Upon returning home from work one day, a father patted his boy on the head and said, "Son, I want you to know I love you."
The son responded: "Oh Dad, I don't want you to love me, I want you to play football with me" (Elder Marvin J. Ashton, Ensign, November 1975).
Professors at BYU's School of Family Life wouldn't be surprised by the son's reaction. "Kids spell love T-I-M-E," one professor said (Church News, June 19, 1999).
Because of the need to provide and be an active member of the Church, fathers can't always be there for every event in their children's lives. However, research suggests they need to make sure to be there as much as they can — especially for the important events.
Time is important to fathers as well as to children, according to the research. "[Time] is what children — particularly young children — want from their fathers," said another professor. "When fathers are not spending time with their children, it is a source of concern to them" (Church News, June 19, 1999).
During his April 1976 general conference address, President Spencer W. Kimball reminded fathers that they are raising a royal generation who have special things to do. "We need to provide them with special experiences in studying scriptures, in serving their neighbors and in being contributing and loving members of their families. All of this requires, of course, time for planning and time to implement — anything but the casualness we sometimes see on the part of some fathers. … We have reasons to believe, brethren, that the impact of the world on our LDS youth is not only greater than it has ever been, but that it comes sooner than it has come in the past. Thus, we must do our work better and sooner!"
President Gordon B. Hinckley said it is a tremendous responsibility to be a father in the Church.
"It is a wonderful responsibility to be a man who stands at the head of his family as one who holds the priesthood of God with authority to speak in the name of God. Fathers, are you the kind of father you ought to be?" (Anchorage Alaska Regional Conference, June 18, 1995).
President Ezra Taft Benson said it is the responsibility of fathers to give spiritual leadership to their children. One way to accomplish this, he said, is to "go on daddy-daughter dates and fathers and sons outings with your children. As a family, go on campouts and picnics, to ball games and recitals, and to school programs. Having dad there makes all the difference" (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 511).
One BYU study asked fathers to work with a 6-year-old child to draw a sailboat on an Etch A Sketch. The father controlled one of the toy's two dials, the child the other. While it sounds like playtime, the exercise was really an extensive experiment on the relationship quality between fathers and children.
Researchers found that the children who had the best experience can thank their fathers' "child-centered parenting beliefs." In other words, when fathers pay attention to their children's cues about how children feel and what they like to do, it produces better quality relationships (news.byu.edu/archive10-jun-fathersday.aspx).
"The Family: A Proclamation to the World" outlines several responsibilities of fathers — to "love and care" for their children, to "rear their children in love and righteousness," and to "provide for their physical and spiritual needs."
As stated in the proclamation, "by divine design fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families."
It sounds like a daunting task. Yet President Thomas S. Monson said fathers can start by doing something as simple as listening to their children.
"I would encourage you to be available to your children," he said. "I have heard it said that no man, as death approaches, has ever declared that he wished he had spent more time at the office" (Teachings of President Thomas S. Monson, p. 211).
Or, in others words: "Children spell love T-I-M-E."