How does a dad learn how to be a dad? My ongoing education in fatherhood has taken place in three classrooms. One, reading the Bible. Two, reading books about the biblical view of fatherhood. Three, watching godly fathers interact with their children.
In this third classroom of observation, I think about men like my own dad who modeled fatherhood for me long before I realized I was even paying attention. I think about men like Chad Hartman who showed me that a dad could lead his family spiritually and have a lot of fun at the same time. I think about men like Mark Gladson who earned my respect by actually doing what many dads only talk about. These men, and others, have been my teachers, modeling godly fatherhood for my benefit.
If I’m honest about this third classroom of observation, I have to admit that in addition to learning from positive examples, I’ve also learned from negative examples. Some of these negative examples are men I’ve known, some have been strangers, but their mistakes as fathers have showed me what not to do as a dad. It’s always easier to see the mistakes and sins of someone else, and God has used the visible mistakes and sins of other dads to expose the very same issues in my own life.
The list below is a catalogue of mistakes relating to fatherhood and patience. I’ve seen other dads make these mistakes, and too often I’ve made these mistakes myself. Clearly a Christian dad must exhibit patience (Galatians 5:16-24, Colossians 3:21). The question is, what does a patient dad look like? The list below is my attempt to define a patient dad through the process of elimination. The following are examples of fatherhood that have missed the mark on patience.
- The Screamer … This is probably the most obvious manifestation of impatience. This dad is always angry, always raging, always on a rampage, and always loud.
- The Last Straw … This dad appears to ignore “minor” disobedience. Then he goes from 0-to-60 in an instant and blows up when he’s suddenly “had enough.”
- The Yes Man … This dad takes the path of least resistance. He goes along with whatever his kids want, which means he nothing but a passive, weak, push over.
- The Humiliator … This dad doesn’t explode with rage. Instead, he tries to control with shame and humiliation, always saying things like, “I can’t believe you did that.”
- The Perfectionist … This dad confuses childish behavior with disobedience. He expects his children to toe the line of his own whims rather than a biblical line.
- The Phone Addict … This dad has always his face glued to a screen. He doesn’t overreact to much, but that’s because he’s never really “present” with his family.
- The Big Spender … This dad assumes his kids are plagued by boredom, not sin, so he uses money to distract. Distraction saves him from the hard work of parenting.
- The Comedian … This dad talks about the disobedience of his kids as if it were material for a comedy routine. It may appear “patient,” but it’s a lack of discipline.
- The Barker … This dad is all bark and no bite. He regularly threatens to crack down for disobedience, but he never actually follows through with any kind of discipline.
If you think about it, most TV dads fall into one of these categories. Maybe it’s art imitating life. Maybe it’s life imitating art. Either way, I see too many of these dads today. Unfortunately, I also see too much of me in these dads. I need to keep going back to the classroom of God’s Word, back to the classroom of good books, and back to the classroom of living, breathing examples of patient fatherhood.