“Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.”
Parenting seems to go through pendulums, each generation reacting to the last. When I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s parenting was still pretty much authoritarian, “because I told you so” was usually the stock explanation kids received. Empty authoritarianism, which de-emphasized the parental relationship with their kids, was not the ideal. But what is happening today across America in families may be worse.
I have just finished reading a fascinating book entitled The Narcissism Epidemic: Living In An Age Of Entitlement, by Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell, which has helped me understand that if past generations were all about the parents, this generation has been all about the kids. And this is not a good thing.
Here are a couple of excerpts from their chapter on parenting:
More than at any time in history the child’s needs come first. Parents routinely ask their children–even those too young to answer, what they want…Parenting is always a struggle of one sort or another, and these days it’s often the struggle of concerned parents against an overwhelming tide of narcissistic values…
It’s good that we don’t always expect blind obedience anymore, but we may have veered too far toward obeying our children instead of them obeying us.
The authors offer some practical suggestions to counteract the narcissistic tide (the obsession with the SELF) that we are swimming against, but the one thing that they didn’t mention, which I think is so necessary, is to give the family another focus, something greater and higher than ourselves. In my opinion this is the only lasting way to move from selfish living to self-giving. When we become a family with a common goal to please and follow Christ in our relationships then we begin moving in the right direction.
As a dad I am to be the pacesetter and initiator in this, in the way I love my wife, first of all, and then secondly, how I lead my children. This doesn’t mean giving everybody what the want in any given situation. Sometimes it is making unpopular decisions and saying “no.” It is not always clear and easy to discern and this takes dependence upon God’s Spirit to figure it out as I go. This is a walk of ups and downs, trial and error (a lot of error on my part!).
So what is “another focus”? It isn’t what I want. It isn’t what my wife necessarily wants (though it often is!). It certainly isn’t what my kids want. It IS what God wants. It is a focus I believe that you and I as fathers are called upon to keep holding up before the whole family and reminding them that this is what our family is all about.
Image credit: Julian Robinson
Jamie Bohnett is the director of the Fatherhood Forum and author of the book Like Father, Like Son: Rediscovering Sonship On the Fathering Journey. He has been married since 1974 to the same amazing woman, Cindy, and is a father of four and grandfather of two. Jamie is passionate about his marriage and his family, and enjoys encouraging other men to grow in their faith and in their faithfulness to their family through small groups.