“Leftie loosie, rightie tightie.” That’s one of my dad’s legacies to me, a reminder about which way to turn a spigot on a water line to either turn the water on or turn it off. I can also remember our phone number from when I was in kindergarten because my dad made a catchy little tune to go with the numbers and it’s a song I never forgot. There are plenty of other legacies my dad had for me, and as the years pass, my gratitude grows for those things. How he found the time and focus to be that intentional with his kids is a marvel. When you’re in a season of life raising young kids, building your career, and nurturing your marriage, adding one more thing to the list can sound impossible. Especially if it’s something as weighty as building a legacy.

As families across the nation get ready to celebrate Father’s Day this upcoming weekend, it’s a time to reflect on fatherhood and its impact on your life. And if you’re a dad, it can also be a time that also has you evaluating what kind of dad you want to be and what kind of legacy you want to be known for.

What does building a legacy even mean?

A legacy is something that is handed down from one generation to the next. It can be intentional or it can simply be a habit or way of doing things that your kids observe and then make part of their own practice. It can be the faith you live by, the finances you leave to your kids, your sayings, your approach to life and business, your relationship with the mother of your kids. It can make the next generation’s and the next’s lives better and healthier or it can burden them with things that were unresolved in your own life.

We all leave a legacy of some kind, and as we get ready for Father’s Day, it’s often when we think of those legacies the most.

Are you ready to get intentional about what you’re teaching and leading? Check out these ideas about building a healthy, helpful, lasting legacy as a dad.

Take the Time: Today’s dads are more involved than ever in their children’s day to day lives. And that’s an amazing thing. Dads today are more engaged in everything from diapering to food prep, bathtime, bedtime, and beyond. What does it matter? Research shows that kids who have dads involved at this level in their day-to-day lives are more confident, securely attached, and do better socially with their peers.1

“For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.”
I Thes. 2:11-12

Set the Example for Healthy Living: The foods and activities we engage in as kids have a long term impact on our health and nutrition. Studies now show that when children are raised in a household with at least one parent who is physically active and models caring for their physical health, their children are far more likely to engage in fitness as well.2 That’s a legacy that can make your children’s quality of life better for their entire lives.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Share the Traditions and Culture: While you’ll likely develop new traditions with the family you are building, your kids’ understanding of themselves and the legacy they come from will be more dimensional when you share what your own upbringing was like. From cultural foods to favorite sayings to holidays, your heritage is a legacy to your children.

Give Them a Foundation of Faith: Of all the things you provide for your children, as important as those things are, nothing can top your children seeing you live out your faith journey. Dads who are actively engaged in faith communities and faith practices statistically are able to better provide for their children financially and socially.3 Additionally, an extensive longitudinal study that examined the impact of fathers’ faith on their children, following dads and their kids for 35 years, showed that a dad’s impact on their children’s faith was even stronger than a mother’s. The second finding showed dads who are warm and loving to their children, who are engaged and involved with them in supportive ways, make their example of faith lasting and positive. Fathers who are consistent in their religious beliefs but come across as cold or rigid can have a negative impact on how their children look at faith. Having your kids consistently in church is great, but even more influential is how they see you interacting with them and how you talk about and live the faith you say you believe.

“Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.”
Proverbs 14:26

Can your legacy also include financial assets, property, or a business? Of course. But when you show up for your children, when you let them see you live your life and why you live your life the way you do, that influence will be with them always.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. May your legacy be a healthy, beloved, and vibrant one.

1 https://www.zerotothree.org/resource/the-daddy-factor-how-fathers-support-development/#:~:text=Children%20whose%20fathers%20are%20involved,stronger%20social%20connections%20with%20peers.
2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8391261/
3 https://ffcws.princeton.edu/sites/g/files/toruqf4356/files/wp09-22-ff.pdf