To Give Your Children The Structure They Need - How to Be a Great Dad

To Give Your Children the Structure They Need

“…for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4, NIV)

Once our family hiked up Whiteside Mountain in North Carolina. We let our elementary-aged children walk along the edge of a cliff that plummets 750 feet to the canyon floor. We could do that because there were guardrails along the edge. The guardrails provided the structure our kids (and my wife and I!) needed to walk with confidence.

It’s the same way with providing the right amount of structure for your children. Knowing your everyday rules, boundaries, and what to expect creates confidence, freedom, and a sense of security. When you build dependable guardrails, you father their hearts.

It allows you to break the cycle by steering clear of two problems. The first problem is too much structure.

Dysfunctional families are often “because I said so” homes. Parents are hyper-focused on behavior, getting children to conform and obey, and performance. Because love is not the primary governing principle, children are often insecure, filled with fears, and forced to play a role. Little or no attention is given to what’s going on inside the child’s heart, and because they are ruled with an iron hand, they flounder.

The second problem? Not enough structure.

King David—a great man and human ancestor of Jesus—was also the father of an incredibly flawed family. We find two clues in Scripture as to why David’s family was so dysfunctional.

The first is a comment about his son Adonijah’s misbehavior: “His father had never rebuked him by asking, ‘Why do you behave as you do?’” (1 Kings 1:6). In other words, David was passive and permissive.

Then, 1 Chronicles 27:32 tells us that “Jehiel son of Hakmoni took care of the king’s sons.” Or, said another way, David was absent and uninvolved. He didn’t provide enough structure.

Because David was a failure as a dad, his children suffered immensely. His son Amnon raped David’s daughter Tamar. His son Absalom then killed Amnon. His son Adonijah attempted a palace coup. And eventually Absalom also rebelled and overthrew his father.

The dysfunction and resulting heartache created by David’s lack of structure is an extreme and sobering example. Let it be a cautionary tale: your children need structure and boundaries. Build guardrails so they will be wise and confident about what’s in- and out-of-bounds.

Reflection and Application

  • Did you have too much, not enough, or about the right amount of structure when you were growing up?
  • In general, do you think you have provided your children with the right amount of structure?

    __ never

    __ rarely

    __ sometimes

    __ usually

    __ always

  • What is one action you can take to give your children the right amount of structure for them to feel safe and like they understand the boundaries?

From the Book: