No Excuses

No Excuses

by Randall Treadwell

Why study? For most of his schooling career, my son could make passing grades just listening. Finally, in high school, he took a class where paying attention to the teacher wasn’t enough. We were concerned he wouldn’t pass. I went to the school and visited the teacher. Together we developed a plan. Each afternoon I called the teacher to check on the day’s class activities and get the assignment.

Because this was after my divorce, each night I drove the five blocks to pick up my son from his mom’s house. Back at my house we went through his homework. Some evenings it took several hours. Some nights it was only a few minutes.

The bad part was the subject matter. I knew absolutely nothing about the topic. It was an advanced math class. I struggled so much with arithmetic that I took my last required math class in college during summer school. That way I only had to endure six weeks of absolute confusion. Even after reading my son’s textbook and talking to his teacher, I still couldn’t understand his high school math. But my lack of understanding about the topic wasn’t the issue. My son needed help.

Together we read the assignment. Then we worked the problems. I didn’t understand the math concepts, but I knew enough to keep us moving through the steps. My son knew the concepts and with help on the steps, he breezed through the problems. By the end of each evening’s study session, every problem was completed, and he usually understood the assignment. If there was a question, he wrote it down to ask in class the next day.

As weeks passed, he needed my input less and less. He began doing the problems completely on his own. Not only that, the steps he learned for the math problems also helped with all his homework assignments.


I could’ve invented a number of excuses not to help my son. “I know almost nothing about the topic.” “I need to get the work done I brought home from the office.” “I should go exercise.” “It’s too much trouble to schedule my evenings around him.” But, in the end, being a father was more important than everything else. Children need dads. They need our patient assistance. They need our guidance. They need our approval. The example we show our children affects how they will treat us, others and the children they may have someday.

Unfortunately, I learned about being an example the hard way. I tried to build a successful business. I was putting in too much time working and not being at home. I strived for things that had no eternal value.

Divine example

Fortunately, I didn’t continue down that path. I realized it was time to be the example for my children that would help them understand what is important in life.

God gives us the example of how to be a father. He provides us with a set of instructions. He allows us to contact Him for guidance anytime. He wants the best for us, but forgives us when we fall short of His plan. We can thank Him for His loving mercy and follow His example.

How we live each day matters. If we scream and have a fit when we have a flat tire, our children will learn to scream and throw a fit when something bad happens to them. If we pursue money at the expense of caring for people, our children will learn that obtaining money is more important than helping others. If we talk ugly about people, our children will learn hatred. If we are patiently persistent in dealing with our own children’s needs, they will learn the same in interacting with us and others. If we forgive our children and help them when they need help, they will learn understanding and mercy.

Even though I dreaded math, the opportunity to help my child with his homework was about more than just getting a grade. I could show him I cared about him and what he did. I could demonstrate that we don’t run from the hard things in life. I could help him find the ability within himself to conquer difficulty and help him build confidence.

We also had time to visit about day-to-day life before and after we worked on those daunting math problems. I’d never dreamed such a feared subject could present me with so many opportunities.

Don’t miss an opportunity to be a good example for your children. Pray for God’s guidance to be an earthly father in our heavenly Father’s image. It’s worth every bit of your time.

This article appeared in Focus on the Family magazine.
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