by Danny R. Von Kanel
When Allen, my oldest son, viewed his world from a stroller, I would often push him around in our backyard in Florala, Alabama, and say, “Allen, let’s go trail blazing.” Wheeling him around our yard was a delight—especially to a dad and his firstborn. Since then, I have realized that through all of my youngest son’s life, I have blazed trails.
You can help your young children by guiding them in life’s path, clearing a trail for them to travel.
Loving Your Spouse
Kids notice parental behavior. They know that if you love their mom or dad, you also love them.
By showing love in tangible and visible ways, we communicate that everyone in the family is loved.
I have made it a point for my boys to see me loving their mother—talking kindly to her, honoring every special holiday and event in her life, and displaying affection toward her. As a result, they now love their wives in the same manner. My grandkids become the ultimate recipient of that displayed affection.
Theodore Hesburgh echoes my sentiment: “The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”
Modeling a Strong Work Ethic
My boys watched me leave each morning for work. They saw the fruit of my endeavors. They heard others commend my work ethic.
Today both my boys, Brad and Allen, are hard workers. By the time Allen was 23, he had been a produce manager, worked construction, learn to weld, and was the youngest employee in a prestigious chemical plant. Since then he has joined the Army Reserves, been to Iraq twice, and works for Exxon. He is known for his work ethic.
Brad works for his wife’s granddad who recently said, “We can’t do without Brad. He is the only one who can work the machinery. He does a great job; he does it perfectly.”
“Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper” (Proverbs 13:4, New Living Translation). My boys heard me say on numerous occasions, “The one thing I most appreciated about my dad was that he worked at a difficult job for many years so he could provide for his family.” Indeed, everyone I have talked to about my dad says, “Your dad was a hard worker. No one could out-work him.” I am the recipient, prospering because he worked hard.
Developing Godly Character
Though my boys have had difficult days in the glass house of a ministry family, their character has remained intact. They have witnessed my reaction when faced with persecution; seen my faithfulness to their mother; experienced their grandfather’s unwavering embrace of the Christian faith; and understood God’s faithfulness in times of need.
Our kids need to see us studying God’s Word, talking about its precepts, and living its truths. Anything less will rob them of the tools necessary for godly living.
Speaking about the first Psalm Charles Swindoll said, “The stronger the winds, the deeper the roots. The deeper the roots and the longer the winds, the more beautiful the tree.” My boys have had their share of hardship—issues they overcame. As I’ve watched their development, I’ve seen God quietly mold them into vessels of blessing.
A few years ago, Allen came home after being stationed overseas during the Iraq War and he had difficulty getting back to the way things were before. He worked through his issues after an inquiring phone call to me asking what to do. Reaffirming biblical principles, I gave him encouragement to re-embrace his life and family. He did. His character became stronger.
Seeing No Color
Being raised in the south and valuing my southern heritage, I made it an aim not to see color. Some of my best friends in high school were African Americans. My boys heard many stories about my friends. They saw my wife speak with respect and friendship about her co-worker—an adorable African-American woman.
Allen’s best friend as a 16-year-old was an older black man who was his boss at Piggly Wiggly. When his boss married, Allen was the only white person in the wedding.
Brad had many black friends and many white friends. If was not unusual to have this mixed group of boys at our house playing basketball or simply visiting.
As we model appropriate behavior toward people of other races, our kids mirror our words and actions.
Loving Your Country
Though I have not served in the military, I’ve been careful openly to express my love for my country. My wife and I vote in every election.
Allen joined the Army Reserves by choice. He excelled. He was honored as Soldier of the Year and served three tours of duty. He made us proud. From comments of fellow soldiers and his quick rise in rank, Allen’s love for his country is obvious to all who know him.
Blazing trails for our kids provides a unique opportunity to give them direction in life. As we love our spouse, display a strong work ethic, mirror godly character, act without regard to race or color, and love our country, the path laid before our children will be clearly marked. Walking this pathway will lead to productive lives and will honor our guidance.
Danny Von Kanel is a freelance writer in Franklinton, Louisiana.
Resources for the Journey
Bringing Up Boys and Bringing Up Girls (Tyndale House, 2005, 2010)
by James C. Dobson
Dr. Dobson explains gender-specific needs of boys and girls and how to raise them to be godly.
Focus on the Family
This is a terrific Web site for all things family.
This Web site offers some great articles that assist families in decision making.
This Web site contains articles related to passion-filled parenting.
What to Do When Children Get Lost Along the Way
Sometimes our kids make detours in their journeys. Consider the following when they take a diversion, reject your direction, or become stuck in the path.
• Be patient. Course corrections sometimes take time. Make sure they know you are there for them if they need you.
• Love them. Our kids need to know we love them even though they reject our taught values. History and Scripture tell us they often come back.
• Offer possible course corrections. Though they may not act on your suggestions, most kids will consider the options.
• Involve other adults. Ask someone your kids respect to have a one-on-one conversation. Sometimes parents can be so emotionally involved they mistake “momentary path reflection” for “trail rejection.” Sometimes kids wrestle with what we’ve taught them in an effort to make it their own.
• Steer them toward God’s Word. Answers for their momentary wanderings are found just for the looking.
• Pray for them. God’s Holy Spirit will honor your request, gently steering your child back.
• If necessary, throw out a lifeline. Sometimes our kids can go so far astray their lives are in danger. Remove the threat, secure professional help, or get medical attention.
• Bring the full weight of friends and loved ones to bear. Involve everyone who loves and cares for your child to exert their influence—provided that influence is of the same direction.
Love can overcome a multitude of life’s missteps.