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About this series
10 Ways to be an Exceptional Parent in a Quick Fix World
Just like anything that’s constructed well – a solid business, a powerful engine, or a superb meal – successful parenting requires intentionality and a plan. And that’s why Living on the Edge is pleased to share this series from Doug Fields, Senior Director of the Homeword Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University. Doug has been called by many "America's youth pastor."More from this series
All right. We are picking up part two, ten things kids need from caring adults. I am going to build on what I talked about and if you weren’t here… hoh, hoh, you missed it. No, you can go online and listen to that to be caught up. Because I am going to build on those relationship principles. I will say that we said, “Let’s start with the end in mind.” What would it look like if kids who grew up in our homes, at the very end, you can look in your notes, had a sense of confidence and character and convictions and compassion and competence?
I defined each of those and said, “What if we made that our end goal?” Because really, it goes by so fast. I have three kids – twenty-five, twenty-two, nineteen – it feels like it was just yesterday that we were in the hospital giving birth to them. When I say “we” I had something to do with it.
But we were there and it went by very, very fast. This is my middle child, Cody, in 1992, bouncing on my rock hard stomach at the time. And then I blinked and Cody graduated high school. He went away to college to play football. At the end of the first semester, he sent me and Cathy a text and said, “Mom and Dad, I feel God is calling me to do something radical with my life. I want to drop out of college and go serve in Africa. Before you shut me down, please pray about it.” He used the prayer card, I’m the pastor. You can tell he’s a pastor’s kid.
Long story, short – my son dropped out of college to go serve orphans and street kids in Africa. My son is the one on the left. And he did that for seven months. And it’s weird that you raise your kids to have convictions. And to follow the teachings of Jesus.
And then when they actually want to follow the teachings of Jesus, and it doesn’t fit in your plan for them, “Son, are you sure you want to do that? Dropping out of college…” It wasn’t what I dreamt up for him. But he has made up the time. He is actually graduating this summer and last month, he recently started taking flying lessons, which is another, I think we have a picture of that, yeah, which is another thing that I would not have chosen for him.
Last week was his first solo, which means he went up all by himself. That’s the picture at the top. I have chronic diarrhea ever since that moment.
But kids who are raised with this sense of confidence, kids who are strong in character, they have their set of convictions that actually express themselves in compassion – they will become competent. To not take up space on this planet, but become competent to use the gifts and skills that God has given them to make a difference in this world.
They may not fit your American dream, Mom and Dad. They may not want to live behind a white picket fence with two point three children. They want to do something meaningful and impactful and it may break your mold, something that you didn’t dream for them. Like flying planes or moving thousands of miles across the world to care for those who are less fortunate.
This picture that I have of my son is one that I just go, It makes me so proud as a dad that he didn’t go in the direction that I chose for him. He followed God’s lead. My wife doesn’t like me showing this one because she thinks people think that’s a cigarette in his mouth. And it’s not a cigarette. It’s a joint.
As I said last week, there is no perfect parent. All right? There is no perfect parent, there is no one parenting formula that fits for all of us that is going to work. There is no silver bullet. What I am asking us to do is to say, “Parents, let’s do the possible.”
I don’t care how old your kids are. Let’s do the possible and put our faith in God that He will do the impossible. And as we talk about the possible, what I am doing is I am giving you ten actions that I think all kids need from caring adults, whether you’re a parent, a grandparent, a mentor, a coach, a teacher, a neighbor, an aunt, or an uncle – if you have a kid in your life, this is what they need from you as a caring adult. It’s not going to guarantee success, but what we are trying to do is enhance the odds.
Last week I said you need ongoing belief in your role as a caring adult. I said they need ongoing affection. And you need encouraging words. Again, if you missed it, pick it up online and listen to it.
The fourth thing that I think all kids need from caring adults is what I call: “serious fun.” Serious fun. And for some of you, you’re like, Doug, really, that makes your top ten list? Yeah. You know why? Because today’s generation of kids are totally stressed out.
Why are they stressed out? Because it’s a faster paced society than what you grew up in. But really, the primary reason, truth be told, is that they are stressed out because their parents are driven. And their parents are putting pressure on them to perform and succeed because successful kids make parents feel better about themselves.
And when a kid can grow up in an environment of fun and laughter and play, what it does is it releases their anxiety. It actually helps diminish their fears, and it lessens their hostility and their anger.
And like last week when we talked about, we are looking at biblical principles, many from the book of Proverbs, I want to return to the book of Proverbs because we find this here. In the book of Proverbs chapter 17, verse 22 it says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine. But a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”
See, we are told that a joyful heart is good for us, both physically and also emotionally. In Proverbs 15 it says, “A glad heart makes a happy face.”
I realize that all of us in here are not followers of Jesus. Some of you are here investigating, you’re curious, you’re wondering, you have been invited – we are thrilled, thrilled, thrilled that you are here. But for those of us who have chosen to align our lives by both the person and the teachings of Jesus, I believe we ought to be the ones who actually model fun.
But for some reason, in our Christian culture, we have come to believe that the more serious we are is the more mature that you are. The more serious you are is the more spiritual that you are. But the truth is, the more serious you are, the more boring you are. Okay? I know a lot of boring Christians and so do you.
See, the opposite of funny is not serious. The opposite of funny is unfunny. Okay? So I put this in your notes and it’s my direction to you as parents. Parents, you need to lighten up and schedule some fun. Lighten up and schedule fun.
See, because if you were to read in the Old Testament, the book of Ecclesiastes, Ecclesiastes lets us know that there are necessary rhythms in life. And two of the necessary rhythms in life that it talks about in the book of Ecclesiastes is laughter and dance.
What it says is that if you really want to become fully alive, that if you want to live abundantly, meaningfully, joyfully, you have to dance and you have to laugh. Because those are necessary rhythms of life.
Now, personally, I am glad God put laughter and dance. Because I don’t do a very good job dancing. And so I can live with laughter, if it was just dance I would be in trouble because my dances are ugly. I avoid them. When I do dance in public, people typically call the paramedics. They think something is wrong with me.
But laughter, what a great value. And, by the way, if you’re visiting, you are at a church that values laughter. Now, we are very serious when it comes to Jesus and the teachings of Jesus. But we don’t take each other very seriously because we all know we are a bunch of screw-ups, all right?
And I am, personally, I am one hundred percent confident that Jesus laughed. Now, I cannot show you a verse in the Bible where it says that Jesus sat at the campfire and cracked jokes. Hey, you guys! Did you hear the one about the Pharisee, the tax collector, and the rabbi? I can’t show you this. But the reason I am confident that Jesus laughed is because the Bible says that Jesus was a hundred percent God and a hundred percent human, all at the same time. And humans laugh.
And think about it, if you read about Jesus, He had plenty to laugh at. He hung around with knuckleheads. I’ve got to believe Peter said something really funny that Jesus laughed so hard he snorted. Okay?
And Andrew called Him out, You guys! Did you hear that? Jesus just snorted! And when I say that, for some of you, you’re like, Doug, I just, I don’t think that’s accurate. I just, I don’t think that would be true. Okay. Jesus probably said, “Thou aren’t funny, Peter. I delighteth in thy jesting. And you maketh Me laugh so hard I snorteth goateth milk out of My nose.” Whatever. Friends. If you believe that Jesus never laughed or never smiled or never used humor, you have an inadequate view of God.
And it’s that view of God that people are either drawn to or they run from. And, parents, I just want to say to you, you’ve got to lighten up. You’ve got to schedule some fun.
And I realize when I say, “schedule fun,” it may seem like an oxymoron. But it needs to happen in your house. The reason I chose “schedule” is because I want to communicate to you that, yes, there are fun things that happen spontaneously.
But you have got to look at your calendar and you have got to say, Okay, when are we going to schedule it in? What are we going to do? And maybe Monday nights is fun night and we’ve got to get this vacation. We are going to do this together as a family.
Because people say to me, “Doug, you are funny so it must happen naturally.” No, it doesn’t happen naturally and, two, I’m not just naturally funny. I use humor when I teach because I know that keeps you awake. Okay? But it’s hard work to figure out what is actually going to be funny to a lot of people. People actually, people are disappointed when they meet me offstage.
There have been people like, “Oh, I kind of expected you to be funny in person.” And I don’t ever know what to say. I just say, “It’s my day off. I’m sorry. I actually thought you would be better looking up close. So we’ve got that going for us.”
So I am just like you. I’ve got to figure out: How do I infuse fun into my home because I want your kids to grow up with play and laughter and adventure and giggle and laugh. Because here is the deal, and I promise this to you, if they don’t have it in your home, they are going to seek it out. They are going to seek out fun and play and laughter and they are going to find it elsewhere. They will find it. It just may not be the healthy type that you would appreciate. Make sense?
Cathy and I are convinced that one of the reasons that our older-aged children come back to our house a lot and hang out at our house is, one, we pay for the food. But you know what? We worked really, really hard as they were little to try to infuse fun and laughter and joy into our family.
And I want to encourage you to give this some serious consideration. To ask the question: Where is the fun in our house? Now, because for some of you, this may feel like a shallow idea, but I’ll tell you, it’s very, very deep. And it has the power to change your kids’ lives.
The fifth thing that I think all kids need from caring adults is what I call: “delicate discipline.” And when I was a new dad, discipline was really rough for me. I didn’t have mentors, I didn’t have people to help me with this, I was just learning on the go. And so when my kids would act demon-possessed, I didn’t know we weren’t supposed to lock them in a room with a juice box and a jug of licorice.
So I had a lot of questions related to discipline, but I know what the Bible teaches about discipline. So I was always trying to hang on to that. And I want to pass that on to you.
See, biblical discipline is guidance with love, not punishment in anger. Okay? Guidance with love, not punishment in anger. If you want to read Hebrews chapter 12 on your own, you can see this.
But you don’t love your child if you don’t provide discipline. Actually, it goes like this: Discipline and love go hand in hand. One of the ways that we express love is with discipline and I’m adding a modifier to it: delicate discipline.
Look at what the Bible says. Proverbs chapter 3, “My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline and don’t be upset when He corrects you. For the Lord corrects those He loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.” You see, discipline is an act of love.
For those of us in here who are Christians – you have said, “I am a disciple, I am a follower of Jesus.” You can’t be a disciple without discipline in your life. Discipline is key.
Now, when I look at kids who are out of control, all right? You know what I’m talking about. Kids who are just out of control. I don’t think, What a punk. I can’t believe that kid. What an awful kid. Here’s what I think: Where are the parents? Where are the significant adults in that kid’s life? Are they absent? Are they clueless?
In Proverbs chapter 29 it says, “To discipline a child produces wisdom, but a mother is disgraced by an undisciplined child.”
Now, let me give you a couple warnings that you might write down if you’re taking notes. The first is this is you need to be cautious. You discipline with caution. Bodies are fragile, yes, we know that. But spirits are more fragile.
The warning that we are given in Ephesians 6, now a word to you parents, “Don’t keep on scolding and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful. Rather, bring them up in the loving discipline the Lord Himself approves with suggestions and godly advice.”
Scolding and nagging, making them angry and resentful. You want to make your kids resentful? You want to push your kids away from you? If you do, then operate in the two extremes. Extreme over here is over-discipline, you go intense with it. Or the other extreme is you provide no discipline at all.
Anytime you operate in the extremes, you lose. And as somebody who spent his whole life, his adult life working with kids and writing, speaking to parents as what I call myself as a kid-advocate, I beg you: Don’t discipline in anger. It doesn’t work. It’s awful.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you won’t ever get angry. Of course you will get angry. It would be stupid of me to say that you wouldn’t get angry. What I am suggesting is you learn to discipline and not be angry. There is a big difference.
If you want to see discipline in anger in action go to any fast food restaurant that has a playland. Okay? I go to those a lot because I office at it. I do my work in fast food restaurants because I can afford the food and I can refill my iced tea.
And you go there and you watch, you watch yanking and slamming and pushing and yelling and that’s just from the parents who can’t get their McCoffee.
But, no, seriously. Some of you who want to see a psycho kid, you go to a McDonalds Playland. And when I see the type of discipline that I see, it’s not discipline as an act of love. It’s actually discipline for the sake of compliance. That’s not loving discipline.
See, angry discipline results in humiliation, embarrassment, violence, and it produces angry kids. See, when you discipline in anger, they don’t hear your words, but they sense your spirit. And when you lose control, they lose respect and ultimately, they will become angry themselves.
So, parents, please, yelling doesn’t work. I don’t know how else to say it. It just, it doesn’t work. There is no social science research that points to yelling being an effective way. There are other ways to communicate that don’t wound and scare and shame your children.
Now, let’s be honest, we have all blown it. Okay? We have all blown it, including myself. And there are things that I regret and I am ashamed of. I actually have a book in my bookshelf, I don’t know why I keep it because it’s the stupidest title in the world. It is called, Regret Free Parenting. There’s no such thing. Okay? You are going to have regrets.
And the hard part for me is the memory that I have of seeing my kids and it wasn’t a look of remorse like, Oh, Daddy, I’m sorry I did that. It was a look of fear. And perfect love casts out fear. When we love our kids, we don’t want them to grow up with a sense of fear. So when I would occasionally lose it and go to my wife for support, she’d be like, “Oh, you blew that. Get out of the way while I try to pick up the pieces.”
Now, some of you will say, Well, Doug, have you not read the Old Testament? You know what it says, “Spare the rod; spoil the child.” Yeah, people have been using that verse out of context as a license to beat kids for a long time.
What you need to understand is the text in the Hebrew that the word “rod” – “Spare the rod; spoil the child,” people then go, “You’ve got to spank ‘em!” A rod was used by a shepherd. And a shepherd would use a rod to guide the sheep, not beat the sheep. Okay?
The rod would guide to keep the sheep on the right path, to keep the sheep out of the lion’s den, away from harm. That’s why King David says in the twenty-third Psalm that you are all familiar with, “Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.” Not beat me.
Now, I am not making a statement on spanking – pro or con. You figure it out. Whatever works for you. Here’s what I am suggesting: In whatever you decide, you must be delicate. You be cautious.
The second thing I want you to write down is to be wise. And this is my way of saying, “Think it through.” Parents, you don’t have to provide discipline right away. Okay? It’s not like you are a traffic cop and you’ve got to get them right there. No, you can delay the discipline so your anger delays.
So wisdom says: Regardless of the situation, regardless of the situation, I am going to stay calm or find a way to get calm. Two, I am going to work hard to make sense, to be wise, but I am going to bring discipline regardless of their response.