There are many things that my wife and I pledged to do for our children since becoming parents. We want to provide them with a stable home life, a quality education, and a spiritual foundation. All of these things are, of course, works in progress, but I would say that we have done a decent job in carrying out our pledge thus far.
Along the way, we’ve seen the need to teach them about a few things that deviate slightly from our aforementioned “Big Three.” We’ve sought to instill in them the virtues of love, grace, forgiveness, kindness, and truth. Interestingly, there are some of these “character” items that my kids seem to grasp more readily than others.
Now, I am by nature a bit curious. My profession asks me to be curious, as well. Therefore, I find myself persistently pondering things on a daily basis. So, when my children seem to grasp certain “character” items that I teach more than others, I cannot help but wonder why.
It is easy to look at this issue from only one point of view and say that my son being stubborn or my daughter being strong willed is what prevents them from forgiving each other or telling the truth. But the truth is that I cannot leave out a huge piece of the puzzle if I expect to solve this conundrum.
That huge piece of the puzzle is ME.
This all came to a head the other day when we were all playing the game Operation. As most of you know, Operation requires concentration and patience. It can be an extremely difficult game, especially if you are five and six years of age like my kids. I saw them getting frustrated and angry at this game — to the point where they wanted to quit and play something else.
Their outburst caused me to reflect on other times when they have reacted similarly to difficult things that they have faced in their young lives. I thought about the reluctance to finishing a book, the pouting on the soccer field, and a now-ignored video game. All of these were ways that they tried to get out of doing something that, to them, was hard.
In each of these cases, my initial response was simply to make them do it, and, in every case, they did it and were successful. The pattern of avoidance still was present, however. Why?
Enter the parent into the equation.
I then had to examine how I respond to difficult things, especially the difficult things that I allow them to see me struggle with — like their stubbornness, disobedience, lying, and their avoidance of hard things.
I have to admit, I don’t handle many of these difficult things very well myself. Why, then, should I be surprised to see them struggle? If I want to introduce change into this pattern, I must change how I respond to hard things, especially those that I allow them to see.
So here is what I’ve decided to do: I’ve decided to let my kids in my fatherly bubble a bit and share with them some things that I am having a hard time with. I’ll do this while showing them how I am going to respond to the challenge. Instead of losing it myself or avoiding an issue altogether, I am going to patiently and prayerfully call myself to a higher standard of living, with the hope that I can positively influence my kids to do the same.