Parenting Is Work!

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Pastor Mark Jeske shares several things his wife and kids have taught him about becoming a good dad.

Marriage is both harder than single people think it will be and also way better than single people think it will be (if you do it right). Raising kids (if you do it right) is way harder than people without children think, but it is also way, way better than they could imagine.

Having children not only brings another generation into the world who can pay Social Security taxes to support us when we’re geezers, but raising kids also turns guys into men and turns self-absorbed young parents into servants. What could be more helpless than a baby? And yet that baby’s needs trump everything else in the parents’ lives. The baby always comes first. That’s good! That’s the way of Christ, to find greater joy in meeting someone else’s needs than in taking for yourself.

Here are some things that Carol and the kids have taught me as I’ve tried to be a good dad and raise good kids.

1. Dad and Mom have to work very hard to present a consistent philosophy. Kids are bright. They need no special tutoring to pit us against each other. Failing to get what they want from one, they will immediately turn to the other and beg, always omitting to mention that the other parent has already said no.

2. You’d better mean what you say, both with your threats and promises. Talk is cheap, and lazy parents talk too much and follow through too little. If you promise something, you’d better deliver. Kids have memories like elephants for parental promises, and if you fail to do what you said, you devalue the currency of your word. In the movie Hook, Robin Williams says to his kids, “My word is my bond.” Is yours?

But you better follow through on your threats too. When you are trying to will your children to do something they don’t want to do, they will make their mental calculations on this: “What happens if I don’t?”

3. Politically correct theory: men and women these days have no innate gender behaviors; there are no innate “mommy behaviors” or “daddy behaviors” in parenting.

The Jeske house reality: Mom is compassionate, tenderhearted, and vulnerable. Dad’s heart is cold as marble and will watch the kids suffer if he thinks they deserve it. Mom takes rejection and disobedience personally. Dad shrugs it off and says, “Whatever.” Dad tells the kids, “You can learn in only one of two ways: talk or pain. Please choose which it will be for you.”

4. I have become somewhat conflicted about spanking. I know that I have scriptural license to administer corporal punishment as a parent. But explain to me why parents use corporal punishment differently from oldest to youngest. I am the oldest in my family, and my tailpiece was tattooed pretty good by my father. I don’t think my youngest sister got even one spanking. I know I spanked our oldest kid fairly often, my youngest hardly at all. Why is that? Do you know?

5. The chair in the dining room just outside my home office was the “naughty chair,” where disobedient children sat out their time-outs. I also called it the “prayer chair,” where they could finally have the time to commune with God. When they felt they had prayed enough, they could come and talk with me. If I felt they weren’t ready, they would go back to the chair for more prayer.

6. Teenage boys will push back hard against their parents (girls do too, but in different ways.) When the boys figure out that they are stronger than their mother, they can be cruel. In our home I did some of my best work when I stood by Carol and kept the boys from running her over. In their time of immaturity, boys will take every sign of tenderness as a sign of weakness.

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