the awesome task of fatherhood
There are different “seasons” in parenting, for example, parenting toddler, parenting pre-schooler, parenting children below ten, parenting early teens and late teens. We need to know which stage we are at and adopt the parenting style most appropriate for that particular season.
Parenting is a tough job which comes with immense responsibility and often we learn on the job through trial and error. Although attending parenting seminars, reading books on parenting may help, the reality is, as parents we need to know our children well: what they need, what works and does not work for them. Nothing can and should take the place of knowing our children intimately and this can only be done through spending time interacting with them and giving them our personal attention. All parents will agree that no two children, even twins, are the same and we need to understand each child; his / her strengths, weaknesses and uniqueness.
As a Christian father, I hold dearly the following Bible verses to guide and strengthen me as I bring up my sons.
“Behold children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.” (Psalms 127: 3)
“And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in training and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph 6:4)
It is important that we, as parents, see our children as a reward from the Lord and a heritage of special value and worth. Children are more than just the result of the union between husband and wife; they are precious gifts from the Lord. And because they are from the Lord, we need to treasure them and raise them up in the fear and knowledge of the Lord.
I’d like to share some parenting lessons I have learned raising my two boys, Nicholas (17) and Joshua (11).
#1 Pray for our children. I have been praying for my sons almost daily from the time they were still in their mother’s womb. Praying for our children means to surrender them into God’s care and desiring that God’s will be done in their lives.
#2 Set achievable study goals and affirm their efforts. All parents want their children to excel in their studies. However, not every child has the same ability and I am careful not to compare the school results of my sons. Instead, I would always acknowledge their effort and perseverance. I make every effort to understand where their weaknesses in their studies are and set simple and achievable goals for them. One thing I have learned is, a word of encouragement would motivate them to do better. Constant nagging that they should work hard often leads to frustrations for both parent and child.
#3 Set boundaries and discipline appropriately. Often father, mother and grandparent differ on what is permissible and what is not and how to discipline. As a father, I have the responsibility to set the ground rules and get everyone in the family, grandparents, mummy and children, to agree and to apply them.
One rule we have agreed upon is that there should be no playing of handheld games during meal times and travel time in the car. Any violation of the rule will evoke a gentle reminder from grandparent, mother, father and even the brother, since all of us have agreed to this rule in the beginning. Another rule is that any complaint from one brother against the other has to be done in the presence of his brother. This will avoid frivolous complaints and grumbling. One other ground rule is the time limit on computer games; the boys have to agree to the number of blocks for gaming they can have each day, each block is 40 minutes with a 15 minute break. It then becomes easier to tell them to stop when they reach the limit as they have agreed to it in the first place.
My sons also know that they may be caned if they break ground rules but when my elder boy reached 13, I stopped caning him and discipline takes on other more appropriate forms, such as withdrawal of privileges. I noticed that with clear rules and discipline for breaking rules, my boys have dropped childish misbehavior and become more sensible.
#4 Be involved in their lives but be careful not to intrude. As parents, we need to be involved in our children’s lives but we need to be careful not to encroach into their privacy when they are older. Giving time and attention and paying special interest in our children’s lives is very important. If our children know that we are there for them, they will not look to their peers for advice, which, most likely, will lead to disastrous outcomes.
I will listen to them, however small and trivial their concerns may be. At times, I would volunteer suggestions but never insist to have things done my way on the non-essentials. When advice is sought, I give freely; if not, I would just give them a listening ear. If possible, I would participate in their games even though their pace and mine are different. I also make it a point to attend their school events. To spend time alone with each child is strongly recommended; we need to give each child the opportunity to share his/her concerns without fear that others may know.
#5 Be generous with words of affection. Children will feel secure when they know and hear that you love and care for them. I am generous with words like, “I love you” with my boys. Their usual response is always, “I love you too, daddy”. Hugs are usually given when I tucked them to bed when they were young. At bedtime, I would also encourage them to pray on their own as I waited quietly by their side. These were precious teaching moments I used to tell them of God’s ways and purposes. At times, I would tell them my personal prayer requests and it was a joy to hear my children praying for me.
#6 Love their mother. Another important aspect of parenting is to show love for the whole family and it is important that the children know that their father loves their mother deeply. They need to hear, as well as see acts of loving affection between their father and mother. I am sure when they become parents themselves they, too, would love their spouse and children, thus fulfilling God’s purposes for the family.
#7 Be a good role model. Children learn more by observing than through hearing instructions. I am always conscious that I need to be a good role model for my boys to follow. I try to show, by example, that a promise is always kept and an agreement adhered to. I would also apologize for the mistakes I made, displaying for them the humility which they can observe and learn.
Parenting is tough and after 17 years I am still learning new things. These simple, practical ways have worked for me and I hope they would be useful for you also. As God is the perfect Father, we should ask God to teach us to be good parents so that our children may grow up to be God-fearing men and women of integrity. Amen. n
Author: Mr. Soh Kim Seng (Kim Seng worships and serves as a lay reader at the 9 am Sunday Service with his family. The family loves to dine out and to take short trips out of the country together.)
First published in The Courier, December 2013.
Photo: Kim Seng with wife, June and their two sons, Nicholas and Joshua