What an afternoon! The two youngest boys came home from school excited, as always, and we talked about their day, what they learned, and the upcoming weekend. Then the trouble started. One of the boys had broken a promise and we discussed the consequences. He was very, very unhappy about my keeping my promise (no iPad music for five days) and begged and begged for another chance. Of course this is the consequence he agreed to, and in light of what he did, it was fair, but when it came to accepting the discipline he simply was not prepared.
For two hours he whined, complained, pleaded, screamed, begged, told me what a horrible parent I was, demanded his way, threatened to make me quite “unhappy” if I did not give him another chance, and so on—-for two hours!!! Then when I walked back into the house the other two boys were fighting and one was crying. Good grief—-this is a Christian family?!
But strangely enough, an hour later we were able to have our meal, say our apologies, tour the now completed new house (lights, water and heat are now functioning!) and then come back to our home ready for bed. In fact, the time after the “triple meltdown” today was one of the best evenings we’ve ever had! My challenge is how to positively parent four boys whose behavior my parents would simply never have tolerated! (But then, I must remind myself, my parents raised ten of us from infants, whereas these boys came to me at 7, 9, 13 and 14 years old.)
What I have learned is that while establishing expectations, talking about the consequences and encouraging them with rewards is easy, following through and keeping my promises is far more difficult than I ever imagined. It would be infinitely more pleasant, and our home would be far “quieter”, if I just showed mercy and gave “second chances” ad nauseam to the boys. But that’s not what a father is. My task is not to be loved or liked, but to “raise them" in true love and kindness —and frankly my sons are not fans of this “tough love” notion of child rearing.
Unlike most of my Protestant friends, I have a crucifix both in my home and office. Both were gifts and I cherish both of them. And while some argue about that “the cross of Jesus is empty” and that we should not place such emphasis on the death but rather the resurrection of Jesus, I for one appreciate the reminder: The man on that cross suffered for my broken promises, bad behavior and dishonesty. That man received the punishment I deserved. That bruised and bloodied man (Jesus), and only that man, has a right to look down upon others —- and instead He lifts them up!
God did not give me a “second chance” or simply forgive me each time I messed up—-He held me and all men before and after me accountable—-just like I hold my boys accountable. But unlike me, God provided someone else to receive the just consequences for all poor choices and outright rebellion. God’s forgives me not because He is a “mild-mannered Father” and general “good guy”, but because of the cross and Jesus Christ. He is righteous God that rightly requires His children to be righteous.
One day I hope that my boys will appreciate the connection between “choices and consequences” as well as the connection betweens God’s expectations, our failures and Christ’s vicarious suffering for us. Until then please pray that I can hold on to being steadfast, firm and fair with these boys—even when they choose to not “like” me because of it. This job is not for the man that wants to be popular.
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