One of the greatest privileges and blessings that God has allowed me to have is to be a father. I love my kids more than my own life. I would do anything to see them thrive and prosper. Before this part of my life, I had no idea that I could love so deeply and so fully. My kids mean the world to me. Just think about it. This human life comes into the world, and they are 100% dependent on you for food, security, shelter, and safety. It’s a sobering reality.
With that comes much responsibility. When you have kids, your routine changes. You start planning your life around nap times and feeding times. The selfish things I want to do must be put on the backburner for the sake of my family. That can be draining. On top of that, I realize that all kids have their own personalities, and some are harder to raise than others. When my oldest girl came along, Lindsay and I thought that we knew everything there was to know about parenting. Then, we had boys! Life changed. I had to throw out the book I was writing on how to be an awesome parent because I felt like a failure. Strong-willed kids make parenting more difficult. It involved more time and more investment. That can sometimes be difficult for selfish sinners like me to wrap my mind around.
However, parenting can also be an incredible blessing. I was recently meeting with a friend of mine who has grown children. He talked about his boys and that they were all incredibly strong-willed children. He had a tough time raising them especially in the teenage years. He said to me, “The greater the investment, the greater the dividends.” That’s the way he saw his children as investments into the future. I sometimes see my kids as burdens when God intends for them to be as blessings. And like most things, the better something is, the harder it is to see that become reality. Kids are blessings. Not burdens. It got me thinking. How often do I see my children as blessings? Even if I never see a reward from my hard work in parenting? Or even if that work is delayed to much longer in life?
I think in order to see your children as blessings, there are several things that are an absolute necessity.
In the hardest things of life, we have a tendency to give up and quit. Parenting is one of the hardest things we will ever do. Some days, you just have to dig deep and keep going. Focus on the day in front of you and get through it. Perseverance isn’t the most glamorous subject to talk about, but it is often required. Of course, the ultimate goal is to work in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit. However, reality is that we often let the circumstances of our day dominate our mind and thinking. When we persevere, it’s not guaranteed that our children will one day become model kids. But at some point, things may change. Perseverance gets us there.
2. Good balance of law and grace.
We can’t understand the good news of the Gospel without understanding the bad news of why we need Jesus. In Ray Comfort’s famous illustration of the parachute, he talks about how uncomfortable a parachute would be to wear while you are flying on an airplane from one city to another. But, if you knew that plane was going to go down during the flight, you would wear that parachute happily because you knew that it would save you from your pending destruction.
As parents, we have to establish the law. Our kids need boundaries, and they need to know that there is a structure and organization to life. That falls on us as parents to help them develop that understanding of the law. That means you should follow through on threats. If you decide that your child should or should not do something and you make it public, you need to follow through on that law. You have picked your battle. Now, you must be prepared to win it.
However, we must also be balanced by offering grace to our children when they don’t deserve it. As long as you have established the law, and your children know that your law is firm, it’s okay to occasionally let them off the hook. When this happens in our house, I let my kids know that daddy should have punished them. Instead, he let them off the hook without any sort of actions for their disobedience.
3. Lots of patience.
Patience is one of my biggest character flaws. I hate waiting in lines. I hate waiting in traffic. If I want something to happen, I’d prefer it happen faster. I’m just not that good at waiting. With parenting, kids don’t become fully functioning mature adults over night. We have to be patient. Lots and lots and lots of time. Time is hard to come by, but raising kids is more like raising sequoia trees. It doesn’t happen immediately.
4. Sacrificial selflessness.
If I’m honest, one of the biggest struggles with anything in life comes down to my own selfishness. When I have stupid fights with my wife, it can usually be sourced back to my selfishness. As followers of Christ, we have been shown the greatest example of unconditional sacrifice. Parents, we must be selfless when thinking of our children. One, your kids are going to emulate you. So, if you’re selfish, you will be creating selfish carbon copies of yourself. Two, selflessness invests in the future instead of the immediate comfort of the present. It’s harder to do, but I believe it is better.
5. One-on-one time.
My kids love for their daddy to spend quality time with them. Whether it’s wrestling on the floor with my boys or it’s going on dates with my daughter, they eat it up. Every time I tell one of them that daddy wants to take them somewhere, their faces light up, and they start bouncing off the walls. It’s an amazing opportunity that we have as parents to invest in our children and their well-being. We, particularly as fathers, have a huge responsibility to provide stability to our children and their sense of value. Just as God, our heavenly Father, shows us our value by sending Jesus to die for us giving us worth and identity in Him, we should also do the same for our children.
6. Don’t delegate childrearing to your wife or some other person.
It’s easy to send off your kids to your wife, grandparent, or babysitter. We are very good these days at delegating jobs we don’t want to do, so we can do the things we want to do. A good dad looks at his kids and sees his responsibility to raise them, love them, and teach them to follow Jesus. Raising children is not easy, especially strong-willed children, but it is necessary and good. Take on the job head-on. Put down the phone, the TV remote, computer, and whatever else you’re into. Make your children your hobby. You won’t regret it.