I’m a bad parent.
No, my kids have never told me that. They’ve been respectful of my strange (some may prefer “archaic”) ways. Maybe it’s because they don’t know any better. After all, I’m the only dad they’ve ever had.
Maybe I am that way because I don’t know any better. I find myself raising my kids the same way my parents raised me. I figure it’s fair. If I had to endure it for eighteen years, they can, too.
I could never talk back to my parents. Well, I guess I actually could, but I would quickly regret it. I had a nonnegotiable bedtime. I had to ask permission to go to the neighbor’s house. I felt the paddle when I stepped out of line (although, I admit, most of the time it was my brother’s fault). I was not allowed to have a television in my room. As a matter of fact, we didn’t even have one in the house for many years. My siblings and I were forced to play with a toy that is rarely used any more. We called it “imagination.” Worst of all, I was forced to go to church.
I’ve heard that parents should never force their kids to attend church, because that will eventually turn them against religion altogether. Well, something went wrong, because not only did I continue to attend church after leaving the house, but I became the pastor of one. Maybe these new-fangled methods to child-rearing aren’t so brilliant after all.
I recently watched in nauseating amusement as a mother imploringly pleaded with her son to “please stop doing that!” I could tell right away that she was not going to get her way, and she didn’t. At least, not until the rebellious child decided that he was tired of the forbidden activity and moved along to do something else.
When God gave me children, He did not just provide me with new little “best friends” who were designed to satisfy my need for being needed. He did not simply implant four little tax deductions in my house with hopes that I could somehow survive for eighteen years, at which point I could unleash them on the world. No, He gave me these children to develop into adults who could serve Him and impact their communities for good.
Fathers have the job of raising their children in the “training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Sometimes that involves praise for doing right; other times it requires punishment for disobedience. Always, it takes vigilance. And backbone. And maybe a little streak of meanness. I am so cruel that I have installed filters on my kids’ computers. I also monitor their email and Facebook accounts. Sometimes I even have to “unfriend” people who carelessly forward information unsuitable for curious and developing eyes and minds.
If guarding my children makes me a bad parent, I’ll wear the title with honor. My parents took this approach also, and I have no lasting scars. I actually think I’m better for it.
This article appeared in the Bremen Enquirer in my column Connections: Relating the Bible to Everyday Life on Thursday, September 10, 2015.