Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Take Time to be a Dad.

Ephes. 6:4 (ESV)
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

I concentrate on this section a little more than on listening to your parents. Generally speaking children know to listen to their parents, Christian or not. But I think this speaks to the larger issue Paul was addressing. It too often happens that Christian parents become overbearing towards their children. It generally happens as an outgrowth of legalism. Father’s become worried that their children will be led astray from God by secular influences. Parent’s will prescribe all sorts of rules that children find to hard to follow. This I believe is what Paul means by provoking children to anger. Being to strict, to quick to punish, to severe in punishment.
It is a trick to raise children to be in the world but not of the world. But that is what is meant by bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Sheltering children from the realities of this world is not going to help them. Being to strict will only send them the other way. It might be better to let them go see a movie and talk to them about it afterward than forbid them to see it. Pop music may not promote the best virtues in the world, but discussing the lyrics and the problems with the music might be a better alternative than consigning them to listening to so-called Christian rock.
Disciplining children is perhaps more needed today than in years past. I don’t know. Children it seems get away with a lot more today than I remember my friends and I getting away with. Some discipline is good. But too much is a harsher thing. I think most people my age remember belt welts on their bottoms. And I don’t think to many of us turned out the worse for it. But I do remember that at times it drove me to anger and rebellion. I think my dad might have done better to spend more time with us children training us.
I try to remember that with my son. I don’t get to spend much time with him. But when I have him I all but refuse to work. There are more important things in life. I saw a sign the other day it said “Take time to be a dad.” It is good advice. Take time. It works better than a belt or grounding, more rewarding too.
I wrote this article at the beginning of the week. Today I found this link to some lectures by one of my mentors, "Dr. Rod". It may cost 6.95 but my guess is that the lectures are going to be worth it. Rod's lectures always are. You can find them here


Brigitte said...

This is hard for me.

I agree with everything you say and I'd probably also say that my husband was always more prone to err on the side of more work and less play, but Stefan, for example, was a good manual worker with good ideas and gaining exciting skills (fixing things, building things). So it was good and bad. Working with your dad I don't think has yet ruined a boy.

Of course, each one had the better ideas than the other.

What I would add, are two things.

Raising children with the internet, video games, movies, movies and more movies (did I say MORE movies), the cellphones, the texting (the bloody texting!) has made family life much more difficult. I don't know what should be done about it (except pray). They are overwhelmingly fed a lousy diet mentally, spiritually (emphasis on "overwhelming".)

The other thing is: as the non-custodial parent (which responsibility you'd, I'd expect, glady assume), it is easier to be the "fun" parent. I don't need to go into this. It is important for everyone to be supportive not only of the child but the parent who bears the burden of disciplining. (I'm not saying you're not doing that. I'd have no way of knowing.)

It's just that nowadays there is such a thing as "toxic" parents. As the 4th commanded is disregarded, and family constellations are more complicated, other adults also feel free to undermine other parents. This sets a horrible precendent/example for the young people. (Something about "millstones" around some people's necks.)

I've NEVER suffered such a thing from having open relationships with my children's birthfamilies-- but I HAVE from neighbors, my children's friend's parents and in-laws. This is very devastating and not a trifling thing, whatsoever. And there is a reason the fourth commandment is the fourth.

Bror Erickson said...

Working with a boy can be a wonderful way to spend time with them. It is good quality time to fix or build something with a boy. That is for sure.
I suppose I am the "Fun" parent. I would rather be the custodial parent. I think though that even with all the fun John and I have together, he probably gets more discipline under my wing than he does with his mother. I will watch some t.v. or movies with him. But for the most part I try to find things to do outside. He likes to hike, and just be out in the woods or climbing a mountain. He is surprisingly good at that for a six year old.
But it is painfully obvious that he doesn't have the best environment at home. He lives off a diet of fast food, and owns more movies than I have even been able to watch in my life. And I have to constantly remind him not to yell at his mom, or bully her when he is on the phone.
But yeah this whole subject is touchy. Hard to give advice to people on how to raise their children.

Brigitte said...

My own father, in middle/later years, would sometimes say that as a father he had this feeling of "Barmherzigkeit", which is a good theological term (mercy, compassion, generosity) towards his children. And he was. He was kind. He was not perfect, but he was kind.

It was striking that he would use this word, that one does not usually use in day to day conversation. (He did not usually talk theologically. The pietism in the family did not work for him).

For a parent, there is this aching, all-consuming desire for their children to be well. And the children can hardly grasp this depth of feeling until they are parents themselves.

Bror Erickson said...

I wish pietism worked on fewer fathers. Barmherzigkeit is a good term to use, especially given the correlation of earthly father's and fathers in heaven. A person's view of God, and his propensity to believe in God is in fact heavily related to the person's relationship to his earthly father. So having a father who feels mercy toward his children is a good thing, it accurately reflects the merciful father we have in heaven.

Anonymous said...

Amen Bror, amen. And I mean that as a dad myself who struggles MUCH with that balance. On the one side I want to so arm my children, all very young, with all the faith has to give them and teaching them all the tools of learning to aid in that. Then on the other side I do it to a fault when I don’t just let them be kids and play and so forth. Then I zigzag back the other way again. Sometimes I feel like rather than going down the middle of that road in a nice steady fashion, I ignorantly try to average it by zigging and zagging between the extremes. Maybe one of these days I’ll get the car centered stably.

I think we are pretty close to the same age and I remember growing up just as you described. Only now looking back on some of those belt spankings do I see my dad was protecting me, even if he himself struggled with mixed self absorption in that (just wanting me to listen to make things easier) and of course his generation was a bit different than mine. I never struggled with life the way he had too as I suspect most from his time did.

I think this is the hardest struggle a man/father has, I think it is more so with men than women/mothers.

Oh in light of this, I just down loaded them last night and have not listen yet, but Ted Rosenbladt over on “newreformationpress” has a four part series down by Dr. Rod Rosenbladt that I think relates to this exact issue. I suspect it will be superb even though I’ve not heard it yet. Just FYI for anyone wondering. I think its six bucks to download.


Larry KY

Bror Erickson said...

My suspicion based on inductive reasoning and plenty of class and face time with Rod is that those lectures are very well worth listening to. Rod has a father's heart, and understands the father/ son dynamic well. I need to listen to them myself.
Someone once told me it doesn't matter what you do you are going to screw your children up. I think there is truth to that. I think the best you can hope for is to minimize the screw up. We are sinners and we passed that on to our children when we met their mom in a smoke filled bar, or perhaps lusted at them from the other side of the sanctuary when their siren voice caught our ear singing Amazing Grace.
However I tend to think there is nothing more important for a father to do then spend time with his children. That's it. Just spend time with them. As sad as it is given the figures out there I find that I probably spend more time with my son, as a noncustodial parent, then the average dad out there. I think parents tend to take their children for granted until they break something.