To even suggest that children help raise their parents sounds like something out of the progressive parenting phase of the 1970s.
But, hold on.
However provocative the premise, yesterday’s and today’s guest on Focus on the Family, Dr. Dan Allender, is about as far from advocating for permissive parenting as you can get. With his Masters of Divinity from Westminster Theological Seminary and his Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Michigan State University, Dr. Allender’s advice is biblical and practical, if not somewhat counterintuitive.
What is it?
At the heart of Dr. Dan Allender’s message is a powerful but simple idea: If you are a parent, the task of raising children is not simply to be just a part of your life, but instead a major and defining responsibility. He also makes the point that there’s a huge learning curve to parenting. As such, we’re all works-in-progress, meaning that we’re naturally going to learn a lot along life’s way (or at least should!), and that education often from our kids and the mistakes we inevitably make throughout the adventure of raising them.
The parent who thinks he or she is beyond improvement is sadly mistaken. And very often, our kids are in a position to help teach us some eternal truths, about sin, human nature, patience and true happiness.
Yesterday, Dr. Allender shared a sad story from early in his parenting of getting so wrapped up in his daughter’s piano recital that when she froze in the middle of the performance, he became furious. He refused to look her in the eye following the competition. Instead of bringing comfort, by his silence, he was, in essence, delivering condemnation. Because he had been attempting to find his significance in her accomplishment and she had failed him, he was, at that moment, ashamed to be her father. In fact, responding to his cold silence, she wanted to know why he hated her.
Dr. Allender learned a difficult lesson that day. But he only learned it because he was willing to fess up to his mistake and humbly process his daughter’s reaction to his action.
Speaking very personally, I’ve learned a lot from my boys, too. Trent once stopped me in my tracks when he said, “You know, Daddy, you often interrupt me when I’m trying to tell you what I feel.”
He was right! I grew some that day, all thanks to my nine-year-old son’s honesty.
As a parent, it pays to stop, look and listen.
Stop thinking you know it all.
Look at what your kids are doing, observe and study their behaviors and natural inclinations.
Listen to what they’re saying – or not saying – as you find your way through life as a family.
I might also offer a word of perspective here that’s addressed within the context of the radio program. A discussion of this nature might lead one to wonder if we’re encouraging parents to try and be their child’s best friend. The short answer to that question is no. We all know parents who, however well-intentioned, wind up desperately trying to be “liked” rather than respected. Although parents do learn from their children, it is both healthy and right to maintain a significant distinction between roles. As I shared on the program, when I’ve felt it necessary to reprimand the boys, much to their dismay, I’ve tried to make clear that it’s a father’s role to help shape and nurture character. It’s not a father’s role to be the most popular and “cool” dad on the block.
We’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot to unpack within this discussion, so I hope you’ll consider tuning in by clicking here.