Those of us who understand that we must model proper authority to our children can still be a part of the fathering problem if we don’t intentionally model success. I wrote the following during the 2012 Summer Olympics:
“Do you think someday I will be as fast as him?”
This is what my six-year-old son asked as we watched Usain Bolt win gold in the 200 meter race last night. Way to put me on the spot, kid.
That’s a tough question to answer when your son is grinning at you with that imaginative glow in his eyes. I didn’t want to belittle him or his six-year-old imagination that can still envision himself standing on top of an Olympic podium… I remember having that same dream when I saw Carl Lewis in 1988. On the other hand, I don’t want to fill his head with garbage. Let’s face it, it doesn’t matter how much he trains or works or runs, Jack just doesn’t have the genes to be the fastest sprinter in the world. I guess that’s my fault. Well, half my fault half his mom’s fault.
“You can do anything you put your mind to” may be the most-often quoted lie. Maybe second to “No, that doesn’t make you look fat.”
I answered him by saying something like “That would really be something if you could run as fast as Usain Bolt because no one else in the history of the world has ever run as fast as he can” and we went back to watching the Olympics. See how I didn’t answer the question and avoided crushing his dreams? I’m pretty good at deflecting. At least I thought I was good at deflecting…he was obviously still thinking about it because a few minutes later he asked another question that was easier to answer but a lot more to think about.
“Dad, someday could you teach me to run as fast as you?”
In the span of 2 minutes he had gone from an unrealistic dream of being the fastest man ever to the all-to-obtainable goal of being as fast as a thirty-year-old, slightly overweight guy who likes to go for a three mile run a few times a week. Who we compare ourselves to makes all the difference, doesn’t it?
“Jack, I will run with you as much as you want, and I hope you’ll be faster than me someday.”
So back to the current topic…
- Every dad knows it—our kids learn from us.
- Every dad gets it—our kids want to be like us in many ways.
- If we’re honest, every dad all also understands that sometimes our kids say “I’ll never be like that.”
I wonder how much it would change the way I interact with my kids if I realized that I am my kid’s measuring stick for life. How they compare to me will be their gauge of both success and failure. If I kept that thought forefront in my mind, I wonder if I would have a better chance of being their idea of success.
It’s easy to point a finger at obvious evil, but perhaps even “good dads” are teaching much more important lessons than we think we are.
1. Fathers shape our impression of God
The Bible calls God our “Heavenly Father” many, many times. Jesus referred to God as “Father” over 100 times in the book of John alone. Paul called Him “Father” over 40 times in his writings. Many of the ways we interact with God mirror our own experiences with our dads—provider, model, teacher, judge, legislator, comforter, protector.
How we treat our kids will impact how they feel about their Heavenly Father.
- Am I angry? My kids will probably think God never is satisfied with them.
- Am I uninvolved? My kids will probably believe God is never there.
- Am I selfish? My kids will probably live as if God is uncaring.
- Am I harsh? My kids will probably consider God a tyrant.
But the flip side is true…
- Am I loving?
- Am I kind?
- Am I consistent?
- Am I just?
- Am I patient?
The more I am like my Heavenly Father, the more realistic a picture my children will have of theirs.
2. Fathers shape our impression of all authority
People who grow up in homes without a dad are 20 times more likely to be imprisoned. There are all kinds of socioeconomic reasons that play into this, but I can’t help but think that a general lack of fatherly authority in their lives has led them to a mindset that rejects all forms of authority.
But having the wrong kind of authority could greatly damage a child’s perception of his own future role as an authority figure. Fathers who are harsh or lacking love in their authority cause an even more negative impact than the absent father. Dr. Stuart Brown studied serial murderers and found that, almost without exception, their fathers had forced extremely unrealistic regimens of work and rigid rules upon them at very young ages while failing to show any compassion or love. I wonder how many people who abuse their power as adults got the idea of rigid, uncaring authority from their fathers.
Those of us who understand that we must model proper authority to our children can still be a part of the fathering problem…