From Stephen:Ok dads, let's crank out four more quick gifts for our kids in our series. You can read Part I and Part II to catch up with us. In the first two posts in this series, we spent some time discussing four major gifts for our kids. Now we're going to pump out four quick ones--no particular order or weight, but gifts to your children that will bring them peace and freedom.
5. Don’t Be Afraid To Be StrongDon’t act like the sitcom version of a father (the stupid 5th child). This all goes together with understanding our leadership role in the family and the spiritual mantle that God has placed on us as fathers (see last post). Again, this role is ours to play. If you shrink back, you'll create a vacuum that someone will fill, most likely your wife.
Now she very well may be more spiritually inclined than you, she may have amazing horsepower and be extremely talented in many areas, but she is not the father, you are. Make it your goal to honor her gifts and strengths, listen to her and give her a huge space to parent in. Let me be clear, being a strong father has NOTHING to do with controlling or diminishing your wife's strength.
However, if you abdicate your leadership and authority role, you will create frustration for her and for you. In our western culture, there is a disturbing trend to try to neuter masculinity. Resist this course, and be the man God made you to be. And I'm not speaking about being Mr. Macho or some dictator, but be the strong, godly man God created. Don't be afraid to be strong.
6. Don't Be Afraid To Show Them You Are Not PerfectBeing a strong father (point 5 above) does not at all imply perfection or even the hiding of weakness. In reality, some of the biggest breakthrough times I've had as a dad have come when I've had to admit and confess to my child that I've messed up and made a mistake. We all probably remember what it was like as children when we looked to our mom and dad as superheroes, super strong and the source of answers and wisdom. But we all found out that they were very human, as we are. So when you miss the mark with them, call it for what it is, and ask them to forgive you. In your vulnerability, you will open doors of relationship and understanding with your child. Maybe you've really lost your temper, or gone too far in disciplining them. Tell them, "Listen son, what you did was wrong, but how I reacted was also way off, and I'm sorry. Can you forgive me?"
Now don't let them use your weakness as a point of manipulation, but truthfully, I've not found this to be an issue. My kids have been more impressed with me calling out my mistake, and it makes our relationship more real, and it models for them what it really means to walk honestly and with integrity.
7. Set Boundaries and Stick With ThemWell this is Parenting 101! We all know that we should set boundaries and be consistent with our children, but making sure this is happening in your home is the responsibility of both mother and father. One of you may be better at this than the other, but be sure you are consistent, fair and clear in your discipline. There are times when we make exceptions or even change our minds, but when this happens, be clear with your kids. Share your thought processes, especially if the Lord leads you to deal with a situation differently than would have been your normal "rule". Let them in on how awesome God is, how He leads and guides us, how we can talk to Him and hear His voice, how He loves them and is leading you in how to handle this particular situation.
8. Get to Know Their FriendsAs much as you are able, make your home welcoming and inviting for their friends. Some of your children may be little social butterflies and just naturally want to have their friends over to play. Some will need some encouragement from you, and you can help them plan get togethers, and come up with suggestions as to how they could invite friends over. Whether it is just an afternoon at home in the basement, in the backyard, or a more extensive spend-the-night, it is a great thing for your kids to have their friends over.
This is especially important when they hit the teenage years. We want to give our children increasing freedom as they get older, and our end goal is that they are launched into their own lives and destiny. So we're not talking about a hyper-controlling environment. Still, it is helpful for us dads to see their friends' faces, demeanors, attitudes and values when they are in your home. As your children age and get the keys to the car, they will naturally be doing more and more things independent of the family, so it's important to check in with them and take the temperature of their lives. One of the best ways is to know who their friends are--the saying "Show me your friends, and I'll show you your future" is so true. So, taking a good look at your children's circle of friends is a great way to see how they are doing (and if they never wan't them to come over to your house or spend time with you, consider that a red flag, a sign that it's time to make some deposits in that father-child connection.)
Stay tuned for our final two gifts--coming up soon.