Wise Fathers, Aim for the Heart!

by Zach Sparkman

man helping young son with archery

Some friends of ours love all things outdoors. They camp and hunt and fish, and the dad has set up an archery range in their garage to encourage their boys to get better at shooting. When we hung out with them earlier this year, he graciously taught my boys how to shoot a bow. Among other points of instruction, he told them to look at the center of the target, because what you look at is what you’ll aim for.

The principle, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time”, has been around a long, long time. Obviously, this applies to many areas of life beyond archery, but have you thought about what your target is in parenting? As a father, what are you aiming at? Proverbs 23:26 explains what this target is: “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.”

Wise fathers aim to win the heart of their child. From this verse, we see three action steps wise fathers take to win their child’s heart.

1. Set aside specific time for spiritual instruction.

Solomon begins this verse by directly addressing his child, saying, “My son.” This is a common expression in Proverbs; twenty-three times Solomon directly addresses his son. Three times he specifically calls his son to listen (1:8, 4:10, 23:19). Three times Solomon calls him to pay attention and remember (3:1, 4:20, 5:1). Four times he pleads with him to keep his words (2:1, 3:21, 6:20, 7:1). That’s a major emphasis on listening to his spiritual instruction.

What are some of the specific things that Solomon teaches his son?

  • He teaches him that knowing God comes through treasuring his words. (2:1-5)
  • He warns him of the danger and consequences of not listening. (19:27)
  • He encourages him to remember the truths he shared with them. (7:1-3)
  • He shows him the blessings of listening to instruction and correction. (3:1-2, 21-23, 23:15)
  • He reminds him that obeying God’s words protects him in ways he, as a child, doesn’t yet understand. (1:10)

As a father, we have a massive opportunity to speak truth into the hearts of our children. This can come in the course of life, as Deuteronomy 6:7 says, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” When your child asks a question seemingly out-of-the-blue, take that moment to talk with them of the Lord.

I have found that these “rhythm of life” conversations happen more regularly when I have regular times of spiritual instruction. Faithfully attending a gospel-preaching local church is a huge part of this, but our family devotion time also helps tremendously. Just reading a short story or memorizing a verse together at the breakfast table gives me as a dad the time and space to specifically talk about the Word of God with our family.

I hasten to add that instruction alone does not gain the heart of the child. A father must also:

2. Seek heart-level experiences and conversations.

Our key verse says, “My son, give me your heart.” Godly parenting is not content with outward conformity, but seeks to shape the heart.

Proverbs 4:23 reveals the importance of the heart: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” The heart controls everything, so it must be guarded diligently. Before they can guard their own hearts, we do it for them. One of the ways we guard our children’s hearts is by winning and retaining their trust! We want them to listen to us and come to us with their questions and not go to their friends or the internet or influencers on social media.

These heart-level moments do not usually come out of nowhere, so, seek them out! Plan for them! This can be done by inviting one child to do errands with you, working in the yard with you, or exercising with you. I have followed Chap Bettis’ encouragement to take one child out for a donut on the regular.1 These moments show our children they matter to us, and that we want to listen to them specifically. We fathers spend lots of time planning our hobbies and fun weekends, so why wouldn’t we take a few minutes to plan how to create heart-level experiences and conversations?

The final part of this verse, if ignored, renders everything else ineffective:

3. Model spiritual consistency.

Solomon invites the scrutiny of his sons when he says, “Let your eyes observe my ways.” To observe is to pay careful attention for the sake of imitation. Dads should model wise living for his children!

There is no surer way to lose our children’s hearts than to be lacking spiritual integrity. If we don’t live out what we tell them to do, at some point they will see through us, and it can disillusion them.

Though we fathers fail often, we cannot shy away from the role God has called us to. We are the spiritual leaders of the home, the pace-setters, the temperature gauge for the family. We must walk deeply with the Lord and model godliness for our children. Just as our children look like us, talk like us, or have the same mannerisms as us, how much more important (and special!) is it for them to walk with God like us?


Wise fathers, take aim! There are many other things we can aim for in parenting, like our children’s success, obedience, independence, or maturity. These are all good things, desirable things even, but none should be the primary target of our parenting. Solomon teaches us that wise fathers aim for their children’s hearts, which allow us to shape their hearts to love Jesus and follow Him for the rest of their lives.


  1. See Nine Elements of an Effective Donut Date

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