Earlier this week, I had a conversation with a hurting dad. He had taken his family on vacation. They had big plans, and were planning on enjoying a few days away from the routine. But the very first night, his oldest daughter ran away. All of a sudden, vacation turned into crisis.
The family returned home, the police started searching, the next day, the girl was found and brought home. She did it again later that week. Only this time, her parents knew where she went, and were in communication with the parents of the friend she was staying with.
I don’t know all the specifics of this family’s home situation. I don’t have any idea why this happened. Nor do I need to know. What I do know is this: this dad was hurting. His daughter was making some poor choices and it was very painful for the rest of the family.
I had the opportunity to visit with this dad a few evenings ago. I’m not sure anything I said helped him very much. But it was obvious that his daughter’s decisions were hurting him. And he was facing some tough decisions: How should he respond… harshly? or with love? What sort of punishment was necessary? What changes needed to be made to prevent this from happening again?
I don’t know if he was actually thinking all those things. I know I would have been. And I would have been questioning my role as a father. Could I have done anything to prevent this? Did I fail somehow?
This family has been on my mind and in my prayers a lot this week. In my thinking and praying, I have identified four things that may be the next step for this dad.
Accept that our kids make their own choices
Sometimes they make good choices. And sometimes they don’t. But as our children grow up, they make more and more choices independently of our input and assistance. As painful as it may be, our children will sometimes make the wrong choices. They may hurt themselves or others. And sometimes all we can do it pray for them, asking God to protect them, and give them wisdom.
Many of these decisions will come with their own set of consequences. As much as we would like to protect our children from harmful consequences, sometimes the best way we can show our love is to allow them to experience those consequences. That way, they can see just what their actions have caused.
Continue to give our love
When our kids make poor choices, it’s tempting to shut the door on them. It’s tempting to withhold our love until thy change their actions. Resist that temptation. Continue to love them, in spite of their choices, in spite of the pain they may be causing.
Reach out to them
The cause of their decisions may simply be calculated to gain our attention. If possible, sit down with them, and have a heart to heart conversation. Don’t dominate the conversation with what they should have or shouldn’t have done. Listen to their reasons why. And really listen. Give them the chance to express how they feel, without interrupting or defending.
After they have spoken, ask them if they will listen to your point of view. Often a calm discussion can succeed where heated arguments will only fail.
Consider getting some help
Sometimes, our children’s poor decisions reflect a deeper need or issue that you may not be able to resolve on your own. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Too many families fall apart because they refuse to admit that they can’t do this on their own. I even hear one counselor on the radio state that seeking help is a sign of a healthier family. The unhealthy families refuse to look for assistance, but healthy families tap into that resource. Don’t be too afraid or too proud to pursue getting the help you may need.
Being a dad isn’t always easy. Being a great dad is even harder. But sticking to it during the tough times and handling those situations appropriately will help us be the kind of dads our kids need us to be.
Don’t give up!
Question: What other advice would you add to this list? You can leave a comment by clicking here.