Often in the summer, I’ll jump on the trampoline with my kids.
I admit, my fun is bouncing them higher and higher, trying to knock them over.
My son, younger and smaller than his sister, inevitably topples first. Sometimes he doesn’t mind this but other times it scares him. It’s hard to predict his responses, but when he does get scared it’s easy not to take his fear seriously. I know he’s safe, so I continue to gently bounce him around. Truthfully, it’s kind of funny to watch but, when I keep going and he’s having none of it, this verse springs to mind:
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger,
but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Leverage Opportunities to Show Them What We’re Made Of
I think it’s in these early moments of playing with our kids where they learn about who we really are as parents. These are great opportunities to show our kids that we take their fears seriously, even when we know they are perfectly safe. They won’t get to grow in the confidence needed to face and overcome their fears unless we take the time to acknowledge those fears first.
When we recognize and address our children’s fears we remain their place of safety. Bouncing them on a trampoline while they’re crying does the opposite. We need to walk alongside them in their fears, show them they will be okay, and that we’ll still love them even when they aren’t ready to go further.
This can be especially difficult for fathers with their sons.
The Thing About Men
I think, as men, we have a tendency to take things too far, right from childhood. As kids we played catch in the house until we broke a window. As teenagers we pushed our bodies until we broke a bone. As adults we cram so much into our schedules that we feel trapped and pressured and end up with anxiety.
We push ourselves in playing games, too, striving for the win, working not to lose, and sometimes embarrassing ourselves in the process. This sets up a whole range of emotions, and provides opportunity to practice regulating our responses.
But we need to model for our kids how to play, too, and how to use those opportunities to practice regulating responses.
Getting Your Kids to “Honor the Father”
Earlier, when I was midair on the trampoline above my toppled son, the verse that came to mind was Ephesians he: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
The verse I prefer to think about however, is found two verses earlier, which says, “”Honor your father and mother”
Every dad wants their kids to understand that one a little more. We’d love nothing more than for our kids to see past our flaws and lack or patience. But it would seem that in order to gain such honor there is also something required of us.
We need to take this passage as a whole, which means we can’t expect our children to take our counsel if we don’t first hear them out. We first need to look past their flaws and see where they are trying their best.
Brass Tacks: Daily Ways Dads Can Win Their Kids’ Respect
Leveraging opportunities and hearing our kids out first is fine advice, but how do we implement it? What does this look like in the day-today? Here are some practical steps to put this into action today:
When your kids show their discomfort or ask you to stop, STOP.
When your kids get scared, hurt, or frustrated while playing, stop the game. See if they are okay. Find out what’s wrong.
Acknowledge their emotions
Don’t just say they shouldn’t be afraid or upset. (Imagine coming home from a difficult day of work and having your spouse say the same thing to you.) Then discuss a way to change the game so the fun can continue.
Respect their Limits
Playing with your kids, you’ll naturally discover their limits. Whether it’s on a trampoline or wrestling or any other activity that offers a challenge there is usually a risk of someone losing control of their emotions. This shouldn’t discourage but rather give reason to try exciting and adventurous things with your kids. But they need to know you have things under control, and that you won’t push it beyond what they can handle. They need to feel safe, even mid-adventure.
If our hope is to pass on wisdom and good character to our kids, all the while garnering their respect, we need to be intentional in the way we play with them. There will be times when you are too tired for their games and your patience will be low. This is all a part of being a father. As you are attentive to your kids’ perspective and needs, however, they will grow in their God-given task of honoring you as Dad.
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Kevin has been married to Jerrah-Lee 11 years. They are currently raising one human girl and one human boy. He loves spending time with his family, traveling and seeking out mildly life threatening situations. Although his wife does not fully support this last hobby, he hopes to raise kids that do.