We have three grown kids, one grandson, and one grandchild on the way. We love all of our kids and they love us. As I reflect over my parenting years, I’d give myself a solid ‘B+’ in the parenting department. But, I would also would have parented differently in several ways. In a recent family service at our church, I shared these 4 things I wish I could do over as a parent. As you read them, ask which might apply to your parenting style.
If I could re-do my parenting, this is what I would have done differently.
- I would have not gotten so uptight when surprises came.
- I’m sometimes guilty of catastrophizing. That is, assuming a worse case scenario, an ‘it’s the end of the world’ mentality. Sometimes I did this when one of my kids blew it. And when I responded that way, I would turn the entire emotional tone of our family negative. It’s a phenomenon called emotional contagion. Leaders, dads, and influential people set the emotional tone of those around them, in either good or bad ways.
- I would have dealt with my own insecurities.
- I was insecure as a young dad. To bolster my self confidence I would sometimes try to control my kids behavior in an overbearing way. It was a blind spot. Back then I wish I had invited someone wiser into my life on a regular basis to help me deal with my own junk… a counselor, a coach, or a mentor.
- I would have been less driven to fix things and ‘doing’ and more focused on process and ‘being.’
- I’m a problem solver and that’s a good quality. But with relationships with our kids, sometimes it’s not the best solution. Sometimes when they face difficulties they simply need our presence, for us to simply be with them. This goes against our cultural push to be human doings rather than human beings. So, when something in my kids’ lives needed fixing, I wish I had simply offered my presence rather than my solutions.
- I wish I had asked a lot more questions to make my kids think more for themselves.
- This idea relates to number 3 above. Sometimes we should not fix things even though we clearly see what needs to be fixed. Sometimes the best thing a leader can do, whether in a church or a family or a business, is to ask questions so that the other person comes up with his or her solution. When that happens, the other person owns it better. As an example in parenting, let’s say your child clearly disobeyed you on an issue. Perhaps part of discovering what the consequence should be would be to ask your child, “So, if you were in my shoes what would you do? What consequence would you give if you were the parent?” Such dialogue could have helped my kids think more for themselves at an earlier age.
What kinds of things would you do over as a parent?
Each year it seems that another famous pastor steps down due to moral failure. As I’ve read about these falls, I’ve often wondered if there are threads common to these falls. H. B. London interviewed Archibald Hart, author and Dean Emeritus at Fuller seminary, several years ago on this subject. He suggested four steps that lead to moral failure in a pastor’s life.
In their interview they discuss how depression from pastoral burnout can lead to loss of vision, loss of ideals, an “I don’t care attitude,” and potentially result in moral compromise.
Dr. Hart then describes this progression of steps that leads to moral failure using what he calls the four A’s.
- Arrogance: I can do no wrong, I can handle life myself, I don’t need anyone.
- Adventurous addiction: I get taken with excitement and become energized with what I am doing.
- Aloneness: I become more at risk as I cut myself off from others.
- Adultery: I turn to sex as the only thing that gives me a kick that can make up for what I feel I have lost.
Listening to these four A’s caused me to pause to make sure I don’t go down that path. Often pastors and other spiritual leaders slowly move down this path without realizing it.
What would you add to this list of warnings signs of moral failure?
My youngest daughter, Tiffany, has survived a brain tumor and multiple brain surgeries. As a result, she has a heart for hurting people. A few times a month she takes her dog LuLu to hospice care to visit patients. A few years ago for several summers she served as a counselor at a camp for kids who survived cancer. Each year that camp would invite the kids, counselors and family to a dinner/dance the day after U.S. Thanksgiving. That year I took Tiffany. After dinner, Tiffany, the other counselors, and the kids took to the dance floor. That’s when, as I fought back tears, I jotted down these insights that I learned from these kids who survived cancer.
- We all yearn for a place where others accept us “as is.” All these kids had this in common, they battled cancer. Many that night carried the obvious evidences of that battle–bald heads and puffy faces due to chemo, wheelchair confinement, or visible scars from surgery. But these things didn’t matter to them. It was as if they were oblivious to each others’ physical limitations. They accepted each other “as is.” (Jer. 31.3, I have loved you with an everlasting love.)
- We all need moments when something transports us away from thoughts about our problems. One rule the camp rigidly enforces is, “We will not talk about our illness.” That same spirit carried over into the comments by the director that night as she spoke of joy, hope, and future. That same spirit pulsated from the dance floor as these kids jumped, danced, and twirled to the beat of the music and the direction of the rotund DJ. (Phil. 4.8, Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.)
- God’s image that He implanted into every human heart shows itself when we sacrificially give ourselves away to others. Each camper is assigned an adult that spends 24/7 with that child during camp. At this dinner the adults sit next to their ‘companion,’ as they are called, and they joyfully dance with them on the dance floor. One counselor Tiffany introduced to me had served 15 years straight. Her effervescent personality oozed love for these kids. (Gal. 6.2, Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.)
- God wants us to celebrate each other’s milestones with great joy. Each year at the dinner they play Pomp and Circumstances as the camp’s high school seniors march to the podium. This year only one made it. Two others couldn’t attend due to their illness. The high school senior whom the group celebrated that night had attended camp 13 years straight. Although surgery scars marred her face, she walked across the room and held her head high for she had not only survived, but thrived. After she received her ‘diploma’ the DJ began the dance music and this senior, dressed in her graduation robe, became the center of attention. The kids rushed into a circle as they danced and celebrated her milestone. My thoughts drifted back to when Tiffany graduated from high school. We weren’t sure that she would make it that night because the effects of her brain surgery often left her unable to stand on her own. The teachers had assigned a big football player to stand at her side and help her if needed. But, with a sense of great accomplishment, she walked across the platform on her own and received her diploma. I rejoiced. Then I cried. (Rom. 12.15, Rejoice with those who rejoice.)
I never expected to learn about acceptance, thinking about the good, sacrificial service, and celebration from kids who had cancer. Yet that night I committed, for Tiffany’s sake, to stay as long as she wanted so she could relish those magical moments with people who accepted her unconditionally.
Modifying the line from My Fair Lady, “I could have danced all night,” I could have stayed all night as Tiffany danced all night.
4 Warning Signs of a Marriage Headed in the Wrong Direction
I’m working on one of my 25 talks I will give when I train 100 Cuban pastors in October. I ran across this insight from John Gottman who wrote 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work. He has noted 4 warning signs to look for in a marriage headed in the wrong direction.
- How spouses talk to each other. He can watch and decide in a few minutes a marriage’s direction based on how spouses talk to and treat each other in a conversation.
- Spurned attempts to right a wrong, resolve a conflict, or fix relational breach.
- Emotional flooding. This is when a spouse’s negativtity is so strong (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, etc.) that it leaves the other shell-shocked.
- Pervasive negative thoughts about the other partner. These thoughts can get entrenched in negativity so deeply that spouses can’t even recall the good times.
On the positive side, what has helped your marriage thrive?
Last week I began a five-week series on sex and sexuality called, The Bare Facts on Sex: God’s Best for Me. You can view archived videos of the messages at our church’s website here. This week I’m completing my message on What Porn Does to your Brain that I will teach in two weeks. I will also post a blog this Thursday on that same subject. You can sign up for my weekly blogs here. As I’ve researched the issues caused by porn, I am shocked not just at its moral consequences, but at its social costs, damage to marriages, and what it does to our brains. In my research I learned that these 12 personal issues may increase the temptation to watch porn.
These issues may tempt you to view porn (adapted from Wired for Intimacy: How pornography hijacks the male brain by William Struthers, Kindle E-book loc. 575):
- The allure of the forbidden: curiosity about a woman’s naked body.
- Fantasy: dissatisfaction with the current world and a desire to participate in another.
- The pleasure of surrender: giving in to sexual release through images on a screen.
- Desire to see women in ecstasy.
- The female body becoming an altar at which a man worships.
- Controlling personality: a desire to manipulate the environment to gain a sense of security.
- Unhealthy introversion: a loner type who isolates himself from social interaction with others.
- High anxiety: easily stressed from family, work, or expectations others place on him.
- Narcissism: a need to be admired by others around him; needs lots of admiration. See my blog on the narcissistic leader here.
- Low self-esteem: sense of inadequacy around other men or women; needs lots of affirmation.
- Distractability: difficulty keeping focused or controlling impulses; constantly wanting to move to something more interesting.
If some of these issues are often true of you, find a wise accountability partner to help you conquer porn and/or avoid its lure. If you do have a problem with it, you can’t solve it by going solo. I also recommend this excellent site for further help.
As Christians, we must remember this promise for God’s Word.
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. (2 Pet 1.3, NLT)