“Lightbulb moments” often occur when parents come to us for coaching. Here is a great story shared by one coaching client, Jerry, about his own epiphany. He had been living out the role of a father that his dad had modeled for him.
During his coaching, Jerry recognized a different role of a father, one that he wanted to embrace. His surprising turnaround from one simple but deep insight will challenge and encourage you. He discovered what changes he needed to make in his parenting to experience the relationships he longed for with his kids.
The role of a father that was modeled
My wife and I were in the midst of a session with our coach, Chad. We were discussing issues regarding the way I have responded to my children’s misbehavior. As we were talking, I reflected on my own father and the relationship that he and I had when I was growing up.
My dad owned his own company and was extremely busy. I wouldn’t say we had a bad relationship, but my father’s role with me was that of an enforcer. When he came home from work, he felt his interaction with his children was mainly as a rule enforcer. Because my dad primarily played this role, I didn’t have a close relationship with him.
Letting go of the enforcer father role
My discussion with Chad got me thinking, and I realized I was doing the exact same thing my father had done. I was just acting out the role that was modeled to me. I realized that I was behaving as an enforcer of discipline and demanding correct behavior.
At that moment, as this realization sank in, I felt I needed to give myself permission to have a real relationship with my children. I could treat them like people, talk with and listen to them, and still be the adult parent who loves them. I could make them feel safe and still bring discipline when needed.
It took about a five-minute window for those thoughts to come together, but it was a total turnaround in how I had unconsciously thought about what it meant to be a father. At the end of the coaching session, I knew something big had changed within my heart. Chad, my wife, and I were able to pray, and I was able to repent to the Lord for viewing my role as primarily the enforcer of the rules.
This is still a work in progress for me. I repeatedly have to confront my past patterns, which aren’t so easily shed. But, overall, I am pleased to report that it has significantly impacted how I relate to my kids.
Why the enforcer role of a father doesn’t work
I hope other parents can recognize the same thing: My role as a father is to connect with my children and have a relationship with them. I want to be able to provide discipline as needed and not just hound them about whether or not they are following the rules or living up to expectations. What was meant to help them be successful was actually hindering them.
With this insight, I became aware of how strained my relationship with my oldest child was. I had become overly focused on his behavior and not on him as a young man. I wanted to have a relationship with him and encourage him in his faith, his goals, and his character.
Actually, I’ve also learned that when you connect well with your kids and are intentional about your relationship with them, discipline often becomes less of an issue.
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Do you ever wonder if your good intentions for your kids are coming out sideways? Perhaps you want to transform your parenting so your kids know they are loved no matter what? This podcast is for you.
What happened when I embraced the connector role as a father
As we continued growing in our parenting journey, my wife and I experienced a wonderful example of applying the Connected Families principles. After a coaching session that morning, the newly received principles of Connected Families were raw in my heart and mind.
Wanting to grow in this area, I felt like it was important for our family to spend time together eating, connecting, and enjoying one another. We chose to eat at a restaurant near us, and the eating experience was fantastic. My oldest son noticed the difference from our regular restaurant interactions, which usually revolved around my frustration and anger with my children.
While waiting for our food, he looked at me and said, “What is going on with you, Dad?”
I replied, “I’m just enjoying having an evening of connecting with my children.” My calm attitude and priority of connection took him aback.
To top it off, after our meal, we were getting up to leave, and our server came over to comment, “I just wanted to say that your kids were so well-behaved and pleasant. It was a real pleasure serving you tonight.”
I was blown away! I had secretly always wanted someone to compliment me on my kids’ behavior like that, which reflected my insecurity as a dad and put pressure on my kids. But when I stopped focusing on managing their behavior and put connection as primary, that’s exactly what happened! I was amazed at the impact when I let go of my anxious management of my kids and simply practiced the Connected Families principles.
Letting go of the fatherhood role my dad modeled for me
It has been a humbling reality for me, but I am seeing how my past shaped how I had been interacting with my kids. I’m grateful that I’ve forgiven my dad, and we now have a good relationship. This has further strengthened this change in me. It is freeing to get to know my children as individuals and see them as gifted and loved. I’m experiencing the relationships with them that I’ve always wanted!
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.1 Thessalonians 2:11,12
Questions to ask yourself:
- What did I relate to in this story?
- How do I view my role as a parent?
- How does my family of origin impact this role?
- How might I want to shift my parenting to better connect with my kids?
You can experience the kind of changes Jerry did. Connected Families offers coaching sessions for families that need clarity, direction, and encouragement in their parenting journey. Is coaching for you? Check out the Connected Families coaching page for more information and answers to your questions.