I’ve blown it many times. But the following event stands out as an example of both failure to live by the stuff I teach, and the power of the teaching. Upon reflection, it’s a tale of battling giants.
One warm afternoon my blooming adolescent son Daniel pushed me beyond my limit. We’d been arguing and the basic conclusion was, “Son, you’re going to do this because I’m the dad!” He didn’t like my conclusion. So he kept arguing. I tend to like when my kids stand up for their beliefs when dealing with others. But not with me.
I remember a “tough” conversation I wanted to have with our third grade son, Daniel.
I wasn’t very happy about the company he was starting to keep. His behavior was getting worse as he hung out with what I concluded must be bad company. So like any parent concerned about this issue, I launched firmly in. “Why are you hanging around with those guys? They seem like a bad influence.”
Way to win a kid’s heart, oh wise parenting sage.
Daniel immediately scowled and turned away. I realized in an instant that my approach wasn’t going to gain me much of a conversation. I took a quick breath and decided to calmly try again. “I’m sorry. I don’t really know your friends very well. I made an unfair judgment. Will you forgive me?”
My son stopped and turned back. Sensing my sincerity, he said, “I suppose.” I worked hard in that moment to have a heart of understanding instead of a heart of judgment. Then I tried again.
We see it happen with kids of all ages. We say do this, they refuse. We say stop, they do it anyway. We say come, they dash the other direction. This is the classic my will against your will parent/child struggle.
At the extreme, these kids get labeled as “Oppositional Defiance Disorder.” (ODD) We learned some very important lessons about what these kids need over years of working with kids with the ODD label.