Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Not Many Fathers

Recently I was talking with a friend of mine whose children were grown and now out of the home. She reflected on her parenting with a little bit of regret, saying, “We became friends with our with our kids too early.” I knew exactly what she was saying. There is a strong temptation to step into that friendship role with our kids when they still need a parent who will lovingly uphold clear standards for them for them to follow.

I struggle in this area with my teens. I tend to be reactive and lenient when they need me to be more proactive and firm. I believe it is because I am looking to them to be liked and accepted. The Bible gives an example of a father who had this problem. Eli was the high priest of the nation of Israel. His two sons abused their roles as priests by indulging in gluttony and sexual sin. Eli, apparently was more concerned about being “liked” by his boys than about loving God and upholding the values of the priesthood. He just looked the other way. The result was disaster for both his sons and himself.

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy and other followers of Christ, “Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me.” (I Corinthians 4:15-16) Paul is speaking of his spiritual fatherhood role, but this message can be applied by all fathers today. Our children may have plenty of friends they may want to emulate or please. They also have plenty of media figures or sports celebrities they can look up to. But they don’t have many fathers. In fact they only have one, at most. And they desperately need a father who will live his own life with self-control and help his children walk the same path.

But to be this kind of father takes a definite mindset. Rather than just react to what our children desire (more freedom!) and fulfill what we think we need from them (their acceptance), we need to focus upon what Christ desires (obedience from the heart for both us and our children). What we and our children both need is to grow in our Christ-like character. As you might see, these are two very different ways of fathering. One way takes us AND our children down a broad, destructive road, the other way leads us all up the narrow path to True Life.

I encourage you to use this Christmas season as an opportunity to practice this new attitude in your family. It may mean initiating a family meeting over dinner to talk about how as a family you want to celebrate Christmas this year with a greater focus on Christ. It may mean sitting down with your wife and getting on the same page about expectations you both have about the season and how to deal with the tendency towards over spending for Christmas gifts. It may well mean cutting back on your schedules and making sure you each are not going off in a thousand different directions during the holidays. And be advised, you will no doubt encounter opposition; but you will have fewer regrets after they are gone from your home.

But hey, your kids don’t need another friend. They need a FATHER!


Anonymous said...

I have found that this tendency to fall into one extreme or another (lax or super strict) is greatly helped by partnering with my wife. When I do that I am balanced out better and I don't need to be "liked" as much by my kids because she and I are a united front!

Brad Douglas said...

God has created the wife to be a "help meet". To me that means she is not only my partner but a part of me! To achieve the most I can with my children, to achieve the most I need to for God, and for myself, I must acknowledge my wife for who she is and how she blesses me. My children will always be my children. The greatest model I can give them is to rely on my Heavenly Father in all that I am and do. If I am to give them leadership then I must abdicate that role to God first and allow him to work through me. Once I acknowledge God's authority over me then my children can do the same first through me and then on their own. Whether they are 1 year old or 100 years old. Be inspired by God. Be submissive to God. But most of all honor God in all you do and he will make you prosper.

Anonymous said...

I think that with a gentle spirit you can still stay in a role of parent without having to draw harsh lines. Lines yes harsh, not usually. When I was growing up I lived in two worlds. One was the obedient "good child" The other was my secret life of not so good things. I was clever and my parents didn't know me well but thought I was a "good kid" I did pretty good in school and was quarterback of the football team. I think some "buddy stuff" is workable just like you don't necessarily have to be tough to be a good boss. I'm trying to do a balance so I don't fool myself into thinking that because they are saluting that they are living a healthy life

Anonymous said...

Wise advice. For a lack of vision we will perish.

Anonymous said...

We found that nightly, or as often as schedules allowed, extended conversations around the family dinnertable worked well to create an atmosphere of acceptance and gave us all an opportunity to check-in with each other. No topic was out of bounds and there were a number that would have "curled my parents' hair" but it allowed them and us to keep short accounts with one another as we listened and lauughed and grew together with them. We never became their pals but were and remain close friends to this day, now with their children as well.

evegasr said...

I grew up with a single mother of three that was very strict, but she was also very consistant with what she said and what she did.

Anybody who knows me can atest that I have the same attribute about myself. but, a few years back I was getting married for the second time and my oldest son did not take it well. I tried so many things with him to keep our relationship good but in the end I found my self trying to be his friend rather than his father and I lost the relationship still.

I was hurt and had a lot of guilty feelings inside because of our broken relationship but one day I decided to call him up and treat him the only way I knew how... as my self, as his father... not his friend and I told him a few things that maybe he didnt want to hear, or maybe was a bit harsh, but again, that is who I am.

Since then we have been working on rebuilding our relationship and its been a slow progress but a progress nonetheless.

So I learned the hard way that being a friend to my son is only good until he crosses the line of standards and behavior that has been set by his father... then, i owe it to him to live up to my responsibilies even at the risk of being disliked by my son...