the father and head of the home lead an active physical life, then our children are far more likely to follow our example and also be active and healthy. By encouraging them to pursue a sport or activity and supporting them in it we can help ensure that they can grow strong and fit for life. Taking on a supportive role as a manager or coach of their team or even just a regular supporter will make a big difference to your child, as your approval as their father is vital for their well-being.
A child’s needs however do not stop at physical requirements, every child has an emotional appetite that must be met as well. We as fathers, in partnership with our wife, need to provide for the emotional needs of our children by establishing a loving, caring and supportive environment for them to grow up in. I cannot stress too much how important emotional nurture is in the life of a child, especially that which comes from their father.
Boys need to do things such as hug and wrestle with their father regularly to help develop a positive and balanced male self-image and avoid the gender confusion that is constantly being promoted in the world. Girls need the hugs and tickles from a loving and encouraging father that treats her like a princess and tells her how wonderful she is, this will impart to her the self-image she requires to be a healthy and happy individual. Both actions from a father impart love and acceptance to a young child and help develop them into emotionally secure adults.
Our children’s minds are designed to be a library and resource that they can draw upon throughout life to help them travel successfully through this world. But each library must first be fitted out and stocked with books and it is here that we as parents have a huge opportunity and responsibility. We can ensure that the information stored within the data-base of their mind is valid, encouraging and pointing them in the right direction in life.
By reading to our child at an early age we can impart to them a love of learning and train them to use their imagination. Fathers who read to their children strengthen the bond they share. There is often a wonderful interaction between them via the inevitable questions that arise from telling stories. Regular bedtime stories are a wonderful way to nurture our child intellectually and open an educational pathway that will help them get ahead in life.
A child’s spirit is the central hub out of which they live and relate to the world. It is incredibly important to protect a child’s spirit by ensuring that the words they hear about themselves are encouraging and imparting hope for their future. As a father we need to share our own values, faith and beliefs with our child that they may share our direction in life and hope of eternity.
Many things in the world are destructive for a child and none more so than the words that people speak and influences that surround them. Although we can’t protect them from every negative situation, we can ensure that the majority of the influences and words spoken over their lives are positive and encouraging, rather than destructive and belittling.
Nurturing our children may not come naturally for many men, as we have come out of generations where father/child nurturing relationships have been neglected or even discarded entirely. The good news is that every man has the ability hard-wired within themselves to succeed in this wonderful area of parenthood. It is by applying ourselves as men and committing to nurturing relationships that we can create a strong bond with our child that will last a life-time.
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