“Daddy” is a global crisis.
He looked across the table and said, “I never really planned to be a father. It was a surprise when my daughter came along. We were just barely adjusting when the news of another child came to light. I was challenged with reality then. I guess I never really grasped what being a father would mean.”
I recently returned from a mission trip to Brazil with Global Advance. We spent a full week traveling the local area, speaking with business owners and local leaders. After nine separate business coaching sessions and two full days of leadership training, we attended the local church for services.
I was asked to speak for the last service on the night before were to fly back to Texas. I shared from my heart about the conversations we had engaged in over lunch as a team and with our translators. The nature of societal change, the impact of the internet with regard to running a business and raising children in this generation, the responsibility of faithful fathers and how similar they are in other parts of the world.
When I closed the message, I asked if there were any in the crowd who felt like their relationship with “Daddy” was damaged, broken, painful or non existent. I was shocked at the number of people, as well as the mix of ages both male and female who responded.
I am a father of four; two boys and two girls. I understand that seemingly impossible task of balancing the level of discipline needed to raise wise, strong and diligent adults, with the mercy, tenderness and love needed to raise them without crushing their spirits. I know that boys can be stubborn, headstrong, testy and defiant and girls can wrap you around their little finger then turn on the water works and control the movement of the stars in the sky. I also know that what they see as desirable, pleasurable, worth pursuing at all costs can make you want to pull your hair out… or theirs.
Here are four really important reminders for diligent dads who want to do more than sire their children.
1. You are responsible to a higher authority than their happiness.
It is easy to fall into the pit of “I want to be my child’s friend.” It is even easier to be caught in the “I just want my kids to be happy” snare. In the end, you are not a friend only, and happiness should not be the goal of a good father. Happiness is at best a byproduct of a life well lived. Relationships that are healthy require mutual respect, but as a father, you are first and foremost a steward. You are responsible to raise your children with an awareness that allows them to be whole and healthy, not to be their daily ATM or gizmo vending machine. If you dole out anything, make it love, compassion, discipline (not abuse), a desire to pray and a listening ear.
2. Don’t fall victim to the emotional manipulation of guilt trips.
Often children of all ages will guilt their parents into getting their way. “All the other kids have the newest flashiest smart phone.” “Everyone else my age is driving already.” “You are never here, so why should I care what you think about…” Most children understand that we as parents are struggling with a desire to be perfect. They also witness our weakest moments. They know how badly their parents long for approval and affection. Knowing these things, they are armed with a list of buttons to push which trigger our own inadequacies and failures. They can bring us to tears, writhing in emotional pain with a pithy phrase or two or perhaps even a simple look. You cannot rely on your child’s acceptance and approval to determine your self worth. If you do, you will set your whole family up for failure. Be confident in your actions and attitudes. Get outside input from a friend, mentor, coach or pastor.
3. Daddy and Father may seem like semantics, but listen to what your children call you.
Terms of endearment are a powerful expression of self worth, self image and respect. Children who adore the man who brought them into this world seldom call him father. There are obvious signs of appreciation and affection that drip from the words of our children when they call us “Daddy.” It is a title that must be earned. Almost any man can father or sire a child, but not everyone earns the right to be called Dad or Daddy. Playing in the floor, throwing a ball, donning the lipstick and crown, these campaigns earn the “Daddy Badge.” Listening all night after the first break up, arriving for the game, even at halftime, watching intently without intervening on the driving test, these campaigns earn the “Daddy Badge.” Loving their mother, no matter what, and letting it show to the whole world, that earns “Daddy Badge”. Earn as many “Daddy Badges” as you possibly can, while you have the chance.
4. You will be the picture they see when they cry ABBA.
Nothing in this life is more important than preparing them for the next. Broken, bruised, damaged relationships with our children lead to challenging relationships with God the Father. When we were given the right to be called the “sons and daughters of God” we were encouraged to call our creator “Abba” or Daddy. He longs to hold us in his arms and cradle us as we sleep. He laughs and giggles just like you did when your children first spoke your name. He runs to us when we are hurt. He stands by watching as we survive test, after test, after test. He whispers the answers hoping we will listen. He sends us gifts when we are not expecting them. He waits up late, in fact, never sleeps to keep a watchful eye on us. He cares. He loves us. He weeps with us. When we as earthly “daddies” speak, act, behave in ways that lead our children away from Him, it breaks His heart. When we have an attitude that does not reflect his, our children project that attitude on Him. When we cause hurt, wounds, and scars from bad choices we have made, it reflects on “daddies” everywhere.
Let the peace that keeps you, keep your children. Let the love that sustains you, sustain your children. Let the heart of heaven that speaks to you, speak to your children. Be the Daddy He made you to be, for the sake of your children
Learn more about the author at www.JLorenNorris.com.