5 Insightful Suggestions to Help You Father Well

I recently began a podcast series entitled Dad to Dad. In these interviews I sit down with another adoptive dad and talk about what it is like to be an adoptive dad—our shortcomings, funny stories, and what we find that helps us to father well.

Recently I interviewed Marshall Lyles (if you missed it, you can get it HERE), and I asked Marshall this question—What helps you to father well? I liked his answer so much that I decided to write about it. Marshall shared four very insightful ideas that help him, and I add one more. Even though Marshall and I talk about being adoptive dads, these suggestions are helpful for every father.

5 Insightful Suggestions to Help You Father Well

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Why Does Your Foster or Adopted Child Reject Your Love?

It is a scene that plays out in foster and adoptive families over and over. Parents tearfully share stories about the children they welcome into their families rejecting their love. It’s especially painful when, no matter the child’s age, they stiff-arm every effort a parent gives to help them feel loved and find healing.

This past Sunday the pastor at my church quoted from a book by Dr. David Benner—Surrender to Love: Discovering the Heart of Christian Spirituality (Spiritual Journey). First as I listened, I identified in my own life the ways I struggle with surrendering to love. Then I began to listen through the lens of my experience as a foster and adoptive dad.

I bought the book and began reading, and I can see clearly how many of my son’s actions—His high need for control; his overly cautious tendencies; his need to be with one of us all the time, yet struggling with trusting us with his deepest thoughts; His desire to be the center of attention and to always be right, the first, and the best—point to one thing.

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Our Son’s Struggle to Attach [Podcast 012]

Attachment between a child and his or her parents is powerful. How healthy that attachment is will determine how healthy all other relationships are and will be.

Usually when a child comes into a family from foster care or through adoption, they aren’t able to attach easily. This is true regardless of their age.

In today’s podcast episode, Danielle and I openly share about not only how it was hard for our son to attach to Danielle, but also how Danielle felt about the struggle.

Here are a few of the things we touch on…

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7 Ways You Are Making Parenting A Foster or Adopted Child Hard

Parenting might be the hardest thing in the world. And if you bring a child into your home who isn’t your biological child and is dealing with all kinds of wounds, and you just raised the bar.

Many times we enter into a relationship with a wounded child and think that we can parent them just like we do or would parent a biological child. It simply isn’t true.

I know some foster or adoptive parents don’t deal with challenges with the children that they have brought into their home. However, most do. And about the time you think you have overcome those challenges, other stuff comes to the surface, or you enter into another season of life, or the dynamics of your home changes.

It is enough to make a foster or adoptive parent wonder about their own sanity. If you aren’t a foster or adoptive parent, I am not exaggerating.

What I have seen in my own parenting, and in others, is that we, most of the time unintentionally, make our parenting harder than it needs to be.

Here are 7 ways we tend to make parenting harder:

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Why Can’t We Tell Our Kids “Yes”?

I get really good at saying no. I can say it kindly, with force, in rapid succession, with anticipation of the question, and even without looking. In my mind, I always have a good reason for telling my son no. I don’t want him to do that, eat those, or bother me at the moment.


I think I should invent an app kind of like the ones that record every step you take so you can see how many miles you incidentally walked in a day. Except this app records every time you say no to your child. On second thought, I don’t think I want to know.

Why is it so hard for me to just say it. Just Say Yes.

I think I know why. I am afraid if I say Yes too much it will ruin my son. Won’t he end up thinking that he can have anything he wants, do everything he wants to do, and never have to wait his turn?

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15 Ways We Shame Our Children

As I work more with our adopted son and in the foster care/adoptive world, I see a connection between trauma and shame. Even if a child never makes a bad choice in their life, the things done to them, and what they see others do causes shame to pour over their soul like a bitter, sticky molasses.


Abusive, broken homes are a sick petri dish for cultivating shame. I don’t think that surprises anyone. If a child is old enough to remember leaving a home to enter foster care or adoption, they often wonder what is wrong with themselves. Even a child who was a baby when placed in foster care or adopted seems to struggle with a deep sense of shame as they grow older.

Sadly, many children live in shame-based homes, not just ones that end up in foster care or adoption.

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How To Respond When Your Child Disobeys You

Parenting just might be one of the hardest things in the world! I tell you, some days I feel like I am on the verge of crazy. And I only have one kid!

Photo Credit: lightandform via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: lightandform via Compfight cc

I far too often parent out of laziness. When I do, I look and act strangely like a dictator enforcing strict obedience. “Do what I say, now, or suffer the consequences, you little minion!” And I fully expect him to respond like a minion, running as quickly as he can to follow my orders.

Yeah right. Maybe that would happen if he was a compliant child with no history of trauma, abuse, and neglect.

The Difference Between Authoritative and Authoritarian Parenting

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Perfect Parenting vs. Intentional Parenting

No one would claim they are or even come close to being a perfect parent. However, many seem to strive for that, especially with their first child. We consume book after book about how to parent, buy every gadget that the kid “needs”, and make sure that we document little Johnny’s every move and milestone.

Photo Credit: @DeLarrenSr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: @DeLarrenSr via Compfight cc

I wonder what motivates us as parents. Do we feel a need to meet our parent’s expectations? Maybe it’s keeping up with the perceived standards set by our peers.

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Benefits of being 50 years older than my son

When it became clear that we were adopting our son, I laid awake at night thinking about our age difference. I am 49 years and three months older than my son. He turned three this past fall, so that makes me…52.


It took a few months for me to accept that age difference. My thoughts revolved around how old, or young, my son would be when I was in my 70s—if I live that long. I want to make sure he knows how to handle money, relationships, and challenges that life bring. I want him to be confident. I want him to be in love with God.

God, in His kind and gentle way, brought several men across my path that are at least that much older than some of their children. God’s way of saying, “No problem, dude, you got this!”

I began thinking of the benefits about me being nearly 50 years older. For example:

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