Whether through divorce, the death of a spouse, or an immoral relationship, some men find themselves as single fathers. In an age when many men shirk their parental responsibilities and leave child-rearing to the mothers, fathers who want to step up and father their children are to be commended. Single parenting can be difficult for all involved, but there are some pointers from Scripture that can help single dads give their children a great start in life.
The best thing a father can give his children is to maintain his own relationship with God. Single fathers who have repented of sin and trusted in Christ for salvation already have an advantage over single fathers who have not. A healthy relationship with God will provide supernatural strength and wisdom as single fathers try to help their little ones learn how to navigate this often confusing world.
Closely akin to his relationship with God is a single father’s example. All children, but especially boys, need wise men in their lives who support, encourage, affirm, and model for them the way a man should live. Western culture has become a fatherless realm, and chaos, crime, and addiction are some of the results. Fathers who invest time, converse with, and fairly discipline their children are helping secure a healthy future for them. Little eyes are always watching Dad, and whatever fathers excuse in moderation, children will abuse in excess. Fathers with sinful secret lives teach their children to sneak. Fathers with addiction issues teach their children that substances and wrong behaviors are a way to relieve stress.
However, fathers who pray in front of their children, honor the Lord in their free time, and attend church regularly, read the Bible, and give to others teach their children that God is important. Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Single fathers may not have as much time with their children as they would like to have, but they can make that time count by spending quality hours building relationships. The children should know when they visit Dad they will be safe, loved, and guided toward God’s plan for them.
Another thing children need from single fathers is a lack of competition between father and mother. Single fathers who refuse to criticize or belittle the children’s mother in front of them are giving those children a safe haven. Even if the mother is the reason the family is divided, wise fathers know that the children don’t need to hear about adult decisions, especially when it is about the mother they love. As tempting as it is to influence the children toward one opinion or another, single fathers must put the children’s interests first. Single fathers must refuse to use their kids as spies, informants, or ropes in a parental tug-of-war. Ephesians 4:29 can be the measuring rod for single fathers when in the presence of their children: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Single fathers can ask themselves before speaking, “Are these words in my child’s best interest? Will his or her life be better for having heard this from me?”
The father’s role has been downplayed in our modern culture, to the detriment of all family members. Fathers, whether single or married, play a huge role in shaping the way children view the world and their place in it. Many studies have proved that children with strong and healthy ties to their father do better in school, make better life choices, and stay out of trouble more than children with no father present. The prisons are filled with men and women who grew up without a father’s kind and loving guidance.
Single fathers do not need to let their single status become an excuse for bowing out of a child’s life. They cannot be both mother and father, but if they will pattern their parenting after our heavenly Father, their children have a much better chance at success in life (see 2 Corinthians 6:18).