I became a father in 1997.
It took a while for me to learn how to become a dad. Through a series of not so pretty combustions, explosions, trials, and triumphs, I finally figured a few things out!
In keeping with the theme of this blog site, that lasting change requires ongoing disruption; I want to share three things I wish I’d known the moment I became a dad.
These things were discovered because I failed, often.
And, while you will likely need to go through some hard knocks in life before you learn its lasting lessons, maybe – just maybe – you can get one or two of these right sooner than I did!
1. Anger Works, but There are Better, Far Less Costly, Ways to Get A Point Across!
When my first son was born I was (at times) a rage-machine. Why? I am sure there are a host of answers to that one (porn addiction, stress in ministry, feelings of insignificance, etc.).
Yet, practically speaking, anger worked.
I learned early on if I just out yelled everyone, then I would get my way. And, when I out-angered everyone in the room, I did get my way. Yet the cost was high. A cost to myself and those I love the most. My anger was often directed at my first-born, who is now a twenty year-old beautiful young man.
My rage would not only harm him, but it would harm his siblings, who hid in fear. It would harm my wife who’d be at a loss for handling it.
Don’t hear what I’m not saying: I never hit the kid or raised a hand to him.
Didn’t have to.
I bullied with words and body language.
I have a great relationship with all three of my kids and I love my spouse more today than I ever have. Yet, when looking back on my life, I wish I had those moment of rage back. I want a do-over there!
And here is what I think I’d do:
- Defer to my wife more often. She’s a kind and gentle soul. Such people are the most capable when it comes to responding to and resolving conflicts in life, particularly regarding parenting a testy toddler or a short-tempered teen!
- Direct my anger inward. Most often my rage rose out of the reality that I was looking at a mirror, and just didn’t like what I was seeing. When I learned to look inward, I began to discover the root of my anger. And, as you well know, it was not my child’s behavior!
- Dial back on the emotion by distancing myself from the moment. Even if it took a day or two, I would have instead disciplined well after the act, than disciplined poorly in response to the act.
2. The Benefits of Eating Vegetables are Not Worth the Emotional and Physical Effort Required!
First of all, if you are scraping vegetables out of a can, slopping them in a bowl and nuking them in the microwave, just give them skittles. Saves everyone the hassle and keeps the local dentist happy.
But seriously, if you want to find out how stubborn your children are, turn the table into a,“you’re gonna eat these vegetables or else,” grudge match. And, of course, you’re engaging in this exhausting activity during the worst hours of the day. Your tired, they are tired, and they already sense bedtime looming just around the corner. Yeah. Not a good idea.
Every now and then just let them eat dessert first – or only. Not every meal, but ease up on the whole, if you don’t eat this tonight, then you’re not going to get to (____________).
You never win that one.
3. Disobedience is OFTEN a Symptom of a Heart that is Either Unaware, Uncertain, or Unheard!
Most kids live in a beautiful world that’s brimming with joy and hope. It’s a world that parents have long-since forgotten. As such, many instances of disobedience are rooted in the clueless-ness that immense joy and hope provide.
In all honesty, my kid’s joy often interrupted my misery. When that happened, I told him or her to stop. If he or she didn’t stop, I doubled-down, reminding them of their need to obey me. When they refused to follow my commands, I put a stop to the joy.
Such a shame.
By the time my third child rolled around, I figured this out. The result? I began to participate in the joy my child was experiencing rather than thrusting my misery on them. What a difference this made in both my heart and home.
There are other times that disobedience is coming from a source of “unaware bliss.” We found, in our home, that these moments were usually rooted in a child’s desire to be heard (we all long for this, no matter how old or young), or a child’s need to feel safe and secure.
I could never fully recognize what was at stake – being heard or feeling secure – but usually, if I just wrapped my arms around them and redirected them, I discovered that they were in need of something that I alone could provide: loving presence and open arms.
Honestly, as I look back on it now, I’d say that nine out of ten times, my kids were just being curious or living with a kid-like quality of abandonment. They were not, however, being defiant or rebellious!
Thankfully, Melissa was – and still is – always great at being ever-present and ready with open, loving arms!
There are more lessons, but these three are somewhere near the top of my list.
Thank goodness all of my children survived my parenting. Kids are resilient, yours will survive as well.
Maybe one day they will give me some grand children. Then, I will at last, have a chance to redeem myself!
May your parenting disrupt you more than it does your child!
Disrupting to Renew!