Teachable Moments The final chapter from Just Call Me Dad! 13 Principles for better dads, better kids, and a better world.
1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 NIV: “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.”
I remember when Gary Yuenger was teaching me to hit a golf ball. He said you have to hit the ball with the big muscles in your back. I couldn't figure it out. I wanted to throw my hands at the bottom of the swing, and that led to a lot of short shots that drifted to the right. Then I did it. I hit one just right. What he had been telling me now made sense. Back when I was playing a lot, I got down to a five handicap. I have had a lot of fun over the last fifteen years since I successfully learned how to hit a golf ball.
I wish I could tell you that parenting was easy and give you just that one perfect piece of advice. The fact of the matter is it is just like anything that is worthwhile: It requires hard work. There’s a great quote from Robert Fulghum (quoted by Bonita Jean Zimmer in Reflections for Tending the Sacred Garden): “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”
I have always told my kids to do as I say, not as I do, because I know I am a flawed human being. Jesus should be the standard to judge by, not me. In reality, though, a great deal of what kids learn is caught and not taught.
My goal was to set my kids’ moral compasses in such a way that they knew the difference between right and wrong. I love the concept of the thirteen principles because these are simple little phrases that you can remember. If you can get this code of conduct ingrained in your kids’ hearts, you can expect them to make better decisions down the road.
It is good to have rules, such as an 11:00 p.m. curfew, but I think it is more effective to help your kids learn why you want them home at the hour. Over the years, I have sent my kids many articles and videos of all the bad things that happen after 11:00 p.m., that most drunk driving occurs after this hour, for instance. It also starts you off running behind the next day. Most productive people are up and going early and not burning the candle at both ends.
Sometimes it is OK to say, “Because I said so.” You are the authority, and your kids should respect that. That being said, I think it is best to develop a relationship with your kids where they understand that there are methods to your madness.
The big key is to take advantage of teachable moments! When your kids have questions, you need to be ready with a great response. You don't have to be able to answer every question, but you need to be able to help them work their way through the ups and downs of life. In this book, I hope I have been able to share with you what has worked for our family.
Kurtis and I talked occasionally about the “I love you, ifs.” We should love our kids unconditionally. My parents were incredible at doing that for me. I have never been very good at it. I was often guilty of, “I love you, if you get an A,” or, “I love you, if you get a hit.” The way God wired me, I could make myself physically sick when Kurtis went 0-for-4 in a baseball game. That was something I needed to work on, and I still do.
In the introduction, I mentioned how I was with J. J. and my first go-around with parenting. Too often, I looked at J. J. as my child; I viewed him as an extension of myself and in relation to myself, rather than as an individual in his own right. It didn’t help that his name was James Walter Minton, Jr. As a result, when J. J. would do something wrong, I always felt like he was doing it to me. My mind would say, “Don’t you realize what you are doing to my reputation?” In hindsight, I realize that I was doing a lot more than he was doing to hurt people’s perceptions of me.
I did a great deal better with Kurtis and Emily, but I still struggled. We had a lot of fun with a John Wooden line (mentioned in his February 2001 TED Talk, for instance) that a C is only appropriate for the neighbor’s children. Writing a book like this puts a great deal of expectations on the kids, but I think they are OK with it.
Try your best to love your kids not because of what they do but for who they are.
Remember Stevie Urkel on the TV show Family Matters? After he made a mess of things, he would say, “Did I do that?” Hopefully you can remember Urkel’s whiny voice. When I turned fifty years old, Kurtis posted on Facebook:
A big happy 50th birthday to the greatest dad a kid could ask for! Not only has he instilled in me a passion and love for baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals but also a passion and love for Jesus and sharing his love with others! Thanks dad for the countless number of things you have done for me and our family! I am the man I am today because of you. You’re the greatest blessing in my life! Love ya and have a great day!
At another point, Suzanne posted a meme stating, “A daughter needs a dad to be the standard against which she will judge all other men,” and captioned that with:
So True! Made me stop this morning and thank God for the wonderful father my husband is to all of our children. It’s what attracted me to him some 27+ years ago! God has been faithful in blessing him greatly in the Dadittude area. Sure, he’s often the “good cop” to my “bad cop” or the “gospel” to my “law,” and often forgets to hang up his bath towel and knows all about spoilin--but he is a GREAT dad and Papa! Thanks Jim for leading our family and keeping us centered on Christ! Loving and appreciating you more each day!
Did I do that? Did I really go from not having a clue about how to be a dad to looking back and saying things turned out OK?
I think I failed forward.
Throughout this book, I have mentioned my shortcomings. It’s not about how great we are; it’s about how great God is. The One who designed the stars millions of miles away, the One who designed the smallest atoms from which all things are made, that same One is interested in the number of hairs you have on your head.
There is no way that I can live up to the thirteen principles in this book without God’s help. Does God still do miracles? It is a miracle if a guy like me can get better at the stuff that I talk about in this book. I will never get to a ten on any sort of meter, scale or gauge, but I can improve.
People of the world will tell you that they can be moral without God. It’s great that the liberals are trying to “out-nice” the Christians. There are always exceptions to the rule. As a general rule, however, the world at its worst needs the church and the family at their best.
To get society right, we need to get the church right.
To get the church right, we need to get the family right.
To get families right, we need to get marriages right.
To get marriages right, we need to get men right.
If we can all have our kids turn out better than we are, then we will build the home and change the world. It all starts with better dads.
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