I have struggled with one of my sons about the most common and mundane of tasks: turning the lights off, flushing the toilet, putting his clothes up, making his bed, etc. His excuses for not performing this domestic feats is that ,“No one ever demanded this from me before I came here (I adopted him) or, “This is too hard!” Neither excuse really matters to me and if I accept this canard he won’t go very far in life.
My problem is understanding how to respond to him when he deliberately ignores the chores and house rules. I know what I should do and say to do to help him (and me), but something within me hesitates. I realize that he should be held accountable for the choices he makes as well as for the rules he breaks. But I dither and am torn up inside when I confront him with his mistakes and bad choices; I dread, truly dread, punishing him or following up with “negative reinforcement”. I fear that by holding him responsible he will be bruised, that he will give up, become despondent, be heart-broken or feel that he is not loved.
If I were more objective I would not worry about the tears of my sons when I know that I am doing what’s best for them. I feel at times that I am a surgeon doing painful surgery on my sons, wounding and maybe even being the cause of scars, but I know that unless the surgeon performs surgery when required, the patient will probably experience a painful death. Surgery produces pain and scars, but a life is saved! If I could just keep that image in my head and if I could just recall what they will learn by deciding to trust me. God has commissioned me to do the right thing and raise sons and not tyrants.
Thus I must constantly remind myself that a father is not, in the first place, the best friend of his sons, but more a pastor, protector and provider for them. I will not be liked much of the time if I do my task properly, and there will be times when I doubt my own decisions! So often I want to cave in and say,”Ok, just do whatever you want to do, I’m going to read my newspaper!”
My ultimate example is the best father in existence—God Almighty. And if I were wise I would realize that the best counsel tends to be my own counsel(!) If I would step back and look honestly at what I should have done and my errors. My sons need for a real dad, not a therapist or guardian ad litem. I know what to do—-I just need to muster the courage to do it.