The 21-Day Dad's Challenge: Three Weeks to a Better Relationship with Your Kids

The 21-Day Dad's Challenge: Three Weeks to a Better Relationship with Your Kids

by Focus on the Family

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What’s keeping you from a better relationship with your child? It’s not that you don’t want to spend more time together, have more fun, and pass along more God-honoring values. But life gets in the way, and before you know it you’re waving good-bye to a son or daughter and wishing you could try that fathering thing again.

The 21-Day Dad

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What’s keeping you from a better relationship with your child? It’s not that you don’t want to spend more time together, have more fun, and pass along more God-honoring values. But life gets in the way, and before you know it you’re waving good-bye to a son or daughter and wishing you could try that fathering thing again.

The 21-Day Dad’s Challenge features a simple, practical tip for each day of the next three weeks—along with a quick, easy way to try it out. Not enough to weigh you down; just enough to make a difference.

You’ll be challenged by the best: Tony Dungy, Josh McDowell, Randy Alcorn, Carey Casey, Jim Daly, and more.

No matter what your child’s age, make each day count with in-person loving, coaching, and modeling—starting with the next 21!

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Tyndale House Publishers
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5.50(w) x 0.50(h) x 8.25(d)

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Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2011 Focus on the Family
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-58997-681-8

Chapter One


The Fun of Fatherhood


My son Chance is now a teenager, which brings its own set of joys and challenges. A lot of things are changing—for him and for me. Some days we get along great, but of course we have our share of tension and disagreements. Some days he's a knucklehead, and I know I am too at times. So I need to be balanced as I relate to him.

On one side is the fun. To help maintain a strong relationship, I've started a regular routine on school days. He goes out in front of our house to wait for the bus; I grab a cup of coffee and join him for a few minutes while he's waiting. He's a captive audience then, and it's a great opportunity to check in, ask him a few questions, and just be together.

Oh, yeah, I should probably mention ... I do all this while still wearing my bathrobe.

So, as the minutes pass, he'll get this look on his face and just stare at me.

"What's wrong, Son?" I'll ask.

He'll say, "I'm waiting for you to go back in the house."

He never enjoys my mischievous smile at this point. "Dad," he'll say, "don't stand out here! The bus is coming around the corner in a few seconds."

It's probably Chance's biggest fear right now that I—his out-of-touch father—would embarrass him more than I already have. If I ever stayed outside in my bathrobe when the bus pulled up—or maybe went to the curb and waved to all his classmates—his life would be over right then and there. So I always manage to be back in the house before the bus gets close.

But, don't you know, I like to have some fun with it. On my way back in the house, I'll flirt with that front door a little bit. "Hmm. You think they could see me if I stood here? How about here?"

He'll say, "Dad, don't!" But he knows I'm just having fun. And I know he'll find other ways to get back at me.

Isn't it part of a father's job to embarrass his kids? Did your father do that? Since we're going to be uncool for a few years in our kids' eyes, we may as well have a little fun with it, right? It's okay to pick them up from school in the oldest car we have, blasting classic rock or R&B out the windows, or start the wave at the next sports event. Maybe we could even wear our favorite Hawaiian shorts around their friends, or pull out the baby album when they bring a date home for dinner.

I do believe we need to have a lot of fun with our kids, and humor will actually help them develop higher creative and coping skills. There's even room for some good-natured teasing, as long as we're sensitive to the possibility of going too far and becoming mean-spirited.

That's the other side—the humility we need to show our kids. Not long ago, I was joking around with Chance and I did go too far. I said something in fun that I later realized had cut deeper. So I went back to him and said, "Son, Daddy has to ask for your forgiveness. The words I said to you this morning and how I said them were not right, and I'm sorry. I have to be more discerning and more sensitive to what you're going through."

As we relate to our children and coach them to be responsible, God-fearing adults, there's a lot of room for humor, energy, and fun. Those activities bring more interest and excitement to life, and they provide great bonding opportunities. But we must balance this with self-control and humility. Balanced fathering should be our goal.

I believe that kind of balance is part of what Paul had in mind when he wrote in Ephesians 6:4, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."

Dads who don't have fun with their kids will exasperate them. If my fathering is always about making sure my son behaves or performs to a certain standard, he'll be frustrated and want to give up. More than once there's been no patience or kindness in my voice when I've said to him, "Chance, why isn't your room clean?" Or, "Son, why do you continue to do that when I told you it needs to be done this way?"

I often stand in front of dads' groups and say things like, "Don't sweat the small stuff. There are more important things than a clean room." Then I'll forget my own advice when I get home. Sure, Chance has to get better at some things—but I should know better, too.

I guess it shows I'm doing okay when I tuck him into bed at night and he reaches out his arms and says, "Dad, I need a hug." There's nothing quite like it.

But then, don't you know, the next morning we'll be in front of our house, me in my bathrobe and Chance giving me that anxious look—with a hint of a smile behind it.

It's good to be a dad.


Are you willing to try something new as you seek to have fun with your kids? Use your imagination! Being able to laugh with them—and at yourself—could open up new lines of communication and make you more approachable when serious matters arise.

A good place to start is to hang out in their world, figuring out what tickles their funny bone. During the next 24 hours, notice the kinds of things they and their friends are laughing at. As long as it's clean, join in. Read something humorous that your child likes to read, watch a video he thinks is funny, or check out a Web site she finds amusing.


Use the following space to list three things you can look at, listen to, and laugh about with your child during the next day or so. Then write down some thoughts about these questions:

Would your kids say that you're a "fun" dad? Why or why not?

What routines or activities might be likely to bring out the joking or playful side of your personality more often?

What areas of your child's life are off limits when it comes to making jokes? If you're not sure, talk with your child's mom or someone else who knows him or her well. If you and your child have a history of "misunderstood" teasing or unappreciated pranks, chances are good that you both need to make some changes. How can you do your part?

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Carey Casey is CEO of the National Center for Fathering, headquartered in Kansas City, and the author (with Neil Wilson) of Championship Fathering: How to Win at Being a Dad. Speaking across the U.S. and around the world, Carey encourages and equips men to be the fathers their children need. He has served as a chaplain for NFL football teams and the U.S. Olympic team, and as an inner-city pastor in Chicago. For eighteen years Carey was on staff with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, serving as national urban director and president of the FCA Foundation. Carey and his wife, Melanie, have four children and five grandchildren.


Excerpted from THE 21-DAY DAD'S CHALLENGE Copyright © 2011 by Focus on the Family. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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