I will admit, my role as a pastor, parent and educator provides me with a uniquely multi-faceted perspective when it comes to parenting. As a pastor, I deal with ideals, philosophy and more ethereal components of parenting as I encourage people to follow Biblical principles in rearing their children. As an educator, my focus is on the process which encompasses training, discipline and objectives. As a parent, my life is extremely real as I daily delve into the practical and sometimes most difficult aspect of parenting personal application. I was quite the expert on parenting prior to the arrival of my four children. Now I sometimes pray that Ill survive the experience.
One of the things Im sure of from my experience and point-of-view, parents have a definitive choice that they must make as they navigate the parenting minefield. Are we to be liked today or will we be loved tomorrow.
Lets face it its a good thing that parents are not subject to recall votes or re-election schedules. I know in my case, Id definitely be a one-termer. It frustrates me that it seems that so much of parenting time is spent saying no or not yet or explaining why I wont let my kids camp out on the roof, stay out until late or wear that particular pair of jeans. Their responses can run the gamut from tears to anger and in the process; I often end up feeling like an ogre. I know my kids love me sometimes I wonder if they really like me. Its the parents dilemma.
Ive chosen to parent with the long-term in mind, not the short term. I dont like to be unliked, but Id rather be loved in the long-haul. My parents were often tyrannical in my opinion. There were certain people with whom I couldnt ride in a car. I wasnt allowed to date alone most of my teen-age years. Parties were screened and my parents checked up on me to see if I was where I had told them I would be when I went out with my friends. They werent afraid to tell me no and sometimes they couldnt give me a reason I felt acceptable. It was their call and they were going to make it. As my dad often explained to me, as long as I put my feet under his dinner table, he got to call the shots. End of discussion. I dont think that Oprah would have approved of his parenting technique, but Ill tell you in the end, I love him for it.
For twenty years, Ive caught the tears of parents who had just discovered some dark secret about their child. A pregnancy, an abortion, a drinking problem, sneaking out at night, deep-rooted resentment and other issues had emerged and now they had this tremendous sense of betrayal and failure. As I helped them work through their grief and disappointment and tried to help them develop a plan for recovery for their family, I was often struck by the reality that many of these parents had seldom established protective policies and principles for their children. On some occasions, Ive actually had them tell me that they knew they should have been stricter or held their kids more accountable but that they were afraid that it creates a confrontation, that it would hurt their relationship with their kids or would result in conflict. So, they chose a path of less resistance and capitulated. The kids enjoyed freedoms they werent mature enough to appreciate and as a result, ended up in a condition that was damaging, damning or both. Sadly, for many of them the tolerable relationship with their kids for which they had compromised was simply an illusion. In the end, there was no respect, no committed love and no appreciation. They had been liked, but now they werent loved.
Todays culture screams permissiveness, live-for-the-moment, and relativity. But kids need an anchor, a foundation, a moral and philosophical compass and until theirs is completed, mom and dad must provide it for them.
Dont be afraid to tell your kids no. Dont be afraid to be a bad guy today to be a good parent forever. Remember that a little pain today may indeed protect you from a lot of pain tomorrow. Its a choice worth making.
Dan Burrell is on hiatus from this blog for a time. This article was first posted on this blog in October of 2004.