Somehow I don’t think Child Services would approve…
Consistent Sunday school attendance when we’re young has direct bearing on church attendance as grown-ups. Researcher George Barna says more than 8 in 10 adults in the U.S. claim that they had weekly religious education before age 12. Of those, 69% now attend religious programs weekly.
Fewer adults recall regular participation as teens, with 50% of current attenders recalling at least monthly involvement in some kind of youth program.
So why wouldn’t you bring your kids to Sunday school and youth group programs? I’m glad my kids WANT to go. If they didn’t, then I would work on making those classes and programs better so that they would want to go.
If the survey is correct, you’ll still be seeing half those kids in 2030 that you see in the programs now.
Fathers, every man who enters her life will be compared to you; every relationship she has with a man will be filtered through her relationship with you. If you have a good relationship, she will choose boyfriends who will treat her well. If she sees you as open and warm, she’ll be confident with other men. If you are cold and unaffectionate, she’ll find it hard to express love in a healthy way.
Love her with your words. First and foremost, tell her you love her. Not just on special occasions, but regularly. That might be easy when she’s 5, but she needs to hear it even more when she is 15. Many times fathers make innocent comments that are hurtful to daughters. If you comment on her weight, physical appearance, athletic prowess, or academic achievement, she’ll focus on her “external self” and worry about retaining your love through her achievements and appearance. Your daughters want you to admire her deep, intrinsic qualities. Keep your comments positive, keep them on those qualities, and you can’t lose.
Love her with appropriate boundaries. Daughters with a curfew know that someone wants them home and probably waiting for them. Daughters without curfews wonder. Many fathers fear that enforcing rules on their daughters will only make them rebel. Some daughters do rebel–but not because of rules. They rebel because the rules aren’t balanced by anything else. Rules can’t be the center of your relationship. That’s when love comes in.
Love her with your time. Yes, you’re busy and have to travel for work. You have other kids to dote on and a wife to care for…but don’t forget your daughter(s). Make time for them doing things they like to do. Find something that both of you can share without the rest of the family.
Hey fathers of daughters, whatever outward impression she gives, her life is centered on discovering what you like in her, and what you want from her. She knows you are smarter than she is (until she gets old enough to REALLY know better). She gives you authority because she needs you to love and adore her. She can’t feel good about herself until she knows that you feel good about her. So you need to use your authority carefully and wisely. Your daughter doesn’t want to see you as an equal. She wants you to be her hero, someone who is wiser and steadier and stronger than she is.
The only way you will alienate your daughter in the long term is by losing her respect, failing to lead, or failing to protect her. If you don’t provide for her needs, she will find someone else who will–and that’s when trouble starts. Don’t let that happen.
I posted this four years ago as my daughter, Reagan, was beginning high school. I am so proud of how she has done academically, socially, and spiritually. Not that it was always easy. She had her share of trials. I am not taking credit for her success. I give God praise but also realize that the fact that she had two loving parents gave her better odds at success.
Meg Meeker’s Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know (click that link and get the book for about $10) has some statistics that have haunted me and I thought I’d share:
- 40.9% of girls 14-17yo experience unwanted sex, primarily because they fear that their boyfriends will get angry.
- 11.5% of females in high school attempted suicide last year.
- 27.8% of high school students drank alcohol before age 13.
- Toddlers securely attached to fathers are better at solving problems.
- Girls whose fathers provide warmth and control achieve higher academic success.
- Girls who are close to their fathers exhibit less anxiety and withdrawn behaviors.
- Girls with doting fathers are more assertive.
- A daughter’s self-esteem is best predicted by her father’s physical affection.
- Girls with good fathers are less likely to flaunt themselves to seek male attention.
- Girls defer sexual activity if their parents disapprove it, and they are less likely to be sexually active if they disapprove of birth control.
Meeker goes on to say,
Even if you think the 2 of you operate on different planes, even if you worry that time spent with her shows no measurable results, even if you doubt you are having a meaningful impact on her, the clinical fact is that you are giving your daughter the greatest of gifts.
You are not only the first man in your daughter’s life, you are the first authority figure in her life, and your character is invisibly overlaid into your daughter’s image of God. If you are trustworthy, loving, and kind, your daughter will approach God much more easily. He will not be frightening to her. She can understand that He is good, because she knows what goodness in a man looks like.
Research on the influence of a father’s personality on his daughter’s perception of God confirms this. In one study, researchers found a correlation between children’s images of God and those of their father. And girls tend to see more similarities between God and their parents than do boys. A study headed by Hope College professor Jane Dickie found that fathers strongly influenced their daughter’s perception of God as nurturing.
There is something wrong with parenting today. Maybe it’s not just parenting, but the barrage of change that we’ve had to confront as we parent. The changes in living our lives in terms of technology has had a profound impact on how our children are developing. And I’m pretty sure it’s not for the better! Talk to teachers and other people who have worked for children for more than ten years and they will tell you school-age children today are not the same as they were even 10-20 years ago. Children are categorically “less able” than they were in the 1980s.
I didn’t discover this. I’ve read others’ observations and then looked around anecdotally. I’m afraid they are on to something! But just google John Rosemond or Julie Lythcott-Haims if you want to read more authoritative sources on the topic. But here’s their conclusion: the evidence that current parenting (among other cultural changes) is having a significant detrimental effect on young people has been established.
The reason no one is talking about it is because the ultimate consequences of this have not been seen and may not be seen for another 10 years. Perhaps it’s because the alternative narrative is an easier pill to swallow: do as much as you can for your children, give them every advantage, pave the road for them, and they will succeed.
I don’t know how this will play out, but I am convinced we are raising a generation of children who will become adults poorly equipped to face life’s challenges.
Because there are certain LIES that the world has told parents they must believe. Here’s 20 I could think of thanks to Wendy Calise of Countryside Montessori School.
- Parenting is a constant joy.
- Good parents provide constant fun.
- Good parents devote every moment of their free time to their children.
- Good parents send their children to lots of classes that develop skills that will look great on their resumes.
- Good parents prevent failure.
- Good parents frequently intervene on behalf of their children.
- Good parents do not allow suffering.
- Good parents do not abandon children to do things on their own.
- Good parents do not force their children to entertain themselves.
- Good parents never allow their children to get hurt.
- Good parents do not expect their children to make contributions to the household.
- Good parents are partners with their children, not figures of authority.
- Good parents are always liked by their children.
- Telling children how great they are will make them feel great and actually be great.
- The more you do for your children, the better prepared for their future they will be.
- If children put up a big fuss, you must be doing something wrong and should change your parenting choices.
- Parents don’t have to be the ADULTS in the room.
- Consequences are harsh and old-fashioned.
- Engagement in screen time has no negative consequences.
- If you do it right, your teenagers will be your friends and tell you everything.
These lies are a slow bloodletting of our children’s efficacy, of their chance to be intelligent, empathetic, creative, competent, resilient, determined adults, everything we want for them when we hold them as infants.
I have more to say but prefer to be this a conversation. Does this resonate with you? Why? What other lies would you add that parents are buying into?
I’m grieved by how many parents abdicate their responsibility to set the priorities for their children. Too many parents are listening to the world and to the “easy way” and letting their children decide things that children weren’t meant to decide. We make our kids go to school, brush their teeth, go to sleep. We want them to be active in things outside of home and school so we sign them up for athletic teams or lessons to learn an instrument. Those are all good things…and we do the same thing. But my goal is never to substitute a good thing for a GREAT or BEST thing.
I would absolutely love it if one of my kids went to college on an athletic scholarship. But I’m not going to sacrifice their spiritual, relational, and emotional lives to do it. It might save us money but at what COST? Say “NO” to any activity that interferes with your child connecting to God or with His Bride (The Church) or with healthy relationships within the family. I knew a family once with 3 kids and they had practices and games 5 out of 7 nights a week and ate out almost every night. They ate more in their mini-van then at the dinner table. That is insane.
So make it the priority for your kids to be at church and other spiritual experiences (church camp is the #1 place where your child can grow closer to God in a short span and make relationships that last a lifetime). Make it a priority to eat and talk together regularly. Then you’ll have a lot less regrets.
1. Be present in your kid’s life. How?
- Show your love. When your kid gets home from school or you get home from work, put down your phone or whatever you’re doing and let them see the joy their presence brings. We need to know we matter to each other.
- Take an interest in them. Take an interest in their interests, ideas, experiences, and concerns. I’ve learned more about hockey from my sons because they are bigger fans than me of the game. I’ve learned more about marine biology from my son than any book can teach me. My daughter’s passion for justice is contagious. I’m just glad I took the time to listen to them.
- Show them you care. Hardships are a great time to demonstrate your unconditional love. Sit with them. Say that you can see that it hurts. Help them think through ways they can achieve a different outcome next time. Tell them a story about when you had a setback. Don’t try to take matters into your own hands but reassure them that you love them.
2. Also, back off. If we’re right there with them as they do everything, we’re undermining their confidence by indirectly sending the message, “I don’t think you can do this without me.”
- Let them make choices and decide how to do things such as what to wear (as long as it’s appropriate!). Don’t micromanage them. It’s only through actual experience that kids develop skills and learn to trust their judgments.
- Let them take risks and make mistakes. Unless your kid’s health or safety is truly at stake, risks taken and mistakes made when they’ve done something that was initially scary or hard will provide a tremendous sense of accomplishment.
3. Help them grow from experience. You’re not meant to do nothing for them; you’re just not meant to do everything.
- After the experience, decision, or choice has been made, engage in a questioning dialogue to unpack what your kid learned from the experience. You can offer advice but you must not do it for them.
- Continue to set the bar higher. As your child demonstrates trustworthiness and good judgment, you can give her more responsibility, opportunity, challenge, and freedom. This builds competence, which builds confidence, both of which build resilience.
- Combat perfectionism. I’m not always good at this with my children who display perfectionist tendencies. Saying, “Just do your best,” isn’t helpful because to them that means doing excellent because that’s their best. What I’m now saying is something more like “do the best you can in that moment” or “try to give your best effort.” These phrases acknowledge that in any moment a number of factors could weight against our ability to do our actual best and it’s the effort that matters.
4. Build their character. Too often parents focus on academic and athletic outcomes instead of on who they are as human beings. We subconsciously teach that a human’s worth is based on on their GPA or ACT scores when it’s really more about our character, our degree of kindness, generosity, and willingness to work hard, among other things.
- Notice them being good. I’m not talking about “Wow! You’re amazing!” but more like “It was very kind of you to help that woman.” All you need to convey is: I saw you. I noticed. When you do things like that it makes me proud.
- Help them develop perspective. Getting them to serve others gives them awareness that there are others who are worse off than they are. That allows your kids to recognize what they’re grateful for.
5. Give specific, authentic feedback. Don’t overpraise or fail to critique or discipline.
- How to praise. Offer praise that is specific to the task. “I like how you used all kinds of colors in that picture.” “Your essay made such detailed references. You clearly understood the topic.” Specific praise builds confidence because it shows we’ve paused for a moment to pay attention to the details.
- How to criticize. We want our kids to learn and grow, to better themselves, and to develop. The only way they can do that is by having a realistic assessment of their current performance. As with praise, make sure to target the actions or efforts, not the person. “You left your toys outside and now they may be ruined because their wet. Please bring them in and dry them off now before it gets worse,” is much more effective at correcting behavior than saying, “Why don’t you listen to me? I told you not to do that. Now your toys are ruined.” And if we sweep in to bring the toys in and dry them off, we’ve taught them nothing. We want to criticize the action (which can be corrected) as opposed to saying or implying that our kid is a bad person (which can’t be changed).
6. Model it. One of the best ways to normalize struggle and build resilience is to let our kids know when we have, or have had, a setback and that it got us down for a bit. Let them hear you say that you did some things wrong, or could have done differently, and you’ve learned for the next time. Let them hear you reflect, and see you smile and move on.
Psychologist and author Dr. Madeline Levine, in her book “Teaching Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success,” thinks our overparenting might be causing psychological harm to our children.
Here are 3 ways we might be doing that:
- When we do for our kids what they can already do for themselves;
- When we do for our kids what they can almost do for themselves; and
- When our parenting behavior is motivated by our own ego.
Levine says that when we parent this way we deprive our kids of the opportunity to be creative, to problem solve, to develop coping skills, to build resilience, to figure out what makes them happy, to figure out who they are.
Our behavior actually delivers the rather soul-crushing news: “Kid, you can’t actually do any of this without me.” It increases our kids’ chances of suffering from depression, anxiety, to become cutters, and to have suicidal thoughts.