Building Emotional Relationship with Our Children

As we head into Father’s Day weekend, I’d like to challenge you as a dad with something my wife and I were discussing last night.

How is your *emotional* relationship with each of your children?


I had to give this some thought myself when my wife first brought up the subject to me. You see, it is one thing to spend time with our children, to physically be there in their presence. But just being in the same house or same room with a son or daughter does not mean we are building relationship with them.

A few examples might communicate this better:

Watching tv or a movie together with your son is not really building emotional relationship with him. You are both individually engaged in the activity, but are not interacting.

Taking a nap on your daughter’s bed while she plays with dolls on the floor beside you is not building emotional relationship with her.

Building emotional relationship involves interaction and communication. It involves talking. It is connecting with our sons and daughters at a heart to heart level.

Taking your son to an interactive event or doing an activity together or teaching him a skill or sitting down to talk about a subject are ways to do this. Taking your daughter out to dinner at her favorite restaurant and a casual walk-and-talk afterwards can build emotional relationship with her.

As men, we must be very intentional with talking and engaging our children in sharing their hearts with us. They *need* this from us. They *want* this with us. They LONG for it.

I’m not perfect in this. I have a lot of ground to make up with my children. But it won’t happen if I am not intentional.

Our wives are generally “better” at building emotional relationship with our children than we guys are, so here’s a tip: Get your wife’s input on this topic! And let her be an ongoing “gauge” to give you feedback on how you’re doing with each of your children.

How about you? I’d like to hear your thoughts or comments on this topic or questions you may have. Please post them below.

Let’s make this Father’s Day weekend an opportunity to build emotional relationship with our children — and our spouse.

Blessings to you and your family,
Joey Watkins
a fellow Family Dad

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When A Family Goes Through Major Transition

Our family has been in major transition.

A few months ago, we moved 1,200 miles away from our 15-acre farm in rural Tennessee to the bustling pace of city life in metro central Florida.

As if that wasn’t enough change, I also began working for a company that now takes me away from home all day except for lunch hour. Previously I worked in my office at my home and was accessible to my wife and children throughout the day.

These factors have brought major change to our family, created stress, and challenged my marriage and family.

Without going into details, let me just say that this period of transition has given me many opportunities to practice what I preach as a family dad.

Do I really put my family above my work? Am I really willing to put hobbies, ministry, and pretty much everything else below family with my schedule? Is my marriage really worth the effort?

And these questions truly are a big part of the core message I’ve been sharing for over 4 years now. A message to prioritize our wife and our family. A message to take proactive leadership of our family. A message to be strategic, and not just reactive. Nor passive.

For me in this new season, it means spending time with my family in the mornings, eating breakfast together before work, being with my children as they do their morning chores before school. And having conversation together as a family.

It means taking walks with my wife in the evenings. Taking her out for dinner regularly to just spend time together as a couple and let her “unload” without the kids around.

It means reading Scripture together as a family at nights. Helping with getting the younger kids to bed. Talking with my older kids about their day — and listening. And verbally blessing my wife and children.

How about you, fellow dad? Any transition happening in your life? Any adjustments you need to make to your schedule and actions?

It’s so easy for us dads to just get “wrapped up” in work and other stuff. But our wives are more “fragile” than we men are and can only put up with so much from us.

And we only have a window of time to shape our children during their childhood while they are still home living with us. We only get one shot with our massive influence as fathers.

I want to do it right, don’t you?

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Dad Vision For Family

While taking a prayer walk recently, I was reflecting on the fact that my dad turned 72 this past year and was now fully in the “4th quarter” of his life.

3 thoughts quickly filled my mind.

30 years from now, my dad will be gone.

I will be at the same stage of life my dad is now.

And my oldest son will be my age — likely with a family of his own.

It begged several questions in my mind:

“What will it be like not having my dad around?”

“When I am his age looking back, will I be pleased with how my life turned out?”

“What am I doing to prepare my sons for their journey ahead as men, husbands, and fathers?”

Sure, they’re just kids now. And 30 years is a long time — or is it?

I believe it’s very healthy to contemplate the future. As leaders of our families, we dads must have vision. We must have plans to turn our vision into reality. And we must have perseverance and discipline to be consistent and proactive in leading our families.

Here’s an example to illustrate this.

One of my highest priorities for my children is that they have a strong knowledge and love of Scripture when they are adults. That’s part of my vision for them.

So we read Scripture together. As a family. Often. Each of our children (who are old enough to read) has their own copy of Scripture. We have “Scripture Reading Time” several times a week (my goal is daily.) We all sit together in our family room in a circle or around our dining room table. I start and we go around the room taking turns reading. I give commentary and we discuss what we read along the way. It’s a great way for them to build communication skills, but more importantly to discuss and absorb Scripture from their father. From their father – the one who was divinely given the greatest influence in their lives.

We’re also working on memorizing Scriptures together as a family, learning to hide it in our hearts (Psalm 119:11) and meditate upon it (Psalm 1:2).

This is just one example of how vision becomes reality, and I’d love to hear what visions you have for your family and what you are doing to see them come to pass. So please post your comments below, and let’s learn from one another.

And always remember…

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow let us go into this city and spend a year there, trade and make a profit.’ Whereas you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. For what is your life? You are like a thin mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” -YA’acob 4:13-14 (called James in modern Bibles)

Blessings to you and your family,
Joey Watkins
A fellow Family Dad

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Dad, Is This Dangerous?

Last week I was with two of my kids at their favorite spot down in our woods which has a tree that blew over and is laying on its side in the shape of a rainbow.

At about 5 feet off the ground at its highest point, this “rainbow tree” as we’ve named it makes a perfect athletic challenge for my kids who love to climb on it.

My eight-year-old son made his way to the highest part of the sideways trunk and proudly asked me…. “Dad, is this dangerous?”

Without hesitation, I *almost* replied… “No, not really. It’s not that high.”

But then, I had a slight impression to mentally probe a little deeper into the motive behind his question. What was he really asking me?

“Dad, am **I** dangerous?” “Dad, do I have what it takes to be a man?” “Dad, as my father, as the man I most look up to, respect, and admire at this stage of my life, do you affirm me?”

Before me was an opportunity to either casually ignore my son’s inquisition about his growth toward manhood, or to build him up in it.

“Yes, son. That IS dangerous. Be careful!” came out of my mouth instead.

And so, with a smile back at me, my son continued to conquer the sideways rainbow tree, beaming at the thought of how “dangerous” he was. In a good way. :)

Application for me as a dad: Always consider my words when interacting with my children. Never be flippant in my responses to them. Sometimes, probably more often than not, there is more “below the surface” to their questions. When giving answers, look for ways to affirm, validate, and communicate to my children that I love them deeply and respect them as individuals.

For daughters, the questions may come out more like… “Am I pretty?” “Can you spend time with me?” “Can we do something together?” For she is looking for affirmation from her father of both her outward AND inward beauty. And she wants to know that you treasure her and desire to pursue relationship with her.

And remember… this applies to our children at any age.

Blessings to you and your family,
Joey Watkins
a fellow Family Dad

PS – One of the most impactful interviews I’ve ever heard on this topic of validating our sons and daughters as their fathers was this video interview with John Eldredge. It’s a MUST-WATCH!

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Perspective On Life

Last week I had extended family in town, and one of our days together included a leisurely drive on the historic Natchez Trace Parkway in Tennessee.

When I was younger, I really had no interest in history. I just thought it was boring and irrelevant to modern times. But as a man and a dad now, I find it interesting to learn about the journeys and times of those who lived in earlier eras.

I recently heard that in ancient Hebrew culture, the past and the future were “flipped.” They saw the past as “what is before us, what we can see” and the future as “what is behind us, what we don’t know and cannot see.” Pretty interesting perspective when you consider how this might have affected them as family units, as a people, and in their decision-making.

I know a pastor who visits his local cemetary just to reflect, pray, and read the gravestones. He says it really helps give perspective on how short and temporary life is in light of eternity.

A fellow dad has mentioned numerous times of the impact on him from meeting regularly with an old guy once a week for breakfast… just to gain the wisdom and perspective of this older man.

“You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. For what is your life? You are like a thin mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” — James 4:14

Do you find yourself dwelling upon the future and projecting what it may hold for you? Or do you take advantage of opportunities to absorb history, knowledge of past generations — the lives, the experiences, the wisdom of those who have gone before us?

It helps bring perspective on life. And on fatherhood.

Blessings to you and your family,
Joey Watkins
a fellow Family Dad

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