3 Things My Parents Did Right

Today at Gateway Austin‘s McNeil campus, Phil Pederson spoke on Home Field Advantage. He is a teacher and coach who now travels and speaks to parents about how influential we can be in the lives of our kids – even when they are teenagers (maybe especially when they are teenagers). Listen to that message at  www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.

Here’s the message I shared at the South Campus:

For some of us, Father’s Day is not a good day.  Some of us have relationships that have been broken over misunderstandings, unexpressed expectations, or with wounded people who didn’t know how to love us the way we wanted or the way we needed. Some of us experienced abuse from the one who was supposed to protect us.

We can learn from even the worst Dads even if what we learn is an example not to follow. Maybe you are a better Dad or Mom today because you do the opposite of what your Dad did in your relationship.

When you look back at the worst moments of your life – are you focused on the good that came out of those moments or are you more focused on the pain? Do you have grace for those who have hurt you? Some of us need to forgive even if the ones who hurt us never apologize.

Miraculously, when we trust God with our past and our darkest moments, He can bring good out of any evil we face. It may take awhile, but He can do it.

Yesterday my family and I were out at my parents’ place. I thought I would take advantage of that moment with them so I told them: “Tomorrow I thought I would do something different in my message: I thought I would share some of the good things you two did as parents.”

Of course they laughed because so often I have shared some of our worst moments as a family in my messages. You may have heard me talk about the time my dad told me I was too old to hug him, so I had to shake his hand good night. Or the time we got in a fight over my hair being too long. Had they only known then what would happen to my hair they may have been more understanding. Or the time when my mom asked my fiancée (who is now my wife) to call her JoAnne and my dad insisted she still call him Mr. Bryant.

Seems like when I call them after the Sundays when I speak I often have to warn them about another story I shared which highlighted some of our conflict or their mistakes.

As a parent now, I can look back with a far better perspective about my parents. I have amazing parents.

I have to tell you though, I can choose to look backwards in two different ways. I could look backward with gratitude, or I could look backwards through a filter of bitterness. All of us can do that.

Dads Love

For many of us, our dads come from a different generation – one that was not encouraged to show emotion or express feelings. I found this old book at my grandmother’s house (my dad’s mom). It is from 1967 and talks about all the types of love we experience. For many of us, our Dads were raised by men who showed even less emotion than they did!

As I looked backwards at my life and remembered the best moments with my Dad, the worst moments didn’t seem to matter so much.

So when I asked my parents for what they would say if someone asked them for advice on raising their children, they came up with three things. These three things may have been passed down to them from their parents and grandparents or may be what they picked up in their relationship with God. Either way, they listed three very practical things that you can also find in the Scriptures.

1. They took me to church every week (sometimes multiple times a week). Even when I did not want to go, we were there.

All children go through a phase when what is happening with the kids is no longer cool. Around 4th or 5th grade our kids will want to be with us in the service. That may not be a bad thing, but don’t stop coming during that season. Then around 6th or 7th grade, they may be too nervous or too cool to try the youth group. My parents did not allow my feelings to determine how the rest of the family lived. We were there every week. I faked being sick a few times, and I snuck out the back door of the church a few times, but they kept taking me.

Here’s why that was good for me: eventually I started listening to the youth leaders. Eventually, I developed meaningful friendships with other teenagers who were making wise choices. Eventually, I chose to follow Jesus because I had a very real relationship with Him and not because my parents made me.

Proverbs 22:6 promises: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

My parents gave me a solid foundation for which I am forever grateful.

We did not talk much about faith as I was growing up. Faith was a very personal thing to my parents (and for their entire generation), but I saw my parents serving. They served me and my brother by working hard to provide for us, coaching us in sports they did not even understand, and spending time with us on road trips all over Texas (and a few times out of state). Deep down though, I knew my dad’s very private faith was real because he was serving others.

We talked about the importance of teaming with the church to raise our kids a couple of weeks ago, but our Next Gen teams are here to help us help our kids discover faith in Christ and make wise choices as they follow after Him. Go teams, youth events, and Sunday mornings are critical in helping us. Take advantage of these opportunities. If you missed it, check out Legacy – The Next Generation for the message notes from that Sunday.

Similar to the first one, my parents came up with another thing they did right.

2. My parents made decisions for me until I showed I could make them on my own.

My dad actually said: “we made decisions for you because you weren’t smart enough to make them on your own yet.”

I think my generation grew up wishing our Dads would have been more loving and more expressive of their love for us. We grow up wishing our Dads had been less strict and more supportive.

I think our kids will grow up wishing we had been more strict and more willing to show tough love.

Just a quick example: How many kids grow up thinking they are the greatest singer in the world only to be humiliated on national television on American Idol? Eventually they go to their mom and dad and say: “Why didn’t you tell me the truth?! Why didn’t you tell me I cannot sing?”

Proverbs 3:11-12 says: “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”

As part of that, they mentioned how important it was to be consistent. They agreed with each other as parents and approached us as a unified force. They also did not waiver on what was acceptable and what was not acceptable.

Research has proven that the best predictor of success is self-discipline  – the ability to forgo instant gratification in favor of some greater result even if it requires more time and effort.

As parents we offer discipline until our kids develop their own self-discipline.

What are you allowing your kids to do or not do that needs to change?

In your life, in what ways are you rebelling against your Heavenly Father? Is there anything that you are refusing to do or refusing to stop doing?

Sometimes we think we know what is best, but we honestly do not.

3. My parents believed in me.

My parents were and still are my biggest fans. They made me try things I didn’t want to try

They were not content with me just not doing bad but making sure I did good.

We see the example of our Heavenly Father in Mathew 3:16-17 which says:

“After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.'”

Phil Pederson of Home Field Advantage points out that “It’s not like God was sitting around with the other dads and one of them asks ‘Which one is your son?’ and God responded ‘He’s the one over there walking on water.’  Our kids want to hear it, see it and feel it that they are you beloved son, that they are you beloved daughter not based on anything that they have accomplished just because.”

Your Heavenly Father believes in you and offers you new life and the opportunity to become more than you ever could ask or imagine. Are you willing to trust Him and follow Him even when we don’t see Him working in the way we’d like or in the midst of His discipline?


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