Parenting is not for wimps. I know a young couple who married in 2013 and had their first child this year, about a year after their wedding. In a recent conversation I asked them if their newborn was resting well at night so they could get some sleep. They said it was off and on but getting better. They informed me that they realize now that nothing could have prepared them for some of the things that go with parenting.
Which leads me to this next thought…
In doing pre-marital counseling, when I ask young couples what their plan is for having children I often get this response: “Well, we are going to wait until we are ready to be parents.” Although I know what they mean, I often laugh inside because, as a father of three, I know by now that you are never ready for most of what parenting entails. As one of my former elders used to say, “You do the best you can and let the rough end drag.”
We now have a teenage son, a ten-year old boy with middle-child syndrome, and a little spitfire of a daughter who is about to be seven (if we let her live that long). Discipline is becoming more difficult by the minute. They are challenging us in new and different ways.
I often have to go to the back of the house with my wife to huddle and diagram plays. We have to agree on everything. We have to back each other up. We have to disallow any defense from getting through and tackling the quarterback. Parents, raising children is a team effort. It is serious business. If you don’t have a plan you are going to lose the game!
I know we are just getting started with this teenager stuff, but one thing the Tatum parents have agreed on is the willingness to be the bad guy.
Case in point: Our teen recently received a cell phone. We have no plan on it so no calls or texts are yet happening and there is no internet package. But he knows how to get on a few free web spots like youtube and some gaming sites. We have limited his usage, we see his content, and the rule was no using the phone except in the family room. But the other day he had retreated to his room and was on the internet; thus, he was breaking the rules. (I knew he had done this more than once and warnings were issued).
So no messing around – I took the phone. It is gone indefinitely. I told him that he had broken the trust he had been issued. We had a conversation about the dangers of what is out there. He knows it may be a long while before he ever gets it back. It has been over a month so far and I am in no hurry to return it to him. He is doing just fine!
Because I love my son, and because I love his soul even more, I am not concerned if this restriction makes him mad at me. The biggest mistake parents make in discipline is allowing their desire to be buddies with their growing teen trump their responsibility to be the bad guy.
Parents, I am begging you, listen to me! If you want to be their friend when they need you to be their instructor and rule-maker and disciplinarian you are blowing it. They may not like you now but they will love you later. They will be your friends later when they understand why you did what you did. Right now they will call you harsh and foolish and at times their hormones may even make them say they hate you. I guarantee at some point they will lash out. This is life. This is parenting. You have not been called to this noble job of preparing the next generation in order to allow an immature minor who has been charged to your trust to have their way.
Love your kids enough to be the bad guy. It may take awhile for your kids to get it. But one day, when your grandchild gets their first cell phone, your frustrated middle-aged child may use it to call you for advice. And you will smile.
“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”
Photo background credit: Boris van Hoytema on Creative Commons