{nourish} a father's heart

I recently invited several friends to participate in my one word for the year. I asked them to think about what the word nourish means to them. How do they define it? What does it look like in their lives? My friend Tim responded with the following guest post about how he nourishes his relationship with his son. I have seen the fun and honest ways they show love to each other and hope it encourages each of you as you think about how you nurture your own relationships. -Kara

Recently my son said to me, "Dad we have an amazing connection." I knew it was true. I've known it for years, but it was just strange to hear it coming from such a young boy. I smiled and gave him a hug. His words got me thinking about what makes our connection possible.

As a single parent, the most important thing in nourishing our relationship is showing him love every time we are together. This comes in several forms. Because of my understanding that his primary love language is physical touch, I hug him all the time. There are your average hugs when we will hold each other for a couple seconds, but we have established another type of hug. It's long, maybe a minute or two. We've held on as long as 10. These big hugs are not a quick "hello" or "goodbye." They are an intentional "I love you", "I'm glad you're here." I believe it's love that rinses off a bad day, a painful memory or sadness. It's love that fills you up, offers strength, provides peace and reassures my son I will always be there for him. The other physical aspect of showing him love is rough housing. It might be a wrestling match, a slap fight or even playing football in the house. Stopping my day or evening routine to be physical with him, shows he is loved. 

I've also learned to feed his desires. I look for things he gets excited about and encourage him to pursue those desires. I'm not talking video games and playing on his phone. I'm talking sports, hunting, fishing, art and music. I'm fortunate that 95% of the things he loves, I also find enjoyment in, so we get to learn and explore these together. Part of this is pushing him to experiment with things he's not good at or don't come easy or natural to him. I want my child to learn the value of doing something difficult.

A relationship with your child involves healthy discipline. When my son makes a bad choice, I make sure he gets consequences, not judgement from me. I will identify the action or decision separate from who I know him to be and call him up into something better. Grades are a perfect example. My son is smart but sometimes he does not put forth his full effort. When that happens and he gets a low grade, I will call it out. I'll ask him if he studied. Did he rush? I want to together discover what lead to the low grade. Then I point out the past academic awards he's received and remind him of what he's truly capable of. Also, any discipline includes getting down at his level. Literally face to face, not me standing over him.  I tell him to look in my eyes. If he looks away, I stop and say, "look at me". Never with an elevated tone. I want him to know I respect him and to show respect to me. I want him to own whatever he's done; to understand there is no shame in my words or my eyes. I want to bring out the best in him, not shame him into doing better.

No quality relationship can truly be sustained without honesty. Be truthful in your words and feelings.

I let my son know how I feel. I give him words, emotions and examples to draw a reference to his life or how he might experience something similar. It's important for him to see and hear his dad's emotions. It's good practice to continue being honest with myself and to teach him to do the same. I also encourage him to be honest when he disagrees with me or doesn't see things the way I do and to express that with love and respect for the other person. He never gets in trouble for being honest even if I don't like his answer. Over the years I've watched him wrestle with what it means to be honest. By watching me lead the way, he is learning that he's mature enough and strong enough to handle it.

The last thing I do is speak life into him. Telling him he's good; encouraging him to stay positive and use positive words. I pray over him and remind him he was created by God. I speak all the good qualities I see in him. I call out the good in him he doesn't see or can't yet see in himself. I speak nourishing, empowering words over him like courage, wisdom, generosity and health. I find it's equally important to denounce the unhealthy things like fear, doubt and dishonesty. My responsibility as his father is teaching him not to accept lies or negativity.

Love, desire, discipline, honesty and life. These things are at the core of what makes our connection so amazing.