The single hardest thing for any Dad is trying to get the balance right between love and discipline for his children. I often use the expression ‘grace and truth’. Grace is really another name for love.
The challenge becomes more difficult the more children you have, and I think especially the more boys you have. Boys seem to find your limit and then take you past it. Boys, for wont of a better expression, seem to challenge the boundaries more energetically.
If you have been reading my missives on fathering for any length of time, you will know that I believe the primary ingredient for being a great Dad is LOVE. Having said that, a father’s role is also to bring discipline.
To me, Dr Bruce Robinson, author of two bestselling Australian books, ‘Fathering from the Fast Lane’ and ‘Daughters and their Dads’, is Australia’s number one fathering expert. Bruce has distilled being a great Dad into the simple three letter word – BUS.
Dr Bruce Robinson exhorts fathers to get on the fatherhood BUS.
B – Be there for your children.
U – Unconditional love is what you must give your children.
S – make your children feel Special.
Bruce’s brilliant homily on being a great dad is hard to beat. If children need anything, they need love, because as Steve Biddulph says so eloquently, “Love grows the brain.”
St Peter said, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” Jesus also reiterated the importance of love when He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love each other like I have loved you.” It is the message of those who have spent time with our Father in Heaven.
The well-known ‘Love Chapter’ in the Bible says, “These three things remain: faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love.” That verse is found in all of the best-known love quotes, and it is often read at weddings, even by atheists. Why? Because it is true. Love not only grows the brain, but it grows the heart, and scientists are finding out that love has a great deal to do with good health.
As a Dad, the balance between love and justice is hard to find. How do you teach your children about consequences, without pain of some sort? Real life as an adult is all about accepting the consequences of your wrong decisions, and then moving on.
Whilst a father can exercise grace, an employer usually does not. Oh yes, an employer might be able to offer grace once or twice, but the fiscal reality of the marketplace means that grace cannot be offered endlessly to employees, without the danger of said employer going broke.
Part of a father’s role is to train his children for the real world, and help them to become employable. I well remember the time I bought a dozen new matchbox cars for my four young sons with strict instructions to take care of them. I expected my responsible sons to show the appropriate care for these new additions to their limited toy base, as we were working in the non-profit sector and we weren’t flush with funds.
Boys being boys, and being full of energy and creativity, they decided to test their new cars’ road-worthiness. They smashed them into each other, crushed them with rocks and hammers and even tried to incinerate them with highly flammable glue.
When I came home from work one day and asked how they were enjoying their new matchbox toys, I was shocked to find out just how complete the Demolition Derby had been. Not one car was in its original mint condition.
I can assure you, there were consequences, and the consequences were not without pain. As Don Marquis says, “Many a man spanks his children for things his own father should have spanked him for.”
To administer justice as a father is such a hard thing. I know I had done many similar things myself as a youngster, but to deprive my sons of the necessary reality check they so desperately needed could have resulted in something far worse down the track. Yes, the Janine Balding case was extreme, but her murderer was only 14 years of age. Another schoolyard murderer was only 13 years old.
Loving discipline is critical for our boys!
As a society we have disempowered teachers by stripping them of the ability to discipline our children, and then wonder why knife attacks and violence are filling our children’s playgrounds.
We have forgotten the need to teach consequence with discipline. Discipline is part of love, and if we love our children, we must teach them the importance of respect, integrity, love, and care for property, because if we don’t, we will reap the consequences, and so will they.
So yes, I am an advocate for the teaching of grace to our children, but not without teaching them the consequences of bad behaviour, because that is the truth of life. The truth can come as a shock, but in my opinion, it is better to learn now rather than later.
It’s all about balance really, isn’t it?
Grace is actually ‘unmerited favour’, and that’s where the U in the fatherhood BUS comes in. Unconditional love is just so important. Smother your children with unconditional love, but please don’t forget the discipline side, because it also shows your children that they are deeply loved.
One more thing. If you are going to go too far to one side, do so on the side of grace.
Yours for grace-based parenting,