Lifeway, who conducts this survey concerning the top ten issues facing today’s family writes, “Ward and June Cleaver seemed to have it so easy. A stern look from Father, and you knew you were ‘in for it.’ We are in a different place than the Cleavers. What has changed? While some families strive to provide consistency and high standards, a culture of disrespect creates sometimes an overwhelming pressure against them. A spirit of rebelliousness pervades our schools and youth culture, more and more often with tragic results. Gee,Wally, things sure have changed.”
Our role as fathers is confused in our culture where there is this general breakdown of discipline. We can fearfully overreact and seek to take command of our homes, ruling with an “iron fist;” or we can seek to physically pound our wife and children into submission and feigned obedience until they either comply or walk away; or we can give up and let the family go where it will. Many well-meaning men have tried each of these extremes with tragic results. One is no better than the other. A fragile plant can be destroyed either by stomping on it or by simply neglecting it.
What Cindy and I have sought to do, not always successfully, is to work together, to come to agreement as to what we expected from each of our kids. Then we clearly explained the expectations and appropriate consequences. We have endeavored to do this in an atmosphere of praise and encouragement. In other words, we have focused on trying to “catch our kids doing something right.”
Now as we draw near to the empty nest years, I find myself reflecting more on my fathering “while our kids were in the home.” My regrets concerning discipline are not in having too tight a rein on my kids, but in having it too loose. I was often too distracted, too unwilling to say “no” when that was what they needed me to tell them. So as I think about where I have fallen short or have been out of balance in the discipline of my kids, I have too closely mirrored the permissive culture around me.
Another thing I have observed is those who have come out of more permissive homes, is that they seem to be lacking a critical ingredient needed for them to hunger for a Savior. They have a real difficulty seeing their own sinfulness and thus they feel no need for a Lord to whom they would be willing to submit to and follow.
In the book of Proverbs in the Bible a wise man named Agur writes, “There are those who curse their father and do not bless their mother, who are pure in their own eyes.” (Proverbs 30:11-12)
If children grow up without restraints, boundaries or discipline they will become self-deceived, “pure in their own eyes,” with no sense of their desperate need for the cross of Christ. Could it be that our excessive concern for protecting our children’s self-esteem plays right into the devil’s hands? We have allowed them to feel good about themselves while remaining unaware of their rebellious hearts.
For the father who seeks to follow Christ, the issue of discipline does not only concern itself only with what will help his children excel in this life, but we believe it also impacts the life to come. (I Timothy 4:7-8) Too much is ETERNALLY at stake here to either overreact or to neglect this area of discipline.
But Let’s get real. We will never get it perfectly like our heavenly Father. (Hebrews 12:10) However, we must not neglect the effort to follow Him and to humbly seek to mirror Him to our children. WHEN we do fall short, we simply own up to it, forgive ourselves, ask for forgiveness from the Father and our children then get back on the narrow path that leads to Life.