Children – The Discipline of Fatherhood. In chapter 4, Hughes continues to hit us over the head as he addresses fatherhood. He begins by showing the power a father wields in his children’s lives. As we expand our understanding of the power we have in our children’s lives, we heighten our motivation because of the importance of the task.
I think of the movie line, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Hughes says, “Men, the mere fact of fatherhood has endowed you with terrifying power in the lives of your sons and daughters, because they have an innate, God-given passion for you.” He continues, “Men, as fathers you have such power! You will have this terrible power till you die, like it or not – in your attitude toward authority, in your attitude toward women, in your regard for God and the Church.”
While these statements may sound like they are over-the-top at first, I wholeheartedly agree with them. We must never underestimate the power of a father as our society has. This is a call to give up much to be a godly influence in our children’s lives. “There are few places where sanctified sweat will show greater dividends than in fathering.” What an important reminder when I am tempted to spend time doing so many other things.
The bulk of the chapter is then divided into things a father should not do and should do in a manner similar to Eph 6:4, Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. This provides an effective checklist to evaluate ourselves as fathers. First the do nots which are oh so easy to fall into.
Do Nots of Fatherhood
An all too easy way to provoke our children to exasperation and anger is through criticism. We often come by it so naturally because of how we interact with other men at work or in competition. However, when we criticize our children, we are planting discouragement.
Col 3:21 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” In other words, they lose heart.We must be very careful with our words. Hughes is not saying that we should never discipline or correct as we will see later in the chapter. Rather, we must guard our tone when we discipline. I would also add to this section by warning against sarcasm and our tone when we kid around. Sarcasm may be humorous to us, but to our children, who are often unable to separate sarcasm from truth, we may be inadvertently wilting their hearts and teaching disrespect.
Over Strictness –
I love Hughes’ comparison that “rearing children is like holding a wet bar of soap – too firm a grasp and it shoots from your hand, too loose a grip and it slides away.” We can easily become overly strict as we seek to protect our children and as we seek to step in and discipline to protect our wives. These are godly aspirations, but we must learn that domination does not accomplish these tasks. Rather we must learn to loosen our grip when appropriate and trust God with our children. When we do hold a firmer grip, we should be able to show how our stance is directly rooted in God’s Word and comes from His authority rather than our own need to be in control. (Which we actually aren’t!) “Learn to hold their lives with God’s pressure and to mold it with His love.”
How many times do we let our hard days and challenges spill like poison onto our children? This section was especially convicting to hear as I think of times I have fought frustration with my children. Our kids deserve our attention and response. They did not cause our difficult days, nor do they comprehend that a difficult day at work might be why daddy is acting so poorly. They just know that we are treating them like they don’t matter.
This section is a good reminder that children are exasperated by inconsistency. We often talk about consistency in discipline, but it also is needed with the promises we make. How well do we do at following through with things we’ve said to our children even in passing. They definitely remember! They say, “Daddy, you said . . .” Our answer needs to be, “yes I did, let’s go do that.”
Great care must be taken to show that we do not favor, care, or love one of our children more than the others. Yes, we do need to train and discipline each one differently, but we must not allow any of them to feel “less loved.”
Hughes then moves to the “do’s” of fatherhood. How do we bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord?
The Do’s of fatherhood
The first “do” that Hughes mentions is tenderness which is taken from the phrase “bring them up” in Eph 6:4. The idea is to nourish or feed, kindly cherishing our children. Can we be gentle, kind, and affectionate with our children as men? Absolutely! That gentle care models to our children God’s care and love for us as His children. If the God of the Universe can love me and show grace and tenderness to me, then it is completely manly to show the same to our children.
“The tragedy is that so many men have left this to their children’s mothers.” I must agree with Hughes’ statement. It can be difficult to step into the discipline process when we get home from work and just want to crash, but our wives need us. It can be difficult to be confident in our role as fathers when we have not been with the kids all day and feel like our wives know them better at that moment. Do it anyway! God has called us to pastor our families. Embrace that role.
We are to be teaching and training our children to walk with God. Hughes gives some practical suggestions that are helpful. We must be:
- Involved in verbally instructing our children.
- Regularly leading them in family devotions and prayer.
- Monitoring and being responsible along with our wives for the input that enters their impressionable minds.
- Taking responsibility to help assure that church is a meaningful experience.
- Above all, we must make sure that the open book of our lives – our example – demonstrates the reality of our instruction, for in watching us they will learn the most.
Two lists – great reminders.
As I think of each one I can think of times of failure and times of success. I pray that God will mold me to be a father that reflects Christ to my children.
Hughes says, “time is the chrysalis of eternity.” He is speaking of the fact that the moments we have with our children will echo into eternity. Am I teaching my children to love God, serve Him, and share Him with others? That is a great reason to “sweat for your children’s souls.” Let’s give up our selfishness and sweat for our kids. Which item do you want to work on most this week men? I challenge you to share one way God spoke to you through this chapter and uphold each other in prayer.