Father Versus Friend.
“Discipline your children while there is hope. Otherwise you will ruin their lives.” – Proverbs 19:18 NLT
As the father of six children, I know a fair amount about raising kids. Notice I didn’t say I knew a lot about raising kids WELL. In thirty-plus years of parenting, I have made my fair share of mistakes, and I continue to make them. But one of the most significant battles I have faced as a father is the temptation to try and be my children’s best friend, rather than their father. Here’s how it looks. Any time I have let slide some less-than-acceptable behavior because I didn’t want to run the risk of making them mad at me, I have traded in being a father for being a friend. When I have refused to punish their actions because I wanted to avoid the confrontation, I have made friendship more important than fatherhood. And every time I have made being a friend to my kids the driving factor in our relationship, I have done them a disservice. My kids don’t need me to be their best buddy, they need me to be their dad. And sometimes that role requires me to discipline and train them. Turning a blind eye to their behavior is not love, it’s a form of child abuse. When I do it, I am allowing them to act in such a way that is unacceptable and potentially harmful to their future. The Proverbs call us to discipline our children while there is still hope. In other words, there is a window of opportunity in which we can instill into our kids the kind of discipline that will ultimately manifest itself in self-discipline. We are called to teach and train them. We are commanded to encourage them and, at times, admonish them. The desire to have them like me is a dangerous one. It seems so worthwhile and right. But how many times have we sacrificed their future well-being because we refused to teach them the consequences of their actions? That kind of parenting can ruin their lives. It makes them selfish and self-centered. It teaches them that the world revolves around them. It encourages them to become self-focused children who grow up to become self-absorbed, narcissistic adults.
Coddling and caving into our kids now will only ruin them later. We are called to be their parents, not their best friends. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to worry about whether our children like us or not. But it does mean that we may have to run the risk of making them angry at times in order to help make them godly. Giving in to their every whim is not good for them, but simply bad parenting. Over the years, I have often found myself refusing to discipline my children just because I didn’t want to be unpopular. I have stayed quiet when I should have spoken up. I have looked the other way when I have should have pointed out what I saw. I have avoided when I should have confronted. Parenting is a long-term commitment. If we focus on short-term gains, not only will we lose, so will our children. We need to view what we do as an investment that pays future dividends, not a quick-fix remedy that makes our kids happy for the moment. When we parent that way we aren’t doing our kids any favors. While our children may not appreciate our discipline now, a day is coming when they will look back and recognize our efforts with gratitude not regret.
Father, help me be faithful to remain firm in my role as the disciplinarian of my kids. Don’t let me sacrifice the long-term goals for short-term gains. But also make sure I always discipline in love, not anger. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men