I had a different post drafted for this week. However, after last night, I’m calling an audible. How to be a better father to my kids when I feel like I’ve blown it?
Have you ever been rude, hateful, or harsh with your children? If you’re like me, it’s happened, and more frequently than we’d like.
I try to avoid it, but despite my best efforts I sometimes show my sons the ugliest version of myself. Last night was one of those nights. I was hateful and out of line with one of my sons.All of us parents have acted in ways we wished we wouldn’t have. Hidden in these situations is a golden opportunity to show the gospel to our children if we will take advantage of it.
First, I need to cool down. I can’t shape my son’s character with veins popping out of my neck. Often, I just need to regain perspective and ask myself if what I’m angry about will matter 5 years – or even 5 minutes – from now. Usually it won’t.
I regroup by doing some or all of the following:
- Reading my Bible (The Psalms, #51 specifically)
- Listening to music (not screamo or death metal, that backfires!)
- Talking it through with my wife
As soon as I’m able, I offer my son an apology. One that focuses on my sin alone. Not some cowardly mixture of, “you and I both got outta line…”. That’s not an apology. It’s a justification.
My apology usually goes like, “Son, I’m sorry I was hateful to you just now. You deserve better from your dad. Would you forgive me?” If I was especially jerkish, I might say, “I hope you’ll consider forgiving me.” He can forgive on his timeline, not mine.
How to be a better father to your kids
I must acknowledge my own sin, especially when it’s on such clear display. A quick way to lose credibility with our families is to ignore the obvious. If I was hateful, I should say I was hateful. I shouldn’t say I was “less than kind.” Let’s call a spade a spade, even when it’s staring back at us in the mirror.
I sometimes double-back the next day, or later that night and will offer another apology, recommit to avoiding this behavior in the future, and I might share how sad or embarrassed I felt.
This is when the opportunity presents itself.
When I admit my sin, I can point him to a savior who is consistent, kind, loving, and controlled. I can remind him of a God who is all the things I am not. I can talk about God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness.
Then, I can encourage him to follow God and trust in Him alone. I will say, “Son, I will let you down. I will allow frustrations to build, and I will take them out on you. I will not always be a model of a loving father. However, God will never let you down. Trust Him alone.”
In the end, I decrease and God increases.
That’s the gospel message right there.