Research Suggests Loving Dads Help Pass On Faith to Kids

dad hugs and kisses young daughter

In a previous blog post, I wrote about passing along a faith that lasts to your children. That post focused on the most important thing parents can do: live out a vibrant faith themselves.

Today I want to share with you additional research that suggests another helpful dimension to helping your kids inherit your faith.

As it turns out, that element has a lot to do with Dad.

The power of love and affection

girl and boy toddler hug father's legsIn a New York Times article that ran earlier this year, Prof. Vern L. Bengston shared the results of original research that shows how important family bonds are to passing on the faith.

In other words, without emotional bonding, doing all the “right things” may be for naught.

As the professor put it,

Fervent faith cannot compensate for a distant dad. A father who is an exemplar, a pillar of the church, but doesn’t provide warmth and affirmation to his kid does not have kids who follow him in his faith.

It’s amazing how central love is to the “formula” of raising kids.

I came to the same conclusion as I thought through the themes in my most recent book, “The Good Dad.” In it, I wrote,

I’ve come to picture parents’ relationship with their children as something like a playground tetherball. You, as the parent, are the pole. You’re not going anywhere. Your child is the ball. And the rope connecting you – the tether – is the love you share for each other. Your mutual affection is what connects you.

The Bible sums it up best. “God is love,” it says in 1 John 4:8. So how can we expect to transfer a knowledge and thirst for God the Father if we’re not living out one of His most defining characteristics?

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Leave a Comment

Starry N Steve Wallace More than 1 year ago
This article hits home even now after all these years. My Father was not only a pillar in his church he also learned how to balance the scales at home. There were five of us kids and we all felt loved and faith was the center of our home. As a grand parent today I take his legacy he left to my children and grand children. Thanks Focus on the family for years on resources and faith building messages. Love, love, love your ministry! God Bless!
Andre Huie More than 1 year ago

I really like this article. I'm a father of 2 children and my wife and I  TRY to live out our faith in front of them daily because it is so important, as this article points out. I believe that a child's first exposure to the Gospel is through their parents most of the time, or at least it should be. Why not live out your Christian Faith if front of them daily? What an awesome privilege and responsibility!

Delwin Stapley More than 1 year ago

I enjoyed the above posts.  Dads who show consistent love and affection can help satisfy the needs of children to feel important and loved when they need it most.  Amy McCready's parenting tools classes ( emphasizes this point, and it has made a big difference with our children in a short period of time.  If she's available, it would be intriguing for Focus on the Family to include her on a broadcast or feature sometime.

If I can share an example in our home.  One evening right before dinner began, our 4-year-old son began pestering his 2-year-old sister before dinner started.  Rather than punish him by sending him to his room, (which often leads to continuing the misbehavior), my wife wisely suggested I just hold him and love him.  It was very difficult, but I did it.  In less than 30 seconds my son calmed down, and we were able to proceed with dinner more peacefully.   

Barbara Buzzell More than 1 year ago
Many of us appreciate and applaud the Supreme Court's recent decision for Religious Freedom! This
is a wonderful victory! 

We also appreciate the ministry of Focus on the Family and the stand it takes! Keep on keeping on!
We love you and all your hard work.