Fathers carry regret, we carry wishes that we had when we were growing up, and what we tend to do is overcompensate with our children. We need to be careful about that and we need to understand that our children need to grow up with the same healthy challenges.
The challenge of not having certain things in life and being okay with it, the challenge of being able to take “no” for an answer, being able to say that “It’s okay if I was denied something. I don’t have to have everything in life”. Often times, because we are absent and we’re not available as much to our children, we give them stuff.
My fellow fathers, you cannot ever replace yourself with stuff. You will always be the person that your son or daughter needs, you will be the person that God has placed in their life and nothing, no one else and no thing, can replace you. So, you’ve got to come to terms with the fact that you are the gift, you are the one that God has created for your children. And no matter what your regrets are or what your wishes are of what you wish you had or what you wish was different in your growing up, no matter whether your father affirmed you, approved you or not, you have got to become the father, parent, that your children need, that God has designed you, that God wants you to be.
This is where you can take active resolve to break the cycle. You can break the cycle of being like your dad, if you didn’t like what he was like, or being like your dad, if you liked what he was like but you’re not available to your child as much as your dad was available to you. You can break those cycles by redefining your relationship and your parenting. At the end of the day, this is what you need to do. If you’re not available as much, then you need to chalk out, carve out, time for your son, for your daughter, and have dates with them.
You need to be able to take that time out and let them know “I am here for you. Right now, all I want to do is be here for you. Let’s talk.” You need to give them your attention, you need to give them your time, you need to give them your affection, you need to give them your physical presence, looking into their eyes, be completely available to them. Put your phone away, put the tv off, and just sit and be available to them. If you have teenagers, probably the greater challenge is to get them to sit down and spend time with you. But either way, if you want to break the cycle, you’ve got to spend time. And it doesn’t have to be a lot of time. It can be one hour a week, it can be a little time a day, but it’s got to be that time when they have your attention.
The second way you can break the cycle is by setting some limits, saying “no” at some times, so you still remain the authority. Giving such total freedom to people who are not yet ready for freedom is to endanger them. It is not safe, it is not wise. They are your children and they may even be grown up children or adult children, but there are certain ways that you can secure them by ensuring that there are boundaries. And especially when they’re growing up between the ages of 8-18, that is where you have to realize that you are the authority that they look up to, you are the one who defines loving authority, you are the one who exemplifies loving authority, the love and the authority and the mix up how those two go together. So, when you set parameters, when you set boundaries, you are not just giving them a hard time, you’re not just making life miserable for them, you are allowing them to see what it’s like to be in safety within boundaries so that they would continue to recognize that that is the advantage of safeties and boundaries and parameters in the world that they live in. But in the context of a loving authority. You need to do that.
You need to understand that that’s a gift you give your children. Teach your children the ability to take “no” for an answer. Say “no” and give them a hug, say “no” but don’t walk away, say “no” and don’t give them threats that “you’re always asking too much” or “who do you think you are?” or “what makes you deserve that?”. Don’t make them earn it. That is not the right way to parent.
When you make the children study for your love, when you make the children work harder so that you love them, you are not being like God, because God did not do that to you. Maybe your father did, but God did not do that to you. So, if you want to break the cycle, don’t leverage your love and your attention for their performance. If you want to break the cycle, spend time with them.