Archive for May, 2007

Learn from this Mother

I was recently stuck in the Houston Airport due to one of our famous Texas Thunder Storms.  Delay after delay soon took the positive edge off my attitude.  After all, what was I going to do for 2, 3, 5 and eventually 8 hours?I was not alone though; there were a number of people, from other companies, headed to the same meeting.  One of those people was a young woman with a contagious positive spirit.  She laughed, joked, told stories, and generally made the best of a very frustrating situation.

As the day went on, I eventually had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with this surprising woman.  She is a single mother of three children, one daughter and two boys.  For the last eight years she has raised these children with little help from her ex-husband.  She has found her way from Administrative Assistant to a professional career with a major company.

In all this she has found there is no substitute for a real father figure in the lives of her children.  She has involved her children in many mentoring and other support programs to help fill the gap, all of which have had a significant impact on her children.  Still, she is keenly aware there is not substitute for the constant influence of a good father.

Hearing the words of this wise mother, I began to thank God that I have been able to provide a constant influence on my children.  Although, I must admit it was not without error.   I made mistakes along the way and did my best to counter the negatives I spoke into my children.  The point being, I learned each time I stumbled and made a wrong step.

This mother revealed years of missteps.  Some with her marriage, her relationship with her adulterous husband, even the discipline and rising of her children.  As I listened to her, I could see the regret for the mistakes she has made, but overshadowing this was a blinding light that was the marker of a parent that was making the most out of the lessons she has learned.

Fathers, you do not need to see your mistakes as failures.  Like this mother, you need to examine these faults and extract the learning points from them.  Put these experiences into practice.  Make changes in your relationships with your children and other significant people in their lives.  Talk to other fathers; learn from those who have traveled this road before you.  Above all, don’t be afraid to ask.  Make yourself vulnerable and open to learn.  Ultimately, you will be made strong in the process.

If you have no one to talk with, put your comments in a reply here.  I review the comments made and can determine not to post them if that is your request.  Otherwise there are strategic fathers everywhere who are more than willing to help.

En servicio como padre

Dave

Competition

If you ever want to get an education on the state of the American culture go to a t-ball game.  As a grandfather I recently had the opportunity to sit in the background and watch as American culture unfolded before my eyes.

Baseball is uniquely American sport and today still holds some resemblance to the original sport.  As much as it bothers me, the slow evolution of baseball is not the focus of my thoughts today.

As my Grandson’s game progressed, I observed the actions before me with growing interest.  It soon became increasingly clear to me that the real competition was not between the children’s teams but was between the parents. 

In their efforts, Parents were seemingly unaware of their actions.  Children of broken homes were torn by the need to protect their “relationship” with either or both parents.  Other children were showered with the best of everything.  The best uniform, $150 shoes, $200 aluminum T-ball bat, $80 baseball bag, $200 glove, name on the back of the uniform, etc, the list seems to never end.  Some were pushed, at 4-5 years of age, to perform like a major leaguer.  Still others were doted over by well meaning parents who hovered over their children waiting for their opportunity to supply anything the child demanded.

No where was there a firm understanding of the balance of all things.  It is this lack of balance that is the most disturbing to me.  We all want our children, and grand children, to participate.  We all want them to realize their potential to the fullest extent possible.  We all want our children to be successful in what they begin, but where is the balance?

Children need to have fun!  They need to be children, what is the rush to make your four-year-old act like their twenty-five?  Children need to experience the real feel of success gotten by hard work, not handed to them for mere participation.  Let’s face it, not every child is going to be a professional baseball player, or any other sport they choose.  Likely most will be good enough to enjoy it, if they are not pushed so hard they rebel against it.  The value lies in the opportunity for successful negotiation through the maze of successes and failures that make them stronger and give them a true sense of accomplishment.

Sister Mary Corita Kent, the noted artist and educator, is quoted as having said; “Love the moment. Flowers grow out of dark moments. Therefore, each moment is vital. It affects the whole. Life is a succession of such moments and to live each, is to succeed”. 

Success in the long run comes from what we have learned in the struggles in life.  In my own life, I was recently reminded of how this works.  I was struggling with one of the most difficult issues I have ever faced, an issue that had impact on my entire family.  In the middle of this struggle, my son Scott handed me a music CD by Ron Block, a bluegrass artist.  One song on this album became my theme song during this dark struggle.  One phrase was particularly poignant;

Remember at night what you knew in the day
 Till darkness fades away
Ron Block (Faraway Land, “In the Morning Light”) 

Without the opportunity to spend time in the darkness, there would be no understanding of what we had during the day.  If our time in the darkness was extended, we would not have the experience to know that every new day starts with a night.  Then the struggle would be

Fathers, I ask that we keep our children in our hearts.  We can’t buy them success, but we can strategically do everything possible to maximize their experiences.  That includes allowing them to experience success and failure without judgment.  What they need is our support and our willingness to help them see the value in each success and each failure. 

En servicio como padre

Dave

Your Child a Mirror

A colleague was recently sharing how their relationship with their child has changed.  It seems their relationship was somewhat stormy and since this parent was single, there was a great deal of resentment expressed.  He did not know what to do about it but finally took it to prayer. 

In their prayer time, God revealed that every bit of anger and resentment expressed by their child was a direct reflection of the way they felt about themselves.  The child was being an emotional mirror to the parent.

Hard as it was to hear this revelation, it had to be manifold times harder to look inward and find what had to be changed.  It is much easier to look at your children and say they are rebelling, they are angry, they are having a difficult time, etc; but when we turn our thoughts inward we become much more vulnerable. 

II Corinthians 13:5 tell us to “Examine yourselves”…”Test yourselves”.  It is a good thing to recognize that we may be failing in some aspect of our lives.  Once we take that step, we can surely do something about it.  We can rest assured, others, including our children, have already examined us, and in most cases found something lacking. 

It is so tough because we, whether we want to admit it or not, we are emotionally crippled and are afraid of what we might find.  We don’t know how to begin, because we have never traveled down this road before.  Following is an excerpt from a sermon given in 1858 by C.H. Spurgeon, in this passage he directs his congregation to consider it as an author writing a book on traveling.

“Go right through yourselves.” As a traveller, if he has to write a book upon a country, is not content to go round its borders merely, but goes, as it were, from Dan to
Beersheba, right through the country. He climbs the hill top, where he bathes his forehead in the sunshine: he goes down into the deep valleys, where he can only see the blue sky like a strip between the lofty summits of the mountains. He is not content to gaze upon the broad river unless he trace it to the spring whence it rises. He will not be satisfied with viewing the products of the surface of the earth, but he must discover the minerals that lie within its bowels. Now, do the same with your heart. “Examine yourselves.” Go right through yourselves from the beginning to the end. Stand not only on the mountains of your public character, but go into the deep valleys of your private life. Be not content to sail on the broad river of your outward actions, but go follow back the narrow nil till you discover your secret motive. Look not only at your performance, which is but the product of the soil, but dig into your heart and examine the vital principle. “Examine yourselves.” This is a very big word—a word that needs thinking over; and I am afraid there be very few, if any of us, who ever come up to the full weight of this solemn exhortation—”Examine yourselves.”
(REV. C. H. Spurgeon, October 10, 1858, Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens)
 

As fathers we can learn so much from the actions of our children.  If we acknowledge the fact their words, and actions, are often a mere reflection of what they see in us, we can make changes in how we conduct our lives and improve our relationship immensely.  Don’t let pride or fear prevent you from starting this exercise.  As you begin to examine yourselves, look deep inside and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal in you the areas you need to change.  As these areas are brought to light, release them to God, for He is the one that can cause lasting change.  If you do, you can’t help but like the image you will see reflected in the mirror that is your child.

En servicio como padre

Dave

Yes and No?

Can you answer the following question in the affirmative?  Is your yes always yes and your no always no? 

If we are really honest, most of us can’t answer this question in the affirmative.  There is always a maybe, there is always an extenuating circumstance, and there is always that special situation that may never come again.

We have become an “it depends” people.  We have become so in tune to political correctness and tolerance that we have missed some of the most important aspects of basic human existence.  One of which is the correct use of yes and no. 

I once heard Rick Godwin speak on this subject.  Rick is the pastor of Eagles Nest, a large church in
San Antonio, Texas.  In his sermon, Rick took this statement to the point of saying; “The correct use of yes and no is vital to successful human living”.  He went on to explain that in Christian living we are solely responsible for our life.  Every decision we make is made as a free agent and holds consequences appropriate for that decision..

When Jesus was on this earth, he knew the power of yes and no.  In Matthew 5:37 He states; let your Yes be simply Yes, and your No be simply No; anything more than that comes from the evil one”.   Yes and No are extremely important to every aspect of our lives.

Since I am talking about fathers here, I will narrow in on how yes and no affect our children.

No is undoubtedly the most important boundary setting word in any language.  The word No establishes boundaries for our children and our children hate boundaries.  All children need clear boundaries to keep them alive.  Without boundaries, we would be a completely lawless society.  We would kill and eat our young, instead of buying them miniature electric Hummers and allowing them to drive up and down our neighborhood streets.  We would take what we wanted, instead of working to earn enough money to buy what we want.

Without the word No in our children’s lives they would soon feel the full effect of Galatians 6:7; “Do not be deceived and deluded and misled; God will not allow Himself to be sneered at (scorned, disdained, or mocked by mere pretensions or professions, or by His precepts being set aside).  [He inevitably deludes himself who attempts to delude God.] For whatever a man sows that and that only is what he will reap”. 

We as parents are not immune to this law.  Like our children, we to will reap the sowing of bad seed into our children.  Our prisons are full of people who didn’t have a strong father or were mistreated by their father.  I don’t want to try and scare you because most fathers want to do the right thing.  It is obvious you are one of those fathers otherwise you would not be here reading this, but you must realize that you have an obligation to set healthy boundaries for your children.

Most consequences in our lives are the result of bad choices.  We all have made them and we all have reaped the consequences.  Our children will also make bad choices.  When they do, resist the urge to step in and fix the problem for them.  Good fatherly advice and counsel are always good.  As I have said often, one of the key roles of a father is to be a good teacher.  Just don’t step in and fix the problem.  Parents get into trouble when they take responsibility for their children’s choices.

One of the best fathers I have ever seen was presented with the issue of his child having committed a crime.  His choice was to step in and help the child cover up the crime or to turn his child in to the authorities.  He chose the latter.  The ultimate consequences of choosing the cover up would have been that he and his child would both have been wearing black stripes.

The power of Yes in a child’s life is immeasurable.  Yes is a reinforcing word, and as such supports a child’s right choices and behaviors.  Everything we do in life we should do as if we were doing it for God.  A child will take the positive power of Yes into their adult life and will apply the lessons learned in every aspect of daily living.  They will work strong, speak positively, and devote themselves to their spouse and their children in unswerving commitment.

These traits they will have learned, in no small part, to watching and listening, to their fathers and mothers.  They will model your behavior and your speech.  If your common practice is to vacillate when a clear yes or no is necessary, they will see that life is not secure and they will learn to find the easy way out.  They will soon loose respect for you as their father and will turn to others who may seem to present a more secure or sure outlook on life.  Often these are not people who support your values or beliefs.

Fathers, think about the decisions you have made recently.  Can you answer the question cited at the beginning of this article?  If you can, is it in the affirmative?  If not, seek to understand why.  Seek out a balanced father to bounce your questions off.  Feel free to contact me and we can discuss your issues or questions and seek to strategically approach the issues of child rearing.  We just can’t do this alone.  We are not all knowing, we are human and as such, we need others who are like minded to help us along the way.

En servicio como padre

Dave

Proud Children

We are not commending ourselves to you again, but we are providing you with an occasion and incentive to be [rightfully] proud of us.  II Corinthians 5:12 

We are to provide our children the opportunity to be “rightfully” proud of us.

It is not by our power, our good looks, or even because we hold the title of father that our children can be proud of us.  It is by our ability to be a good father.

Fathers need to be present.  They need to be available when times are hard, when things get out of control.  When there is no one who cares there should always be a father.  I remember when I left home to go into the military.  The bus left my home town in the very wee hours of the morning.  Because of the early hour I said my goodbyes to my friends and family the night before I left.  I got on the bus and sat by the window and stared out into the dark of the night that is so different in a very small town.  As the bus pulled away it passed the sidewalk that ran in front of the station.  There on the corner was my dad.  He stood solidly and said nothing, he just let his presence, and support, be known.

Fathers need to have fun.  We don’t need to be so serious about ourselves.  Well placed and appropriate humor can be the best medicine when everything is dark and our children are pulled down by the world.  A smile, a joke, a dance, underscored by a compassionate spirit will heal lives for generations to come.

Fathers need to be strong and not harsh.  Discipline, appropriately applied, is necessary for the growth of a healthy child, but a strong spirit connects with the spirit of a child, no matter how old they are.  There is nothing more blessed than the reassuring touch of a fathers hand when the world is closing in.

Fathers listen.  They listen to their children, to their wives, to the great God in Heaven as he leads us in our daily walk.  Listening is the greatest tool we have.  Great fathers are great listeners.  Our problem, too often, is we tend to want to talk and worry about how to fix things; we want to show our children, and our wives, that we understand and have a solution if they would just listen.  Since they won’t, we think we should share our solutions anyway.  We think about how we are going to answer the next question while they are still explaining their situation.  Listen intently, you will find that is often all anyone wanted from you in the first place.

Fathers are teachers.  As I have said many times before, everything we do is under the gaze of our children.  We are teachers even when we don’t choose to be.  That is the reason we teach our children so many bad habits.  If you don’t think this is true, just think of the last time you found yourself using a favored term your father used, i.e.; “Because I said so, that’s why”, or “keep crying and I will give you something to cry about”, or “you better get it done before I come up there”, etc.  You learned very well.  Some of those things you learned from your father he hoped you would never use, but you do.  Be aware of the great power you possess as a father.  You are constantly teaching your children and sometimes others who may be in a position to see you.  One of the real problems is when we become what we want to become, a good father, other children want to be around us.  When this happens we come under an even greater responsibility, the influence of others.  Our steps must be careful for we often have the power of life and death in our hands and too many times we are fully unaware of it.

I hope these words are helpful to someone.  I made so many mistakes over my years as a father.  If only I had learned to be present, to have fun, to be strong, to listen and to be aware of my role as a teacher, I would have avoided so much pain. 

Be wise fathers, we will continue to learn and to teach until the day we leave this earth.  Don’t try to do it on your own.  Find a good father and talk to them.  Of course, you can always reply on this blog and I will offer an ear or a word when it is appropriate.

En servicio como padre

Dave

Know your Children

When I was a child, like most children, I thought my father could do anything.  He and my oldest brother, Tim, took a very old house and made it a home for all eight of us brothers and sisters and my Mother.  They built the most massive rock fireplace that stretched from the living room floor past the second story above the roof  higher than I could reach even as a young teen.  He fixed pipes under the house, he worked on the evaporative cooler, he built bunk beds for us to sleep on, he could do anything.

As an adult now I look back on this incredible man and I realize I really didn’t know him.  I wanted to, I tried to, but he was a quiet man with few words for anyone.  He taught me a great deal with his actions and with his values, and for these I will be forever grateful, but he didn’t communicate much with his words.

I don’t think our children today are that much different than I was as a child.  Our children want to know us; they want to know all about us.  They want to understand how we got to be who we are today, both good and bad.  They take from us clues on how to react in certain circumstances; they watch us closely for any sign of weakness and learn how we deal with it.  They learn how to act, think, love, react, evade, discipline, and how to have faith.

This whole process is extremely important to the healthy growth and development of all our children, both sons and daughters.  If this process is not carried out in a healthy, not necessarily perfect, way we establish in our children unrealistic standards.  These standards, whether real or perceived, can’t be met and set up a lifetime of dissatisfaction, regret and fear. 

I don’t want to create a bunch of paranoid fathers who are now afraid to take any action or, worse yet, a bunch of fathers who are trying to be the perfect example of a father.  Children need to know their earthly father is fallible.  They need to know he can and will make mistakes.  It’s what he does with those mistakes that are the deciding factor between healthy well adjusted adults and those who are impossible to satisfy.

We need to learn to look at ourselves and our actions the way God looks at us.  He sees our potential, he sees our heart and he sees our struggles.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  He doesn’t expect us to be perfect.  He only expects us to understand that he is there to help us through our struggles.  He gives us the opportunity to handle our struggles with grace and peace.

Inside we are at war.  Our mind is constantly in a war with God.  Our mind wants to be constantly in control.  Don’t believe me?  Try and clear your mind and think of nothing for a full five minutes. 

Ultimately our struggle is with ourselves.  Colossians 3:3 says “For [as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God”.  In other words; my life is hidden with Him in Christ!  Here is the answer to our problem.  No problem is too big for God because he knows our innermost struggles and He is there to help us deal with them.

Our children are watching and learning from our actions as we deal with our inner struggles.  We are a lot more transparent than we think.  A five year old can see right through our outer defenses because, like God, they look directly into our heart.  They see our struggles and they know if we are at peace with the fact that God will help us through it.  If we look at others the way a five year old looks at us, we will soon begin to “know him no longer [in terms of the flesh]” (II Corinthians 5:16), we know others by the spirit.  Then we can begin to understand the fullness of God’s love for us.

Understanding God’s love for us releases in our children the freedom to live in peace and not in fear.  No matter how we paint it fear is the root of every problem we have and fear is begun, or defeated, by watching our fathers in everyday life.

En servicio como padre

Dave


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