10 Things a Father-in-Law Wants in a Son

I don’t know who was more scared, the teenage boy who wanted to date our daughter, or my husband, who was preparing to interview him. Maybe the boy had never been questioned by a prospective date’s father. And it was the first interview of its kind for my husband. As the young man squirmed, my husband, using an idea from Dennis Rainey’s book, "Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date," reached into his pockets and laid the contents on the table before them. His wallet. His car keys. His money. And a picture of our green-eyed, blond-haired daughter.

“Stephen,” he said, “these items represent the most valuable things in my life. Which do you think is most precious to me?”

There was only one answer – “Your daughter.”

This fact has been true from the moment the doctor laid all 6 pounds 12 ounces of her in his arms. And from that moment on, my husband has been thinking about and praying for the man who would someday marry her. After more than two decades of praying, a father has a pretty good idea of the type of man he wants his daughter to marry. Here are 10 characteristics.

He hopes his son-in-law will be:

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1. Someone committed to love God more than he loves his wife.

1. Someone committed to love God more than he loves his wife.

Fathers-in-law know that human-centered love seldom lasts unless it is a byproduct of God-centered love. If a man loves God with all his heart, the Holy Spirit will enable him to love his wife and children – sacrificially, humbly, and committedly. A man can’t love God without loving those around him. A father-in-law knows if his son is pursuing God, he will plow a faith path that will make it easier for his wife and children to follow. 

"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:27).

 

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2. Someone mature enough to be a spiritual leader.

2. Someone mature enough to be a spiritual leader.

Christian fathers-in-law know the spiritual health and wellbeing of their daughters is dependent, in large part, on the men they marry. When a young husband takes the lead in Bible reading, prayer, and church attendance, he charts the course for his family. A spineless, apathetic man abdicates his spiritual responsibility and misses out on the joy of leading his family in the ways of the Lord. 

Sometimes being the spiritual leader in the home means taking an unpopular stand. Fathers-in-law know full well how hard it is to stick to your guns when Baby Girl bats her long lashes and pokes out her lip. A son-in-law committed to leading his family in the ways of God will balance firm conviction with gentle love. 

 

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3. Someone tender enough to welcome and nurture his grandchildren.

3. Someone tender enough to welcome and nurture his grandchildren.

“Sons are a heritage from the LORD,” Psalm 127:3-5 says, and “children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” 

In an era when children are often seen as costly, inconvenient, and disruptive, most fathers-in-law hope their sons will eagerly desire children. They also know true manhood isn’t just tossing an occasional football or taking a kid fishing. It includes learning how to change a diaper, care for a feverish toddler, or share the responsibilities of a family – willingly and faithfully.

Fathers-in-law love seeing their sons-in-law read bedtime stories, wrestle on the rug, or carry little ones on their shoulders. It gives them joy to watch his grandchildren’s eyes light up when their daddy comes home and hear him express his love to his children.

 

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4. Someone wise enough to ask for his father-in-law's input and advice.

4. Someone wise enough to ask for his father-in-law's input and advice.

Fathers-in-law are quite proud when their children make their own way in the world, but they also like to be needed. They’ve learned a lot about life and want to help their kids save time, money, and effort. 

There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors, Proverbs 15:22 reminds us, and almost every man’s father-in-law has the potential to be one of those wise counselors, at least in some areas. And though a son might not always take his advice, he’ll have gained his father’s respect simply by asking for his input. 

 

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5. Someone relational enough to realize he's marrying a family, not an individual.

5. Someone relational enough to realize he's marrying a family, not an individual.

Many fathers-in-law, especially those with only daughters, long for a son. They hope the men their girls marry will want to spend one-on-one time with them. They look forward to working together on projects, watching sporting events, and talking about “men stuff.” 

No longer in the active parenting role of his younger years, the father of married daughters hopes to develop a friendship, not just a family relationship, with his sons-in-law. More than anything, he hopes his sons will enjoy him, not just tolerate him.

 

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6. Someone hard-working enough to provide for his family.

6. Someone hard-working enough to provide for his family.

Women often joke about looking for a man who can keep them “in the manner in which they are accustomed.” All joking aside, fathers-in-law take very seriously a man’s ability to provide for his family. Honesty, integrity, and a willingness to work hard rank high on his list of important qualities in a son.  

Providing, however, isn’t limited to supplying a wife’s material needs. A father-in-law wants a son who’s willing to work to create other, equally-necessary components of a strong family. Among these are an emotional climate free of anger, abuse, and neglect, a sexually-pure relationship with well-thought-through boundaries, and a spiritual environment undergirded by Bible study and prayer.

 

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7. Someone respectful enough to look him in the eye, laugh at his jokes, and appreciate his sacrifices.

7. Someone respectful enough to look him in the eye, laugh at his jokes, and appreciate his sacrifices.

The saying, “The eyes are the window to the soul,” finds its roots in Matthew 6:22-23, and it is true. A man who looks his father-in-law in the eye, shakes his hand, and treats him with respect stands out in today’s culture. Laughing at his jokes, no matter how many times he tells them, will also endear you to him forever. And the day our son-in-law thanked my husband for giving our daughter a wonderful upbringing is one my husband will treasure forever. 

Men of all ages deeply desire to be respected and appreciated. Mutual respect between men is one of the most powerful forces of all. When a son considers the qualities he most admires in his wife and realizes that most were encouraged, nurtured, and taught by her parents, he begins to understand the debt of gratitude he owes his in-laws. Communicating his thanks to his father-in-law says to him, “You did a great job raising your daughter. I appreciate everything you did.”

 

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8. Someone generous enough to give back.

8. Someone generous enough to give back.

Most parents enjoy giving to their children, even after they’re grown up and married. They’re often more financially stable, so they don’t mind springing for movie tickets when the family goes out, picking up the tab at a restaurant, or funding the family week at the beach. Although many young couples are on a strict budget or have limited funds, however, this doesn’t preclude them from also being generous. 

Fathers-in-law value sons who are willing to help and look for creative ways to give back. Instead of having an attitude of entitlement, these sons-in-law gratefully and generously share their time, energy, and support. Helping with a home-improvement project, moving furniture to protect an aging father’s bad back, or cutting the grass during a hot summer day are thoughtful ways to give back to one’s father-in-law.

 

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9. Someone humble enough to admit when he's wrong.

9. Someone humble enough to admit when he's wrong.

Fathers-in-law know that mistakes and poor choices are part of life. No matter how godly, wise, or conscientious a man is, sometimes he’s going to fail. He’s going to hurt his wife, disappoint his children, or offend his family members. 

A son-in-law who admits when he’s wrong and asks for forgiveness takes the first, and often hardest, step toward reconciliation. His father respects him for that. While he may be angry, he knows a man who sets aside his pride in order to restore a relationship is a man he’s proud to call Son.

 

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10. Someone who loves him.

10. Someone who loves him.

When a man hands his daughter over to another man to love, honor, and cherish, he surrenders one of the most precious things in his life. While he knows he’s not “losing a daughter, he’s gaining a son,” he wonders if his new son will like him.  Better yet, will he love him? 

Will he enjoy spending time with him? Learn to trust and respect him? Open his heart to him? The only thing that could be better, he thinks, than having a daughter who loves him, would be having a daughter and a son-in-law who love him. This, deep down in his heart, is what he wants most of all.

 

Lori Hatcher is a blogger, women’s ministry speaker, and author of the Christian Small Publisher’s 2016 Book of the Year, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women. A Toastmasters International contest-winning speaker, Lori’s goal is to help busy women connect with God in the craziness of everyday life. She especially loves small children, soft animals, and chocolate. You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God. . . Starving for Time. Connect with her on FacebookTwitter (@lorihatcher2) or Pinterest (Hungry for God).

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