"Why is it so hard to believe that God intends our children to train us just as much as he intends us to train and guide our children?" - Dan Allender, in his book, How Children Raise Parents
"A change in our perspective will not only increase our joy and freedom in parenting, but in the long run it will invite our children to become coheirs [with us] of eternal life." - Dan Allendar
Here is what I wrote to my 5-year-old son, Shade, late last night in his journal:
I think I learned a valuable lesson from you today about being a good dad.
You've been quite a whiner all day today, struggled to be kind (especially with your sister Callie), and also 'bent the truth' a few times when it seemed like it would get you what you wanted in the short term. This not to say you've done no good today -- on the contrary, you've shared joyfully, played and laughed willingly with the whole family, shown special care for your brother Jakin who is sick, and even remembered to bring up a 'talk' I needed to have with you at the end of the day that I told you we had to have about your behavior from this morning when I had forgotten. You are a good boy, even on your worst days.
When I started to talk to you about this behavior, you also talked to me about mine. You said, "Your like the dad of Chicken Little!" (We went and saw that movie together today. The whole thing was about how Chicken Little's dad didn't believe his son.)
"How am I like Chicken Little's dad?" I decided to humbly ask, allowing the conversation to become about me, sensing that I probably needed this.
"You don't ever believe me when I'm not being nice!" you replied.
I reflected back instantly, not just on the day, but on our entire relationship history (all 5 years!). I realized that you were right. Whenever I have already 'busted' you for not nice behavior, I don't believe you, and am skeptical and questioning and doubting towards you about anything you say. It started occurring to me that this skepticism might be creating an anxiety in you that would actually produce the pressure in you to feel like you might need to protect yourself from me by lying...
And then, AS I WAS THINKING THIS VERY THING, you said, "...and it makes me very, very, very, very nervous!" (!!!)
I felt like I was in a scene from the movie, The Butterfly Effect, where you jumped back from your adult or teenage years into your 5-year-old body in order to correct me from issuing years of this subtle poison into our relationship. I promptly apologized to you for not believing you. And I am so sorry. I've been thinking about it all evening and have come to this conclusion which is revolutionary for me, and I hope transformational (and formational) for both of us:
It is more important for me to believe you than it is for me to correct your behavior.
I may struggle with this, son, as we go, and I will still lovingly correct your behavior, but I would rather get personally hurt by your lie than have you be personally hurt by my mistrust or disbelief in you.
I love you, Shade, and with every step I take as your father, I take it humbly and prayerful to God that He make useful to you and a help for you -- that He make me your truest friend. And again, son, I'm sorry for mistakes I've made, am making, and will make. May God use even these in showing you Himself - your only perfect Father."
What struck me so dramatically was Shade's use of the word "nervous" in his "it makes me..." phrase. I would expect him to say mad, or sad, or maybe even "not like you", but nervous is what he said. I so totally get this nervous feeling that can be caused by someone else's skepticism, especially when it's aimed directly at me.
I never want to be a carrier of that with anyone...most of all my sons or daughter.