I want my sons to grow up believing that a grown man singing is one of the most natural sounds in the world.
It doesn’t have to be great singing. I’m no accomplished vocalist. Yet I don’t want my boys — or my daughter, for that matter — to ever think it’s strange for men to sing. Rather, it’s strange, and sad, when men don’t sing.
To my fellow dads, I’d love for you to consider with me what it might mean to put your fathering to song. What small but significant steps might you take toward making your home a more tangible place of happiness?
“I want my sons to grow up believing that a grown man singing is one of the most natural sounds in the world.”
You don’t need to sing well to parent with song. We’re not talking about talented baritones and basses. Just singing. And of course, this isn’t just for dads. Moms have an indispensable part to sing as well, with unique potential to bring joy into the home through music and song.
First, consider two reasons why we would want to intentionally fill our homes with song, then a few practical ideas from a young father who’s finding his way. Even if you weren’t raised to sing, perhaps this is your chance to begin redeeming God’s marvelous gifts of music and song for your family.
Home Made Happier
When Daddy sings, the home is happier. Singing is the sound of joy in God. It is joy in God made audible. Singing around the house, in the car, and as we go through life fills the air with joy, and helps to establish a family fellowship of warmth, rather than coldness. Dads who are man enough to sing contribute in significant measure to making theirs a happy home.
We Christians sing because we know a God who is indomitably happy (Psalms 115:3), even in the most trying of circumstances. Our God is a God who sings, even over us:
The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
If Christians don’t sing, who will? Television talent contests fill with soloists raised in the church because non-Christians have fewer reasons to sing. Does an atheistic, agnostic, secular, or pragmatic worldview inspire song? We find exceptions to the rule, but the exceptions accent the norm. Song is the language of praise when you worship a happy God.
“Singing is the sound of joy in God. It is joy in God made audible.”
“The church is meant to sing,” says songwriter and worship-leader Bob Kauflin. “In different times in church history, churches have established singing schools.” It’s Christians who have reason to sing, whatever our circumstances. Christian dads have a hope deeper than any trouble, not only to steady our own souls, but to build into our families, by opening our mouths with song.
Every Heart Engaged
But not only do we make our homes happier through song. When Daddy sings, he inspires the hearts of his children to grow and flourish, not just their minds and bodies. As the sound of joy, song is a language of the heart. Filling life with music and song is a way to encourage and cultivate the heart, rather than suppress it.
Singing to and with our children, says Kauflin, “engages kids’ hearts like normal speaking doesn’t.” Song not only teaches truths, but helps us to feel the gospel — and as dads, we not only want to shepherd our children’s outer lives, but their inner person as well.
But what should we sing, and when, and how?
1. Sing Scripture
What better lyrics to put to music than the very words of God himself? I still remember Steve Green’s Hide ‘Em in Your Heart lyrics from my childhood, and our family has enjoyed learning Seeds Family Worship songs in the car (especially the album on The Character of God). Many other good options exist. No doubt, some have put Scripture to bad music. I wouldn’t recommend confusing your kids’ musical palette with cheesy music, but you can seek out those who are doing it well.
Most of us aren’t able to write our own songs, but you might be surprised what you’re able to do if you give it a try.
2. Cultivate the Habit of Song
Spontaneous singing around the house and in the car shows our kids the overflow of joy in our hearts. But how do you cultivate a habit of song that will overflow into spontaneous moments? Through creating some structure that brings song regularly into your family’s life. It could be singalong songs in the car, or at bedtime or mealtime. Structure and spontaneity aren’t enemies here. Structure produces spontaneity.
“Singing to and with our children engages kids’ hearts like normal speaking doesn’t.”
When I take the kids out to breakfast on Saturday mornings, I take the drive as a cue to teach them a song. We’re now working through “A Mighty Fortress.” They’re able to catch on quicker than I would have expected. For a while, we taught “Stronger” at bedtime and encouraged the boys to sing along as they learned it. Try different triggers, and look for what works in your family life.
3. Sing Through Unpleasant Tasks
Take a page from Mary Poppins and sing your way through unpleasant tasks. A spoonful of sugar does help the medicine go down — and so does a song about medicine. Consider singing when it’s time for the kids to take their medicine — or at diaper change. This has been one of my favorite parts of trying to be a singing dad.
How much good will it do our children to hear Daddy sing not only in the happiest moments, but also during unpleasant chores?
4. Enjoy Music Together
Even in families with parents who love music, it can be easy to overlook singing and sharing in music together. Kauflin encourages parents to “introduce music to your house if you haven’t already.”
“It used to be easier. Pre-iPod, when you had your stereo system and everybody listened to the same thing, it was just a lot easier. I was just with a family yesterday that made a practice of listening to music together. That’s just a great practice.
“We have so much available to us now, different styles of music, but songs that you can sing together. Of course, if you do have musicians, get them leading in songs. A number of families have their twelve-year-old playing the piano and just singing simple worship songs. Boy, what that does to encourage their understanding of how God might use their gifts to encourage the church and just what it does to build the family together.”
Enjoying music together won’t look the same in every family — and for sure, not every Dad will sound the same — but don’t miss the joy God makes audible when Daddy is willing to lead with song.