According to Fatherly, the digital publication for dads, fathers’ significance has not been given as much attention as motherhood in the past. Good news! Research in the field of fatherhood is catching up. The benefits of having a father figure on children’s development, “The Father Effect” are becoming more apparent. As Christians, we have the added perspective of being God-centered. How should Christians approach fatherhood? We talk to several fathers in the International Christian School (ICS) community about their experiences and insights on biblical fatherhood.
Fathers Working at ICS
We interview Albert Yeung, Head of Human Resources, and Brian Van Tassel, Dean of Co-Curricular Education & Pastoral Care, about raising their children in Hong Kong. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Albert Yeung (Left) and Brian Van Tassel (Right) shares their insights on how to be an engaging father
What do you think are the benefits of being a "hands-on" father? Can you share your own experiences in the past about this?
A hands-on father is one who is engaged, available, and responsible. They are devoted to spending time with their kids, which is beneficial to their children’s healthy development. Many studies have shown how being a hands-on father can impact kids: they are less likely to have emotional or behavioral problems. They can easily acquire new skills and have a greater sense of security and self-confidence. I have deliberately scheduled fewer activities after work to devote time to spend with my kids at home. My wife and I share bible stories and anecdotes of people who do good things and bad things. We help them to build their value system, so they know what is right and wrong.
In Chinese culture, what do you think is a father’s role in their child’s life?
Society typically paints the father as the sole breadwinner and the mother as the sole caregiver. Particularly in Hong Kong, as the cost of living is so high, the father has to earn enough, and that’s why a lot of dads work long hours to provide for their family. As a result, many fathers are often absent at home. In those cases, these children grow up with no father figure during their formative years. This has many negative implications because, in my opinion, the role of a dad cannot be substituted with a mom. Parents need to partner together for the development and well-being of their children.
How much influence do you think you have in your children's lives while they were growing up?
My job as a father is to teach my kids to know and fear God and for them to act in a way that pleases God. Frankly, I’m less concerned with whether my kids have a high IQ, good academic results, or whether or not they’re talented in sports or music. I’m more concerned with whether they are close to God. A father plays a critical role in shaping the spirituality of his children. Kids always look to see what their fathers are doing and how they treat others, and the kids will act “like father like son”.
I’m thankful my children follow God’s word, learning to be obedient to God, and serving God in their ministry. My wife and I have prayed with our children every night before bed since they were young, and even now as adults. I’m grateful to God since it has become a family tradition, and I hope one day, my children can do this when they start their own families.
What are some practical tips for fathers to find ways to connect with their children?
Brian Van Tassel:
The basic thing is to get on their level and find out what they’re interested in. Spending time with them at their level; entering their world. An example I like to share is when my daughter was reading books on mermaids; I asked her if there were any series I should read. She recommended a series, and I read it so that I could know the things in her mind. With my son, if he watches a cool video, he shows me. Where is that coming from? It’s from interacting with him throughout the years, and he knows I’m interested in the things he’s interested in. I might not be inherently interested in those topics, but I’m interested because my son is interested. We, as parents, also take them outside of their world, to nature. We invest in our kids by expanding their world.
Why do you think it is so important to connect with kids in these ways?
Brian Van Tassel:
We almost have to earn the right to advise and share things with people. They have to trust you before they’re interested in what you have to say. You have to build trust with your kids. They’re willing to listen to us when we are willing to listen to them. For example, I asked my daughter to read Mere Christianity with me, and she was willing to do that, maybe because I read the books she recommended.
What does it mean to you to be an active father, and what does that look like in practice?
Brian Van Tassel:
We have a certain number of years that we get to spend with our kids, and whether we are absent or passive or active and intentional, we are going to impact our kids one way or the other. So why not be intentional and proactive if we’re going to impact our kids no matter what? We have so much to give as fathers. We have a lot to share with our kids. We as fathers have a role to play and need to acknowledge that raising kids isn’t only on our spouses. Modeling a good relationship with our spouse is important, teaching our daughters what kind of man they need to look for in life and what kind of our husband our sons need to be. Fathers need to take the time to connect with the kids intentionally.
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