My oldest son has that look on his face again. Wide eyes. Forced blank stare. Trying not to convey anything. Underneath he’s angry, but he’s trying to look unruffled. Unchallenging. He’s trying to avoid hearing his parents say, “Don’t look at me that way.”
But Seth is tenderhearted, so the forced nonchalance doesn’t suit his face. There’s still that anger around the edges, in his posture and his hands. And there’s hurt in his glazed eyes.
We’ve been here before, but not often. Seth is a deeply good kid, and I’m so very proud of who he is becoming. I can’t even type this without tears coming up, just under the surface. I’m so proud and grateful he’s mine.
But he’s a normal kid with an independant streak a mile deep, and we, his parents, are actual people with attitudes and character struggles, too, so we’re bound to butt heads once in awhile. In those times, I’m shifting my parental strategery. I’ve begun to have these conversations differently…
From “The Silence of Adam” by Dr. Larry Crabb:
“Manly men release others from their control and encourage them with their influence… Manly men nudge their family and friends to the same crossroads where they, as men, have found that trust [in God] or unbelief must be chosen. Unmanly men require their friends and family to meet their demands.”
Do we require obedience from our kids, then? Yes, we do. And we don’t always have the time to answer the “why?” questions, so we require our kids to verbally agree with an “OK, Mom” or an “OK, Dad” after a directive is given. This has been a VERY helpful piece of our parenting tool kit. This assures that our boy is making eye contact and acknowledging that the directive has been heard. Further, it reinforces the understanding that obedience is the expected norm.
But when kids grow, they gain complexity as they become more independant. We still expect obedience, and we will not allow disrespect even when our boys disagree with our decisions. But there is no question that parenting Seth requires a different kind of nuance. And this is where being a manly dad means leading more by example and clear expectations , and less by demand.
So I’m trying to park my pride in my parenting. I’m trying to be clear with expectations, and I still give PLENTY of directives. But when I see that blank/hurt/angry/stubborn/conflicted/growing/complex/young/old/forced calm/frustrated face, I’m shifting my parenting gears. I’m doing more nudging, and letting him choose.
Instead of, “Go apologize to your mom,” I’m encouraging Seth to choose the honorable way. “When you settle down and think it through, I think you should consider talking to Mom. I think you owe her an apology. And real apologies don’t come with any ‘but’ connected. You think about your part of this, and you decide what to do.”
Seth will be a teenager in a month. He has a living faith in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit feeds his conscience with a steady data stream. He’s becoming a young man, and he’s not blindly falling into moral traps at this point… he is choosing.
My job, as I see it, is to help him become the man who will choose what is right because his character won’t allow him to do otherwise. And that means prayer, trusting in God to shape him, and letting go of control in favor of influence.
Seth, and all of our boys, are miraculously wonderful kids. Lord, help me not mess this up.
“being a manly dad :: control vs. influence” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.