It’s just an observation, but one of the major ways that fathers create regret for themselves is through failing in the area of discipline of their children. There is plenty of indication of this in Scripture…
- Proverbs 17:21 “He who sires a fool does so to his sorrow, And the father of a fool has no joy.”
- Proverbs 13:24 “He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.”
- Proverbs 23:13, 14 “Do not hold back discipline from the child, Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. You shall strike him with the rod And rescue his soul from Sheol.”
- Proverbs 17:25 “A foolish son is a grief to his father And bitterness to her who bore him.”
- and of course, 2 Samuel 18:33 “The king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And thus he said as he walked, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!””
There are a few reasons why men don’t discipline their children…
- “I don’t want to become the bad guy”
Discipline is not pleasant for either the child or the parent. We love our children and we want our children to love us back. Nobody wants to be the bad guy, so we avoid discipline in hopes that the other parent will take care of it or that they child will simply never do it again.
- “I’m afraid I’ll do it the wrong way”
Much of this fear is the result of a lot of conflicting advice from “parenting experts”. There always seems to be a new parenting method on the bookstands, in popular magazines, or the morning talk shows. Every one of them warn about the danger of ruining our children. The effect has often been parental paralysis. Who should we listen to?
- “There’s no harm in letting them do that”
Not wanting to discipline, or sometimes just being lazy, some fathers just dismiss poor behavior as being harmless or not worth the hassle.
May I offer a few words of encouragement and admonition?
- You’ll only be “the bad guy” for a while to your children, but you’ll be a hero to God and your family. Well-disciplined children almost always come back to thank (yes, I said “thank”) the parents who disciplined them. It sometimes takes until 25 (the age of literal brain maturity) to reach that point, but is often much earlier. You’ll go from being the “bad guy” to the “respected guy”.
- How does a person discipline the right way? Listen to God. “Yeah, but…” No; listen to God. He is the one true parenting expert. God teaches us (in a nutshell) to discipline: consistently, rationally (non-emotionally), with explanation, and with love. And yes, sometimes it will include a spanking (see the Proverb quoted above).
- Bad habits are much easier to break, when they are broken young. We all know this. It is foolish to overlook behaviors because they’ll become bad habits, which will become offensive habits, and which in time will become lifelong handicaps and problems. So, although a toddler may not be hurting anyone now with his tantrum, the responsible parent isn’t just concerned about today; his job is to be forming a responsible adult, husband, wife, worker, citizen, and Christian for tomorrow.
The disciplinary part of fatherhood isn’t easy, it isn’t fun, and you may make a few mistakes along the way. But don’t wimp out; shoulder your responsibility as a dad; and discipline your children now, so that they can be self-disciplined adults later!
It’s part of the way that fatherhood can be enjoyed later in life—without regret.