“The Fatherhood Playbook”

  Legacy Dad Stages of Child/Parenthood

by Lance

I was in search of two things: An authentic, Biblical parenting philosophy and a parenting philosophy that had a proven track record of producing children who become Christ-Centered adults.

Reports from Barna, Lifeway, and the Fuller Youth Institute that 50-70% of evangelical youth are leaving the church after high school send red flags that many of the popular parenting philosophies being touted by books and experts are not effective. Current neuroscience, evidence based studies, and early childhood research are now giving us better tools to understand what is truly effective in child development and parenting.

Personally, I was searching for a parenting philosophy that created a close bond with my children, while instilling Christian values and other life skills that matured their trust and faith in God. Quite often today, well meaning parents are unknowingly focusing on the wrong foundational areas or using untested opinions in order to raise children who grow up to follow Christ and live a Christ-Centered life. 

The question we should be asking ourselves is:

What are the most effective parents doing differently than you and I?

I wanted my children to grow up to become mature and experienced in the following areas:

Faith - Trust In God 

Morals, Values, and Ethics 

Leadership and Accountability 

Healthy Relationships and Ultimately Marriage 

Outward Oriented - Selflessness


Biblically, we call this spiritual maturity or discipleship but as a busy parent, I was confused on how to accomplish this with my children so I needed a plan.

I also wanted a process that was easy to integrate into our unique family situation - a playbook if you will - to follow and track throughout my parenting process.  I wanted my children to have timed benchmarks, rights of passage, and to live and experience their values that would culminate in an adulthood ceremony, where my children were recognized and congratulated on their progress and reassured they were ready for the world.

I started looking for this playbook by reading a bunch of books, both Christian and non-christian (pediatricians, child psychologists and some of the most popular parenting programs out there).  Each one had its own unique concepts but nothing was all-inclusive and many had no evidence-based research or proven track records of actually working. Many of these authors had young children and great ideas, but haven’t actually raised their kids all the way to adulthood yet.  Plus, there was a lack of congruency between many of the best selling parenting books and popular programs. Many of these parenting ideas focused a lot of time on making our lives as parents easier…but were not the most effective for the child’s development.

Often popular parenting books and philosophies focus heavily on reforming behavior, controlling our children's environment, or even manipulating our children to comply or obey.  While these ideas are popular with the “Over Protective Parenting Crowd” – there was plenty of evidence-based research that these ideas were not effective long term and especially for raising Christ-centered children.

Personally, I wanted to raise children who make the right decisions out of inner obedience, self discipline, and love for God no matter what environment they find themselves in.  I don't want to raise children who are merely obedient to my rules and boundaries because I said so, but children who learn and grow to have a change of heart, a heart for Christ, and who bear Fruit of the Spirit.


So I decided to pray, conduct my own research, and come up with a unique Christian road map that met my goals yet was practical and Biblical. I called it Legacy Dad because I realized the eternal importance of this parenting process and that many of my parenting efforts (good and bad) would not materialize until years down the road.

This "PlayBook" is a work in progress that I've refined over the past 20 years as my children went from toddlers to adults.

Legacy Dads is a program to mentor and guide your children (and you as parents) from birth to adulthood.  Legacy Dads research the top methods and programs for attaining this type of mentorship and puts them into a personal, customizable parenting package to fit your individual parenting needs and style.

This is a fluid plan that is constantly being refined based on trial and error and these are actual examples of concepts we have used with our own children. With all these examples and suggestions, we are always thinking about grace and moderation not parenting to extremes. The concept is to teach these principles to your child by setting the example as the parent. Children will not learn without their parent’s example. Actions not words. Plus, these concepts must be reinforced during impromptu moments and situations that can arise at any time. There are many times each day that we find ourselves in situations to teach and model these traits to our children. You cannot cram these ideas on weekends or vacations. It takes daily interaction.

The ultimate goal of Legacy Dads is to create these in our children:

Security in their Hearts

Significance in their lives

Strength for the future

Essential Life Skills

Biblical worldview as their Compass

One of the essential build blocks of Legacy Dads is Grace Based Parenting.

Grace Based Parenting:

Lovingly accepts children regardless of their merit

Serves children's needs without a sense of obligation

Motivates children to a higher holiness without condemnation


The Legacy Dads Stages of Child and Parenthood outlines specific ages, goals, and resources to use as a parent during this process.  All of these meet the two parenting criteria (Biblical and Evidence-Based Results)

Cognitive Years

Phase I

Birth to 5 Years – Cognitive Development

Parent Goals – Secure attachment between child/parents, Secure love (unconditional), Safe Environment (trauma free home) Learning and cognitive development through play and social interaction, Empathy for others (sharing, no hitting) Boundaries/Discipline (teaching self discipline and consequences)


How to Create Secure Attachment and Safe Environment - watch these free videos - https://www.legacydads.org/aces

Baby Dedication/Infant Baptism

Blessing Your Child - Dr. John Trent - Strong Families.com

Introduction to Church/Biblical Living – Church Attendance, Sunday School, Biblical Worldview

Family Meals - try to have as many family meals per week as possible with no phones, TV, or distractions. Use this time to talk.

Family Traditions – Begin annual family rituals – A week at a lake cabin, sponsoring a needy family at Christmas, Thanksgiving Day Blessings – The idea is to create family rituals that you do every year and thus create security and memories.

Family Night - Once a week, have a dedicated family night for movies, games, sharing, etc.

Grace – Grace Based Parenting Small Group I - Create and maintain an atmosphere of grace, focus on meeting your children's three inner needs.  Start teaching love, acceptance and grace during play, school, friends, sports. – This is learned through action not words.

Elementary Years

Phase II

Ages 5-12 Years – Elementary Years

Building Character Traits – Building character traits in your children should be your top parenting priority (Integrity, Truthfulness, Love, Acceptance, Courage, and Selflessness)


Boundaries – Promote self discipline more than authority discipline - teaching your children to act appropriately even when no one is around - Place boundaries on: screen time, play time, use of phones and media, develop healthy sleep habits, curfews for friends and activities in the older years (10-12)

Teaching Teamwork - Involvement in team sports and activities, focus on positive sportsmanship, selflessness, determination, perseverance (Don’t let your child quit or miss practices unnecessarily. Also, don't allow them to give only a mediocre effort.) Teach your child to give it their all.

Evangelism – Teach your child to uphold their values/beliefs around others while also not condemning others with differing beliefs, Invite friends to Church/Youth Group, Having friends over during meal times (Prayer), talk and teach child about the beliefs of other religions and the differences in Christianity (Faith based versus Works based).

Modeling Dating/Relationships – Father/Daughter Dates/Dances - Mother/Son Dates/Dances – Explain and show your children how to act and treat the opposite sex, make it a memorable event. Social graces, respect, purity.

Around age 10 or early depending on the specific child

Freedoms – Start allowing freedom of choice - clothes (modesty) hair styles, friends, activities. = Grace.  You are allowing your children to learn discernment and make mature choices from an early age. Just because they choose something different from what we would as parents, don’t ridicule or condemn unless it violates morals or Biblical truth. Encourage their positive decisions and give them verbal affirmations of their positive choices.

Responsibility - Start giving your child more responsibility in multiple areas without overwhelming them.  When they struggle, let them fail and or accept natural consequences of not being responsible - missing homework, forgetting items, not meeting deadlines, etc. If they make a mistake, don’t rush in to save them, let them experience natural consequences unless it is life threatening or morally negative.


Build Character into their heart - Grace Based Parenting Small Group II 

Sex/Body - The Story of MeBefore I Was BornWhat's The Big Deal

Your Child's Uniqueness/Spiritual Gifts/Creativity - The Kids-Flag-Page from Family Matters Ministry

Family Night - Once a week, have a dedicated family night for movies, games, sharing, etc.

Money/Charity – Financial Peace Junior – Dave Ramsey - Weekly and Impromptu Giving, At age 12, give your children a checking account to manage and learn budgeting, savings and charity.

As your child gets older, the amount of control by parents needs to loosen as the child learns and begins to make their own decisions and ultimately mistakes (natural consequences). 

They will learn decision making and a Biblical worldview with your support, mentorship, and guidance and with the help of other adults, clergy, grandparents in their lives.  It's better for your children to make mistakes and learn while they are still in your home than when they are in their 20's and the consequences become more severe.  


The Teen Years

Phase III

Rites of passage -Ages 13-16 – Young Adult

As your child enters these ages, friends and social life will start becoming more and more important.  Many parents choose to disengage and allow friends to take the place of the family.  DO NOT let this happen!!  Keeping trying to engage (It’s not always easy) send them texts, tweets, Facebook messages, etc.  Continue to talk with them and be a part of their lives. Meet their friends, dates, teachers, coaches, etc.  Do not be discouraged.

It is also natural to go to the opposite extreme and try to prevent or restrict your children during these years out of fear or in an effort to force your children to comply with your wants and needs. Many parents overly focus on behavior modification as a result. It is natural to have some friction during these years and for children to test their beliefs, boundaries, morals, etc. How you react as a parent is a key factor, the more you lash out and try to clamp down, the more children will resist or go behind your back. Remember to balance Truth and Grace during these tough years!


Becoming a Young Adult – Teach Responsibility, Cooking, Cleaning, Housework, Employment

Father & Son Journey's Together - Take your son to men's events, men’s conferences, weekend retreats - hunting, camping, paintball, whatever your son likes to do together.

Passport2Purity Weekend For Girls/Moms – Weekend at Resort, Cabin, Hotel - we personally recommend that parents listen to the Passport to Purity CD’s ahead of time and develop your own “sessions” using real world examples, personal experiences. The CD’s are Christ-Centered and Biblical but have a some unrealistic, canned examples and can sometimes trend towards legalism. We find it is better to tailor this weekend to your child rather than just doing the curriculum.

Family Night  - Once a week, have a dedicated family night for movies, games, sharing, etc.

Dating – If you choose to let your children date, insist on meeting your children’s dates and making your children meet the parents of their dates. –Interviewing Your Daughters Date - For Daughters. Fathers talk to son’s about purity, responsibility and respecting boundaries.  What He Must Be For My Daughter - For Your Sons

Money - Foundations Course by Dave Ramsey - Give your children their own checking account, employment, paying for their own items and recreation. Start letting them practice and learn Biblical financial principles.

Trust in God – Teaching your teens to trust the Lord for problems, challenges in life. Teach Prayer in times of struggle and in decision making, Help them overcoming a fear together (Roller Coaster, Bungee Jumping, Etc.)

Evangelism/Youth Groups – Youth With A Mission, Family Missions Trips, (e3 Missions), Youth For Christ, Volunteering at your Church, Young Life – Teaching younger kids at church or volunteering for a short term project.

Grace Based Parenting III – Aiming Your Child At True Greatness

Lance also added the following steps at this age:

Specific books for each child to read based on their uniqueness and current life challenges. These books should reinforce positive character traits and spark conversations to reinforce your core teachings. Each child picked out a journal and recorded thoughts on each book.

After 18 months of reading and discussing various books - a fun, real world test that allowed the child hands on experience with different challenges and positive traits - Some Examples: Learning to Face Your Fears, Learning to Serve Others, Leadership, Raising Money for Charity.


Preparing for Life

Phase IV 

Age 16-18 – Preparing For Life/College

Believe me, this stage comes faster than you think and it’s a time filled with excitement, sadness, and nervousness. The Legacy Dad model was specifically designed with this phase in mind and to lay a foundation that launches our children into the world fully knowing that we prepared them for the world.

This stage is where your child is starting to take their own path in life and to decide what is next - college, military, vocation.  As parents, we need to support our children but also move into the role of wise counselor. During these years we need to subtly influence and guide them but also give them the freedom to make decisions. Move for telling them what to do, to asking them questions about what they want to do. Research clearly shows that being too overbearing or pushing our teens in a direction they don’t want to go could cause your child to rebel or get involved in destructive habits.

Manhood/Womanhood Ceremony– between ages 16-18 – A significant event marking your son/daughters transition into adulthood.  Give them a special gift or family heirloom, partner with Men’s/Women’s Ministry, coaches, grandparents, etc.  – See Raising A Modern Day Knight and Raising A Modern Day Princess  for more in depth info.

Family Night  - Once a week, have a dedicated family night for movies, games, sharing, etc.

Exploration - Undoubtedly in this phase your kids will be confronted or experiment with sex, alcohol, and possibly drugs. Don’t panic! Talk with them about making smart decisions and consequences. Depending on your beliefs, you may need to address birth control. Make it clear that drinking and driving is not an option. Again, we must balance safety, natural consequences, and ensuring our children know that we love them no matter what mistake they may make. Truth says there are consequences for their actions which includes discipline but Grace says we love them know matter what and will not overreact when they sin.

Dating - Depending on your beliefs, you may deal with dating in this phase. Be clear on expectations, consequences, boundaries, and how they should treat and be treated by the opposite sex.

Evangelism – Stranded Experience, mission trips alone with youth group or peers, volunteering at church, teaching younger kids in church.

College/Military - start having talks about going to college or other options based on your child. Take them to job fairs, career days to explore what field God may lead them to. Reinforce prayer during this time for discernment and future choices.

College Bound  - Junior/Senior Year HS – College Ready Study from Life Ready/Family Life

 Unique Parenting Resources

We are not experts or experienced in many of the unique situations that some parents face. However, the following resources come from trusted ministry partners.

Single Parenting/Co-Parenting - Visionary Parenting for Single Parents

Step Families - The Smart StepFamily

Special Needs - The Life We Never Expected, Unexpected Journey