The Daddy I Don’t Want to Be

9407_0009_webCharlotte and I have two children.  Actually, they are now two women. They each have children and families of their own. This is hard for me to grasp as it seems like yesterday they were small and I was trying to figure out what it means to be a dad.

Now many years later, I have learned much about being a father.  I have also become more aware that I still have much to learn.  I am grateful for having some very good role models. In each congregation we served (over three and a half decades), I watched some fathers who took this role very seriously.  I also learned from some who unfortunately squandered many of their opportunities for influencing their child for God.

One of the most powerful ways that a father impacts his children is through the way he treats his wife, their mother.  Little boys and girls learn much from watching and listening to their daddy. These impressionable children can have a front row seat to witness how a Christian father values and cherishes their mother.

Instead, some boys and girls grow up seeing their daddy do the following:

  • They hear their daddy talk to their mother in a way that is condescending and dismissive.
  • They hear their daddy speak to their mother as if she lacked intelligence.
  • They witness their daddy use the children to manipulate their mother.
  • They hear their daddy call their mother demeaning names.
  • They see their daddy laugh as he makes fun of their mother.  He excuses his humor as “just having a little fun.”
  • They witness their daddy treat their mother as if she were of little worth.

What I Wish I Had Known When Our Children Were Born


SullyCharlotte and I have two daughters and a son-in-law.  We now have three grandchildren! Little Sully was born to Jamie and Cal just the other day.  As I drove home from Oklahoma City yesterday, I thought about what I wish I had known when our children were born.  Like others, Charlotte and I were trying to figure out what we needed to do as parents.  In spite of the way it may appear at times, no parent has this figured out.  Good parents are constantly learning.

What I wish I had known when our children were born:

The best gift two parents can give their child is for them to love each other.  If a husband and wife love, care for, and cherish one another, they have given their children a precious gift.  Children watch their parents closely.  Often parents think their kids do not overhear unkind words or see the menacing looks. Typically, children don’t miss very much.  They see the way their daddy treats their mother and the way their mother treats their daddy.  You cannot talk your way out of problems that you have created.  You can’t explain away the contempt you have for one another.

On the other hand, when children see that their mom and dad are tender toward one another and that they cherish each other, they experience a special kind of security.  When they see that their daddy adores and treasures their mother (and vice versa), they are witnessing something that can positively impact them for a long time.

Some of the very best parents I’ve known were single parents.  Some became single because of the death of their spouse. Others experienced divorce.  At almost every church we have served, there were single parents who gave their all for their children.  It is tough to be a single parent and yet so many raise their children in homes of joy and contentment.

10 Traits of a Great Dad

DadFor a number of years, I’ve had a front row seat to witness first hand some great fathers as they’ve interacted with their children.  Most of these dads also modeled what it means to love their wives with an unconditional love.

The guys who I have in mind are in their 30s and 40s.  They are normal men who have a mortgage and go to work each day.  Yet, they have allowed Christ to deeply impact their lives as fathers.

Here are ten traits of a great dad:

1.  The best kind of dad first models faithfulness and loyalty to his wife.  His children witness this. While many men behave in ways that are small and childish, this man is real grownup.  This mans wife married a real man who refuses let his immaturity dominate the relationship.  This kind of man also blesses his children as he relates to them as a real father.

2.  The best kind of dad is more concerned about being what his kids need instead of being focused on his own ego.  Some boy-men are so insecure they must have their fragile ego massaged each evening when they are home.  Such ego needs doesn’t leave much time or energy for being attentive to their children.

Question: What Kind of Wisdom is Needed to be a Good Parent?

c1The following question is one that I have been asked on a number of occasions.  Maybe this will be helpful to you or someone you might send it to.

My husband and I have three children. My question is, ‘How do you raise children when you didn’t have good role models growing up?’ My mother did the best she could but really didn’t have a good role model herself. My husband came from a severely dysfunctional family. What kind of wisdom do we need in order to raise our children well?

Congratulations on desiring to raise your children well and to do this with wisdom.  Parenting is difficult work but can ultimately be so rewarding.  In the meantime, know that we are all learning (or should be learning).  The following are some reflections regarding wisdom and parenting.

Wise Parents Teach Their Children to Accept Responsibility.

They don’t spend a lot of time blaming other people. It is easy to get into the habit of blaming others for the behavior of your children. It’s the coach’s fault. It’s the teacher’s fault. It’s the youth minister’s fault. The larger issue is if I am teaching my child to accept responsibility or to blame others when things go wrong.

Wise Parents Allow Their Children to Experience the Consequences of Behavior.

You’ve seen this person. This parent will not allow his child to experience pain as the natural consequence of the child’s behavior. If he throws a toy out the window of a moving car, the toy is gone! If she throws a tantrum in Toys-R-Us, we leave the store – without a toy. Far too many parents verbally fuss at their children but instill no real consequences.

Wise Parents Look Down the Road.

What is the future going to be like if things continue the way they are now? You either pay now or you pay later. Parenting is hard work. If you refuse to address misbehavior when children are young, you (and they) will ultimately pay for it. For instance, if your child fusses and whines, you may be able to stop this by going to McDonald’s for a treat. When she gets ice cream, she may stop fussing for a while, but think about what this child is learning: “If I want something or if I am disagreeable, mom and dad will buy me something to make me feel better.” I once overheard a parent requesting that others let his child win at a game so that he would feel good. What?

Wise Parents Love Their Children for Who They Are. 

You may have a child who has special needs. Your child may have physical or emotional issues that need to be addressed. Perhaps your child has great difficulty reading, doing math, or just keeping up. Sometimes parents will get caught up in wanting to create a good impression before friends or in what their friends say regarding their children. We may constantly talk about how incredibly amazing and wonderful our children are. One parent is talking about their gifted and talented son. The other parent is talking about their daughter who was chosen for this or that award. Meanwhile, many, many parents are silent as they wonder why their children struggle so much. Don’t get caught up in your child’s feeling inferior or different. Your child needs to be loved just as she is.

Wise Parents Don’t Try to Fill Their Own Emptiness by Using Their Children. 

You’ve seen him. He’s the dad who is almost living vicariously through his son. He goes ballistic with the coaches. He never stops talking about his son’s athletic performance. In fact, all he ever says about his son is what he did in the last game. As one young man said, “My dad only sees me as a football player. That is all he talks about with me. Maybe it is the mother who pushes her daughter to date the quarterback. She pushes her teenage daughter to run with a popular crowd and date popular people. She lives vicariously through her daughter. Wise parents don’t use a child to somehow satisfy their own emptiness.


I will post more later regarding the importance of seeking wisdom and being a parent.


What else would you add to this list regarding seeking wisdom and being a parent?

Four Critical Keys to Being a Parent (or Minister)

keyThere are times when I know that my daughters are reading this blog.  There are other times that they probably aren’t.  (Do they really want to hear their dad talk more?)  Regardless, I have to admit that I often write these words thinking about their reaction.  Sometimes having them in mind seems to help me be more clear and to the point.


I want to tell you what I have been trying to give our children.  Rearing children has been a great experience but it has been a discipline.  To rear children has brought smiles, laughter, tears, and lots of other emotion.


Like so many of you who are parents, I have tried to be intentional about being a father to our two daughters.  I have also tried to be intentional about my life and role as a minister.  I find that some of the very qualities that are important to me as a father are also important to me as I serve a church.


1.  I want to be a dad who does not serve with an inflated ego.  I have never wanted our family to revolve around my wants, my preferences, my emotions, etc.  I do not want my children to think that their concerns are trivial compared to mine.


Likewise, I want to be a minister who does not serve with an inflated ego and a heightened sense of self-importance.  Nothing is sadder than a minister who communicates to the church that his ego must be constantly massaged and stroked.


2.  I want to be a dad who is becoming Christ-like.  I sincerely want to be engaged in the process of becoming more and more like Jesus.  I want my children to know that my heart’s desire is to be maturing in Jesus.  As a human being, I will fumble and be inconsistent.  Yet, I want my daily intent to be that of growing as a Christ-like man.


As a minister, I want to be Christ-like.  This is at the heart of Christian ministry as we live out of the over-flow of our relationship with him.  A minister may be weak in some skills.  This person may need to improve in this or that.  The absolute non-negotiable for Christian ministry, however, is that this must be a person who is serious about being a Christ-follower.


3.  I want to be a dad who is willing to address "what lies beneath" in my own life

  • Do my children experience my constant anger?
  • Do my children have a father who will not recognize his own insecurities?
  • Do they have a dad who just doesn’t admit it when he is wrong?
  • Do they experience distance and disconnection that is a spin-off of his own hurts and wounds from his past?

As a minister, I need to be asking some of these same questions.  What are people experiencing with me?  What is happening with me emotionally and how is that impacting others?


4.  I want to be a dad who is first a healthy, godly human being.  Being a dad is not about buying my children everything imaginable.  Being a good dad is not about seeing to it that they experience what I never got to experience.  Being a great dad is about first being a good man who has a healthy, godly way of "being."


I want to be a minister who is first a healthy, godly human being.  Too many ministers are focused on being managers, caretakers, church builders, etc.  (Yes, the work may require some of these.)  The focus, however, is not on what I need to do but who I am and how I am relating to and loving the church and community.  The following questions might be worth some reflection:

  • Do I handle my emotions in a way that reflect my own maturity or my immaturity?
  • Do I have healthy relationships with my family and church through the ups and downs of life?  Or, do I seek emotional shortcuts through pornography, or emotional/physical affairs?
  • Do I love people enough to give people room to think, love, and relate to others?  Or, do I seek to manipulate others out of my own neediness?


What are other critical keys to being a parent (or minister) besides the ones I’ve mentioned?

Give Children the Very Best

coffeecup4.jpgWhat does it mean to give children the very best?  I don’t think it means providing them with expensive clothes, a top-of-the-line automobile, or giving them whatever they want.  Some parents seem to have the view that goes something like this: If my child wants it and we have the money, then why not?  Yet I think there may be something more to giving a child the very best. 

Some suggestions:

1.  Give your child Jesus.  Give her the wonderful opportunity to hear the teachings of Jesus.  Let her see you, as an authentic Christ-follower, attempt to live out these teachings as you pursue the will of God.

2.  Give your child a home where the two great commandments (Love God/Love Neighbor) are front and center.  One result of this is that your child will be deeply loved in such a home.

3.  Give your child grace.  A home where the grace of God is lived out will be a home where there is much mercy and tenderness.  There is room to grow and mature.  Forgiveness is modeled and practiced in such a home.

4.  Give your child direction.  We do our children no favors when we provide no direction.  Perhaps small children are allowed to run wild through a friend’s home.  Some raise their children with no boundaries or clear expectations.  Children are blessed who have parents who are willing to spend the time and energy needed to provide some kind of direction for their lives.

5.  Give your child time.  Time to play with him.  Time to do a project with him.  Time to just be with him.  One elementary school teacher told me recently about watching some parents pick up their children after school.  The parents wait in line in their cars at the school until they get to the designated pick-up spot.  Then the children can get in their car.  This teacher told me about the number of parents who are talking on the telephone as their children get in the car.  They continue talking on the phone as they drive away.  This after not having seen their children the entire day.

Children need time.  There is nothing that a parent can buy that will substitute for giving a child time and attention.

This list is only a beginning.  What would you add to this list?

Giving Children What Money Can’t Buy

Cup_of_Coffee.GIFMoney just can’t buy some things.  Yet, so often some parents will try to buy for their children something to substitute for what can not be bought.  

For example, children need the attention of their parents. A parent may come home from work with a new toy or trinket for their daughter.  Yet, that is no substitute for just being with this child.

A child may have many, many toys.  Yet, that may not mean that he or she is really learning to play.  Learning to play using the imagination, learning to play with others, and learning to play in such a way that invites creativity are not dependent on how many toys a parent has bought that child. 

What does a child need?  What does a child need that can not be purchased?