Some dads get it, some don’t.
I have my struggles with discipline as a dad. I grew up in a home where my mother was the disciplinarian. My dad thankfully recognized his limitations in this area. For several years of his life he lived with an abusive father. While his stepfather (the man I know as my grandpa) came along, he showed my dad and his brothers and sister what it meant to discipline without anger. Dad says he would give any of the kids a good whippin’, but if he was mad, he walked away first. He didn’t dole out the discipline until he was able to do it with love instead of anger.
Dad corrected me and gave me a good example to follow. But he rarely was the one to give us negative discipline because he knew he could get angry quickly. He had experienced the dark side of discipline and did not want my brother and me to go through that. I’m thankful he did not act outside of his limits with discipline just because he was the “man of the house.” He let my mom make up for his weaknesses, and he gave us the best that he had to offer: love for family, a good work ethic, and a sense of pride in what I have and what I do. My dad got it. Too many others don’t get it.
That being said, I am trying to be a dad that disciplines appropriately and effectively for my two boys. I have taught parenting, but all the knowledge in the world cannot replace experiencing the dilemmas that arise from raising children yourself. I’m not interested in writing a “how-to” post, but I want to share some reasons why acting within your strengths in the area of discipline is very important, and why dads should take the challenge to discipline their children effectively and with love:
Dads are the earthly pictures of the Heavenly Father. A child should know what makes his dad happy, sad, proud, worried, and angry. That’s what God does for us through his Word. Time spent daily talking, playing, or working with children allows a dad to proactively share the things that are important to him. And then there are teachable moments when a child makes a mistake and a dad gets to teach right from wrong. There is no more confusing and hurtful combination for a child than a father that speaks little and punishes big. The bigger the mistake is that a child makes, the bigger the opportunity that exists for love and understanding. The more severe the discipline is, the more fervently a dad should teach why the discipline is necessary and appropriate.
Dads are examples for how to deal with problems and situations of life. The way dads handle stress that comes with daily life has a powerful impact on the life of a child. Grumbling dads create grumbling children. Deceitful dads create deceitful children. Angry dads create angry children. Permissive dads create permissive children. Above all, the way a dad handles the stress of relationships is important. A dad that demeans others, including the mother of his children, will create children in his image. The problem is, we often discipline children for faults they have learned from following our example, and we expect children to change when we ourselves are not willing to do so. Consistency in living and giving discipline is needed to raise healthy, productive children and to “provoke not your children to wrath,” (Eph. 6:4).
Dads lead their children to righteous living. Or the opposite. Are you a dad worth following? Where are you leading? The greatest example of faith Jesus reported to have seen was in the centurion who said in effect, “I know what authority is about. If I say go, my servants go. If I say come, they come. If you only speak, it will be done.” A dad knows when he is the authority, and when he is not. We are all subject to higher powers. A dad who balances asking and telling, teaching and seeking, speaking and listening, will empower his children to live with confidence. A dad who knows how to stand firm on right decisions, but also knows how to apologize for mistakes, shows his children that it is ok to be right, but it also ok to be wrong. It all depends on how you deal with the two. Children learn trust from the earliest stages of life, and that foundation of trust leads to confidence to stand knowing that there is always someone there to help them when they fall. Falling is ok, as long as you get back up. Making mistakes with your children is ok, as long as you have the humility to admit mistakes and correct them.
The greatest indicator of how a dad will parent is that dad’s father. But the greatest proof of a dad’s parenting effectiveness is how he develops himself to lead, nurture, and discipline his children. And no matter what your past is with your father, you have a Father who can give you what you need to parent your children.