When we talk about parenting infants, it’s all about survival mode. Being strategic is too much to ask, right?

There’s no denying that the first few days or weeks feel like you’re just hanging on. If we just make it through the sleepless nights, the endless diapers, and the incessant feedings, then we can get on to the business of raising our son or daughter, or so the logic goes.

The Danger of Destination Thinking

However, that logic instills a destination mentality to our parenting practices. It encourages us to focus on what’s next, instead of focusing on the opportunities right where we are. And you have an opportunity to do more than just survive.

While we’d like to think that infancy is unlike other stages of our child’s development, the truth is that every stage has its unique challenges. Getting this kid out of diapers, able to take a bath, into school, through the teens, when they’re driving—these are parenting milestones. Our parenting changes at each one of them. 

But—and here’s the catch—as soon as one destination is reached, it’ll be on to the next. We will celebrate for a moment, and then consider the next destination in the parenting process. If we’re not careful, the entire journey can amount to the constant question that haunts many a family on a long road trip: “Are we there yet?” Before long, we are just trying to get through parenting completely. 

Not only that, but any developmental specialist will tell you that much of a child’s formative identity takes place far earlier than we might expect. If we simply get through these early stages, we will miss some of the best opportunities we will ever have to shape our kid’s life. And this starts in infancy. Here are three ways to be intentional even before your child can walk or talk.

1. Serve The Servant

For most, this intentionality will begin by serving the one who is investing in this new life 24/7. As a dad, a primary task in the infancy stage is to make life as easy as possible for our wife. There’s much that we can’t do in these early days for the baby, but this reality can’t become a cop-out for laziness or passivity. 

We should up our game in every other area of service within the home. We can hold the baby while our wives nap, cook some meals (or order out), keep the house and kitchen clean, or take the other kids out for a play-date to experience the unrelenting noise our wives have to deal with.

We can be tempted to write off such actions as insignificant, but they are our greatest gifts to our infant son or daughter. By caring for the woman who cares for them, we make it a bit easier for her to nurture our child with joy, energy, and vitality in these early days.

The apostle Paul reminds us of this truth in his letter to the church at Philippi: “Each of you should look out not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). This principle is given, not in the context of parenting, but for Christian living as a whole. Self-giving, others-focused love is meant to be the norm of the Christian life. When better to model this than in the days and weeks following your child’s birth?

2. Build Habits of Time and Tenderness

The challenge to love and serve isn’t just for her. It’s for your child as well. Dads can establish a foundation of time and tenderness that will extend into later years. 

We can’t assume that our posture toward our kids will automatically change later in life. Of course the baby can’t go fishing or play catch yet, but it’s unlikely that we will make time for the kid then if we are not doing so now. This means spending time holding the baby, making silly faces, giving kisses, and just being close. These are the moments of investment that’ll pay rich dividends one day, and they are moments you’ll treasure forever.

3. Lend Strength

Finally, strategic dads learn to lend strength. We look for ways to invest whatever strength we have for the good of those we love. We should spend the rest of our lives committed to that task. 

How do you lend strength to an infant? By providing. When you provide for the needs of your baby, you teach them about the fatherly care of God. 

You also lend strength by protecting your child. Safe in your arms, they learn you will do whatever necessary to protect them. 

But perhaps it’s the seeming futility of lending strength to an infant that is the greatest training ground for us men. Since we can only do a few things for a baby, we learn that our greatest source of strength comes through prayer to the only One who is supremely strong. In spite of our best efforts, we can only provide and protect so much. We must entrust our child to a God who is mighty and all-powerful. Prayer is our greatest source of strength, and it will be our most powerful parenting tool. The seemingly unending hours caring for a baby provide us plenty of time to learn to use this tool well. 

Take Action

Are you a dad of an infant? Or even a young child? 

  • Serve the Servant: What one thing can you do to make things easier for your wife this week? (Do it!)
  • Build Habits of Time & Tenderness: Spend some unhurried time holding your baby, making silly faces, giving kisses, and just being close. 
  • Lend Strength: Spend time this week praying over your child. 

This is Matt’s second 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 up.

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 mattrogers.bio or sevenarrowsbible.com.