It’s a day after Father’s Day. I’m somewhat reflective thinking back on my childhood…and thinking about my relationship with my children. I’d like to share some things from the perspective of a son and a father…with some words to fathers.
I don’t have a story of a father who wasn’t there or a father who was abusive. I have a story of a good father that was engaged in my life and who modeled godly masculinity. That upbringing has shaped me and marked me to attempt to do the same for my children. Consider some marks of godly masculinity I can still see through my rear view mirror…marks I’m working at living out:
- Love your children and pay attention to them. You are making investments in them when they’re young and when they actually want to be around you. One day, they’ll be independent like they should be and won’t need you. Then, those investments will pay off and they’ll choose to enjoy more than just a vertical relationship with you…but, also a friendship between mutually respected peers.
- Never discipline out of anger. Always let your correction be measured, calm, and with an aim to correct…not punish. God, in His good mercy is not punitive to His children. He’s corrective. Because He loves us, He wants us to grow. His correction reflects that.
- Make memories. I can think of a lot of things my dad “said” to me. Most of those things…the really great life lessons hang on pegs…and the pegs are memories of something we were doing. One of my earliest memories with my dad is riding in an old flat bed truck through a sandy orange grove. I can see the dirt road going by through the rusted out floor board of the old truck. I remember falling asleep with my head on my dad’s lap while he drove us home from that adventure. These memories are imprinted in my mind and heart and laid the foundation for a high trust relationship with my dad.
- Be predictable. Don’t be predictable in the sense of losing spontaneity. But, stick to your code so that your children know how to function. If the code is always changing, you kids will be confused.
- Don’t undercut mom. If mom says something to the kids, back her up. Teach your son how to respect women. Teach your daughters how they should expect to be treated. If you treat your wife like a dirt bag, your son will do the same. And, your daughters will accept the same from other domineering idiot.
- Speak the words of Jesus in your home. Let Jesus be at the center of your life…not only when you want something, when you’re in a jam, when you hit your thumb with a hammer, or when you’re at church. Be the priest in your home and season your stories and discussions with the Good News of Jesus.
- Never let your kids say, “can’t.” Can’t isn’t in the Johnson vocabulary. Winners never quit and quitters never win. Things don’t come in “can’ts,” they come in ‘cans.’” If can’t is an easy escape, your kids will never do the great things. The great things are never easy. If the great things were easy, everyone would be great. But, they aren’t. A lot of people teach their kids in word and by example to take the path of least resistance. Resistance and challenge are necessary to build muscle.
- Be daring. Don’t obsess over safety. Don’t get me wrong. Be safe. But, your kid isn’t going to die if you don’t sterilize his pacifier. And, your kid won’t be traumatized if he falls down on his butt trying to learn how to walk. You can’t chase your kid around for his whole life trying to catch him before he falls. Let her be daring. It’s a proud moment when your 4 year old goes off the high dive right after a grown adult nearly wets their pants trying to do the same thing. Daring is good for a kids sense of adventure. And, when they conquer their fears, they realize their capable of more than they previously thought.