The elementary years provide an unlimited array of possibilities for strategic dads. Your children are changing at a startling pace, which also means that it can be challenging to discern the best ways to love and care for them along the way. 

Amid that uncertainty, don’t lose sight of the most important value you add at this stage. You are providing the mental definition your child will forever use to understand key concepts like “home” or “father.” In his poignant book Prodigal God, Tim Keller suggests that all people are born with an innate longing for home. In fact, the biblical story can be traced as a journey home. Since the Garden of Eden, mankind has lived in exile, wandering away from home. Like the famous story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, the invitation of salvation is like coming home from a foreign land. Ultimately, because of Jesus’ work, heaven will one day come to earth, and God will once again establish home here on earth with his people. 

When people are invited to “come home” by trusting in Jesus, they will draw on their mental framework of “home” to understand this concept. Sadly, far too often people enter adulthood thinking of home as a place of uncertainty, fear, anger, or any of a host of other negative notions. These faulty images provide a contrasting mental narrative for the beauty that awaits those who accept God’s offer of salvation.

The same can be said about images of “father,” a concept that is applied to God throughout the Bible. People take the adjectives used to describe their earthly father and superimpose those on God, for good or bad. Thus, He is either benevolent, protective, and loving, or conversely, he is unfair, mean-spirited, or angry.

So, what does this mean for our effort to be strategic dads when our kids are elementary age? Simply put, we should strive to give our kids the most accurate picture of God that they can use as they mature. Here are five ways to do just that. 

1. Strive for Consistency

We form ideas based on consistency. We understand the concept of the color blue because people told us time and time again that a certain color was blue. The concept was cemented in our mind because the word “blue” was not used to occasionally describe the color red, but was consistently applied to the same color. The same goes for the way our kids understand  “home” or “father.” Kids, especially those of elementary school age, need stability in order to learn to adapt to a world that is often anything but stable. Consistency doesn’t mean the absence of change, but it does mean parents strive for stability and repent quickly if they deviate from the norm they are seeking to establish.

2. Reinforce Concepts 

Kids need to see and hear truth. Yes, what they see will override what they hear if these two variables are different, but far better if you can reinforce matching concepts. When something happens in the home that communicates truth you want to stick, you should call it out. “See, in our home, people admit when they’ve done something wrong” or “Dad will always love you no matter what.” These simple statements help make your kids more aware of the truth you want to stick.

3. Point to Truth

A steady diet of Bible reading and prayer helps reinforce these definitions. As you read the Bible together, you can point to ideas presented in the Scripture that you are attempting to see embodied in the home. This gives you a ready-made opportunity to share the bigger gospel reason behind the home you are trying to create or the father you are trying to be. It also presents you with a chance to help your kids see how a home and a family is always simply a reflection of God’s love through Jesus.

4. Say You Are Sorry

None of us are perfect at sticking to our lofty ideals. We all fall short. Our kids don’t need our perfection, but they do need to see us own our mistakes. This often means saying “I’m sorry” when you blow it. Not only does this model biblical repentance, but it also helps our kids differentiate between the home they observe and the ideal you are working toward. When they hear you acknowledge mistakes, it becomes easier for your kids to see the ideas you want to reinforce, even if they are seeing them in contrast to a certain action in that moment.

 5. Live in Community

Community matters because it shows your children other people living out the models that you are seeking to embody, which reinforces the truth you want them to own. As they observe other healthy, gospel-rich homes with parents empowered by the Holy Spirit living in love and peace, they are better able to say, “Oh, so that’s what happens when God is alive and active in the home.” We’re all forgetful, so the more chances your kids have to see God’s love on display, the better.

It’s humbling to consider the fact that we are giving our kids definitions that will last a lifetime. For the rest of their lives, they will think of homes and fathers and relate them to their experience with us. What better way to invest in gospel mission than to give them healthy definitions that will last a lifetime.

This is Matt’s fourth post on parenting children at different ages and stages. Check out his first post here to learn how to adapt your parenting as your kids grow upor read his posts on being a strategic dad while caring for a baby and raising a toddler.

Matt Rogers is a father of five living in Greenville, SC. He pastors The Church at Cherrydale and serves as an assistant professor of Church Planting at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Matt writes and speaks throughout the United States on issues ranging from discipleship, church leadership, and missions. You can find more about Matt at or