This is the 3rd of 4 posts by Stephen Kendrick, taken as an excerpt of Chapter 7 of The Resolution for Men by Stephen and Alex Kendrick.
FATHERS LOSING THE HEART OF THEIR CHILDREN
“I wish my inner child would find my inner dad and tell him everything I never had the courage to. And then, I wish she would turn around and walk away for ever, and never look back.”
Fathers are notorious for doing things that anger their children and lose their hearts. Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Colossians 3:21 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.” Before telling us to train and instruct our children, we are warned not to frustrate or embitter them. Why?
If we are losing the heart of our children, we are losing everything. They simply won’t listen to us. This is so important that if it is not heeded, fathering will fail.
Intimacy is tied to feeling emotionally safe around someone. If your kids get angry with you and you don’t resolve it, then their hearts will close off to you and become bitter. Then the devil will begin to fill their minds with accusations against you. He will develop a “List of Crimes” in their minds of wrongs you have committed and then use this list to help them justify rebellion against you.
So when your children get angry with you, then you need to stop what you are doing, get engaged, and help them to deal with that anger until it is gone. You cannot live in denial and keep putting up barriers that choke out your ability to influence them for good.
Here is a list of 10 things that fathers do to anger and lose the hearts of their children. Seriously consider them and see if any of these are present in your relationship with your child as you examine if you are losing the heart of your children. Work hard to eliminate the following “heart hindrances” that will push them away:
- Your Absence. Whether a man abandons his kids all at once or is never home because he’s always working, he still leaves them as sheep without a shepherd. This sends the signal to your kids, “You’re not important enough for me to prioritize you, spend time with you, or really care about what’s going on in your life.”
- Your Anger. Psalm 27:4 says that wrath is cruel. When you react in anger, you can thoughtlessly say or do things in the heat of the moment that deeply wound your children’s spirits long-term, which can cause them to withdraw from you. Love is slow to anger. But if you blow your top, then humble yourself and quickly apologize. Too much is at stake!
- Unjust discipline. Children can sour if they feel discipline is unjustified or administered unfairly. Parents must explain rules and consequences clearly using God’s Word and authority rather than their opinion. (Ephesians 6:1-3) As you discipline, as yourself, “How can I train them without losing their heart?”
- Harsh criticism. Dads can sometimes be unnecessarily hard on their kids. What seems like a small chisel of criticism to you can feel like a crushing hammer to them. Never call your children names or embarrass them in public. Don’t be sarcastic or belittling. Kids who have no freedom to fail will tend to rebel when given any freedom at all.
- Lack of Compassion. Mercy warms hearts. Carelessness distances them. Children can get worked up about temporary, pressing matters—school, friends, feelings, competitions. We must provide a listening ear, wise counsel, prayerful support, and a willing hand. Rescuing your kids during times of panic makes you their hero! Help them think of you as an oasis they can run to, not a dry desert that offers no relief.
- Favoritism. Less favored children become resentful. Favoritism and jealousy led Rachel and Leah to fight and Joseph’s brothers to hate him. You may not feel like you play favorites—but perception is reality to your children if they think you do. Every one of your children should feel like you have no favorites, but if you did, it would probably be them because of your great love for them. (see this post about a guy who openly shared one of his children was his favorite)
- Hypocrisy. No one is perfect, but preaching one thing while doing another, breaking promises, and refusing to apologize will kill trust between you and your children. When they identify hypocrisy in you, be quick to repent, turning from your sin and seeking God’s forgiveness along with your family’s.
- Hurting their Mother. Whether through divorce, adultery, or mistreatment, children feel confused and betrayed when their father hurts their mother. They will tend to take up offense for the woman who loves them. Since they are commanded by God to honor their mother, you need to defend her not attack her. If you teach them to dishonor her, they will eventually dishonor you.
- Misunderstanding. Rebellion is often tied to kids feeling misunderstood and not listened to by their parents. When children open up, parents need to listen carefully and then communicate back what they have heard to the child before sharing their own opinions or disagreeing with them. If a matter is important to them, it should be to you. Tune in.
- Unrealistic expectations. Children will become quickly discouraged if they believe their parents have set them up to fail. Avoid comparing their weaknesses with another child’s strengths or expecting them to act as mature as you. If your child believes he can’t please you, he’ll eventually quit trying.
Let these ten warnings signs help you to avoid future pitfalls and also motivate changes that will draw your children back into your arms. As a father, you must keep your radar up to sense if you have your children’s hearts. Periodically ask them things like…
Have I ever wounded you and not made it right?
Have I said one thing and done another?
Have I made promises and not kept them?
Is there anything that you are angry with me about?
Is there anything you are not telling me because you are afraid of how I might respond?
Your kids may be able to present you a “list of crimes” that have wronged or angered them. Be ready to write, work through them, and apologize so you can let the healing begin.
One man was sitting with his family at a father-daughter banquet held by their church. Someone at the table asked one of the girls what her father had done that made the biggest impression on her. She said, “I remember one time when Dad was harsh with me. Then a few minutes later he came back into my room, and he cried and asked my forgiveness. I’ve never forgotten that.”
God can graciously redeem our many failures for good, provided we recognize those failures and confess them. Too many men foolishly refuse to apologize because they’re trying to save face and don’t want to look bad. But their pride is only making matters worse. Dads who admit their shortcomings don’t lose their children’s trust. They gain it.
To be continued…
This article is an excerpt from Chapter 7 of the book The Resolution for Men by Stephen and Alex Kendrick with Lawrence Kimbrough Published by B&H Publishing Group, Copyright 2011 Now Available Where Books are Sold