“Whenever the cashier at the grocery store asks my dad if he would like the milk in a bag he replies, ‘No, just leave it in the carton!’”
“I’ve got some kind of allergic reaction and my face is breaking out in a bad rash and my mom is freaking out and wants to take me to the hospital but my dad is like “now let’s not make any rash decisions,” and we high-fived and now my mom is yelling at us.”
Now on every father’s day or mother’s day we have to understand we are stepping onto not exactly stable ground. I’m almost the last person who wants to stereotype moms or dads, men or women into certain roles they have to be good at in order to be considered good dads or moms.
Mostly what I think of when I teach on these two Sundays is think of the children rather than the adults in this equation. It’s clear to me that children need some things, some parenting aspects. Whether a man as dad does it, or a woman as mom does it, or a woman who fulfills the more “dad” like qualities, or a man who fulfills the more “mom” like characteristics isn’t important to me.
What we all want is for children to get as much of the good stuff as they can. Who delivers it isn’t as important as whether or not it gets delivered, which is why single parenting is so difficult. Either way, the one adult, the one parent wants to be able to give her/his child all the daughter or son deserves.
You know what we are going to do? We are going to start our own special day of the year: Single Parent’s Day. It will fall on the 4th Sunday of June. We will start here at our church and in ten years Hallmark will be making cards for it. Next year, right here, will be the first annual Single Parent’s Day.
Children need dads to encourage them. I know we often see dads as discipliners, the tough, louder guy in the home, or as the teacher, the one who coaches and tells the child what he or she should be doing or not doing.
But if you were to put those two roles together into a whole that seeks a more positive outcome before and even after the child does something wrong and a more connectional or relational approach to teaching, what you will come up with then is dad is the CEO of the family—the Chief Encourager Officer.
Now moms are pretty good at this. But we got to admit moms often want to keep everyone safe and comfortable, which is great. Of course moms are encouraging and are positive toward their children’s accomplishments. No doubt. Again there is no hard line between one and the other parent.
But by encouragement I mean something more forward-moving. Dads tend to gear themselves toward the children accomplishing something, doing something, graduating from something and moving out of the house sometime. You hear me?
Moms tend to be more comfortable with the children as they are—they’re so cute—being at ease, not pushing them forward or out of the house.
Now of course the wonderful side of this is that children grow up feeling loved as they are by such a parent. And the tough side of dads being too teaching and pushing oriented is that children feel they need to perform in order to get this parent’s love.
Look, these messages aren’t easy. If there is anything more complex than parenting I’d like to know what it is. So please give me a break when you hear something and think automatically, “Well, that’s not true because of this or that.” I’m probably in total agreement with you.
But someone ought to take on the role of positive forward mover with children because children need a CEO, a chief encourager officer in their lives.
But dads aren’t necessarily all that good at this, as scripture makes clear.
Scripture tells us dads especially can be on dangerous ground here. We can have those high expectations or that unhealthy transference of our lives into our children’s lives. We drive them too hard. We focus too much on them. We watch over them too tightly. We get too loud, too demanding, to active.
We end up provoking our children, and discouraging them.
The word “discouraged” here means “disheartened,” “dispirited.” In Greek, it is athumeo, containing the same root as the word “wrath” (thumos) that’s used in 3:8 and “patience” (makrothumia) in 3:12.
The root means to have a temper, passion, emotion, spirit. Wrath is to be short-tempered, patience is to be long-tempered, and to be discouraged is to have no temper at all. No emotion. No spirit, in other words to be children, probably teenagers now, who just don’t care.
The more you provoke your children, the closer you bring them to having no motivation whatsoever to do what is right. This word almost literally means that you can kill your child’s spirit. You can snuff it out. What used to be alive with emotion and passion and spirit is gone.
No parent wants that to happen.
A lot of where this stuff happens comes from what we say and what we don’t say. Dads have to understand their words and their silences mean a tremendous amount, and so they have to be good at being a dad.
When nothing good will come out of your mouth, keep quiet. Each day resolve through prayer and focus that you will control your words. And then train yourself to be someone who breathes life-affirming, strongly encouraging words to your children.
And to be very practical, I’m going to give us three statements that a parent should never say to a child: (1) “Why can’t you be more like ….?” Comparisons are toxic and they serve no positive purpose. (2) “I don’t think you can do it.” What your child hears is, “I don’t believe in you.” (3) “Don’t be such a wimp.” This should never be said to a boy or a girl. But, for a boy, it’s basically saying, “You don’t have what it takes to be a man” and can damage him to the core for quite some time.
One dad says, “When I think of fatherhood, two images come immediately to mind. The first is from a couple of summers ago. A few friends and I brought our families up to a cottage in Ontario’s Muskoka. Saturday afternoon, all of us dads were down at the dock with our kids. The oldest was five, the youngest just coming up on one.
My buddy was grabbing his son and heaving him into the water as high and far as he could go. The kid was whooping, the way kids do when they know they’re close to danger but safe from it. At one point, his mom came down and gently admonished her husband to be careful.
“I wouldn’t do it if I knew he couldn’t handle it,” he said.
Watching that boy the rest of the weekend was incredible. He baited his own hook and then helped the other kids get their fishing rods sorted. He was the first to swim out to the floating dock. He led all the kids into the woods. There was no stopping his sense of adventure, although he was always willing to pause and help the younger kids when they needed him.
The other image is a depressing one I see at least once a week. My kids are five and two, so we spend a lot of time at the park. Every few days
there’s a dad pushing his kid on the swings with one hand and checking his smartphone with the other.
The truth is being fun dad, or adventurer dad, or CEO dad is so much more than child’s play. This is becoming a well-known fact with family researchers.
Listen to what Dr. Linda Liebenberg, co-director of the Resiliency Research Centre at Dalhousie University, says, “When dads do push kids in those ways, recognizing the limits of their child, and do it in ways that help their children also assess what are my limits, what are my capacities, they help their kids learn about healthy risk-taking behavior. We’re constantly saying to kids, ‘Don’t do this, don’t do that because it keeps you safe.’ How do kids learn the magical things that they can do?”
Bam! That’s what I’m talking about!
Will Pemble is certainly in the game. The 50-year-old management consultant who lives in a small town outside San Francisco might in fact be the ultimate fun dad. His 11-year-old son, Lyle, is obsessed with roller coasters. “He can tell you what time Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio, closes in June,” Pemble says.
After a trip to a Six Flags amusement park last year, Will and his son and daughter, Ellie, built a roller coaster in their backyard. It’s about 55 metres long, has a top speed of 23.3 kilometres an hour, reaches a maximum height of 3.2 m, has two hills and a helix turn, and it cost $3,500 to make.
“I want to teach my kids through my example that if I had an idea and 100 people told me that was a bad idea, I want to show my kids that I think for myself,” Pemble says. “At a more tangible level, my kids know (more) things about math and physics and science than other kids their age, and the reason they know it is because it’s very difficult to escape the math and physics and science of all this.”
Now that guy’s a SCEO—Super Chief Encourager Officer.
Of course things aren’t always as easy as they seem. We can all get caught up in too high of expectations of others, of ourselves, of our children.
Parents can be guilty of trying to make their kids perfect, all for a good cause so often. We don’t want them to make any of the mistakes or feel any of the pain we felt growing up. But that’s impossible to stop from happening, and it’s dangerous to try too hard.
Or dads can try to live through their kids, and their accomplishments. Being in the sports world I see this happening a lot.
It’s like there are two type of dads: those who are trying to live through their kids, needing him or her to be the best and winning every game and those who want their kids to enjoy the sport, learn from it, and grow physically and socially by playing it.
Be the second dad. Encourage your child. Help them to find who they are, support them things are tough. Push them forward through faith in them, not your fear within you. And finally, absolutely, pray for them. Deep in your heart, pray for them and for yourself as their dad, their parent, the one they love so much.
Can anybody say Amen?