A view from the cheap seats…

in case you weren’t with us at north point today,  here’s the passage i preached from:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you , and that you may live long on the earth .  Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.   Ephesians 6:1-4

like i said,  humbling…very humbling.

i am the dad of two boys.   they are grown.   they are good men.   not perfect,  but good men.   i would like to think they have both followed in my footsteps.   in many ways they did.   they should have…i gave them a great example of imperfection!

i’m a lot smarter now than i was when they were growing up.   it wasn’t because i didn’t try hard.   i read nearly every book on parenting i could find.   i went to conferences and workshop on parenting.   i’ve listened to more sermons and lectures on parenting than i can remember.

i paid attention to good parents.   i asked them questions.   i followed many of their examples.   like i said,  i tried really hard.   i took being a dad very serious.   from the moment i became a dad,  i considered it the second most important thing i could do with my life  (being wanda’s husband was first).

after 28 years of parenting,  i suppose i have some lessons to pass on…some things i’ve learned along the way.   if you’re somewhere on the parenting trail,  try some of these on.   some i learned from paying attention.   others i learned a harder way.   here are a few:

talk early.   talk often. most parents i’ve been around have a common complaint about their teenagers.   they don’t talk. nothing can do more for your relationship with your kids than making the time to talk with them.   the younger the better.   the more often the better.   they greater the variety of subjects the better.   if you do this while they are young,  you will build patterns that will carry into their adolescence.

apologize. as parents,  we screw up.   often.   and our kids know it.   we need to learn to man up and admit it.   our kids need to hear it.   they need to feel it.   they need to have it modeled for them and shown that apologizing is what mature people do.

widen the fence. like i said this morning,  when our children are young,  they need strict and tight peramiters…to keep them safe and to build personal discipline.   as parents,  your toughest job will be to faithfully and regularly widen the protective fence around them.   if you widen it for a while,  but close it down as they move into their teenage years,  you will pour fuel on the fires of rebellion.   risky?   you bet.   but the alternative carries a price you may not be willing to pay.

treat your kids the way god treats you. where do we get off believing our way of parenting is better than god’s?  come on!   god loves,  nourishes,   forgives,   accepts,   is never surprised or blown away by our mistakes.   he gives us what we need,  makes us feel secure,  is never harsh or overbearing.   he is the god of  second chances.   he is tolerant and patient and compassionate and gracious and merciful and never stops giving.   does this look like your parenting?

teach grace,  not law. this is a tough one.   you may totally disagree with me.   that’s okay…i won’t lose sleep if you don’t.   you need to stop having so many rules!   kids need discipline,  but your home is not the army.   your goal is not to get your kids to be self-righteous pharisees.   rigid rule-keeping is a sure-fire way to lead them in that direction.

let them walk a unique path. don’t force your child into your mold.   give them freedom to become who they need to be.   forcing your values and ideologies on them is not necessarily the same thing as teaching them god’s values.   you need to be smart enough to know the difference and strong enough to let it happen.

know the difference between making mistakes and sinful, willful disobedience. kids make mistakes.   lots of them.   they are experts at it.   we want them to learn from those mistakes.   but for crying out loud,  make the punishment fit the crime!

speaking of crime and punishment…learn the difference between discipline and punishment. disciplining your child should never make you feel good.   it should be painful for you.   it should break your heart.   even though you know it is for their own good,  it should always be difficult.   if you are reacting to them out of anger,  frustration,  hurt,  disappointment or revenge…it is not discipline.   it is punishment.   and it’s not for them…it’s for you.   so stop it.

don’t have a “church” life. if your kid has a snowball’s chance of growing up with an honest faith and determination to serve god,  they need to see honesty and integrity in your life.   so don’t act different at church than you do at home.   don’t have a religious identity that is different from your daily identity.

those are a few.   what do you think?

maybe i’ll have some more later in the week.

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3 thoughts on “A view from the cheap seats…

  1. After church, Aria made a comment about getting a cell phone when she turns 12. Brian balked at the idea and I said something about widening the fence. Then I explained to Aria what you had said in the service about widening the fence as a child gets older so they will be able to grow up and not be dependent on their parents. Then she said, “And when it gets wide enough, the kid can escape!”

  2. God soooooooooooooooooo led me to read this today! Jeff and I continue to grow, trip, fall and laugh as parents! Oh my! Our son is almost 16 years old. (Does this make you feel old Mike? You married us 17 years ago ha ha!) Jordan is a very spirited and passionate young man. We continue to seek new insight and direction in dealing with him. I needed to hear these words of yours today and am thanking God for leading me to them.

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