Over 25 million viewers have seen a youtube clip of a father berating his rebellious daughter and shooting her laptop with his .45 pistol. This man may think his facebook fatherhood techniques work because of the 25,000 people who liked the video. What he may not realize is his own contribution to this “shock” of his daughter cussing him and blocking him from her facebook account. To save more parents from this kind of nonsense, it is important that we get the right perspective on these children God gives us.
Children are wet cement
When contractors go to build a building, they set up form boards to catch the load of concrete the cement truck is going to dump. If you are a parent, God dropped a child into a special set of forms—your arms. This “wet cement” will need your careful attention over the years as you work with it and mold it into His image. Your child will build on this foundation you prepare for the rest of his or her life.
When the truck dumps the wet crete into the forms, the gooey sludge drops in very unevenly. It might pile up a foot or more in some areas and other spots might have bare ground still showing through. Workers have to shovel and rake this heavy slop around until most of it looks level. As your child grows, you will see huge gaps in his or her character. A child may be naturally considerate and like to share but might have no patience. Every child is born with piles of good traits and some dirt-nature areas that need to be filled in. The parent works to spread evenly all the good qualities of integrity, joy, and love.
If the builder left the wet cement to itself, it would bring his reputation to shame. In the same way, a child left to himself brings his parents to shame (Proverbs 29:15). Too many adults were never tooled as children and they grow up with boot prints on the surface of their emotions and rough spots in their character.
Carelessness mars the project
As construction workers float out the wet slab and smooth it out evenly with the screed board, they take care not to step on the area they just leveled out. Some parents are not as careful. They lecture their children about talking nice to each other and then step back over the line later when they say, “Shut up, I am watching TV.” Some homes develop an environment of nagging, threatening, and yelling. Harsh words and hateful attitudes scar a child as bad as any other form of child abuse.
You have probably seen a sidewalk or concrete floor with footprints left while it was still wet. Usually some stray dog or other animal who does not know better will venture out on the unfinished crete. Sometimes you see the bootprints of someone who could care less about the project or just did not have sense enough to know. I have even seen bicycle tire tracks left by kids who thought they were being funny. If my child has scars in the core of his being is that because I am an animal who did not know better, a man who did not care, or a jerk who amused himself by negatively impact another’s life?
The concrete professional begins working the wet concrete with a trowel. He pushes the flat blade back and forth across the surface of the cement to make a nice finish for others to enjoy later. Once the job begins, he does not get to leave it until it is smooth. He watches over it while it cures. Your child needs to be constantly smoothed back out until he or she becomes a level-headed, emotionally stable person. Too many parents walk off the job too soon. Either they do not realize their part in the project, expect someone else to do it, or just give up.
Don’t throw in the trowel
As you go through the years smoothing out the blemishes in a child’s character, you may want to give up at times. Sometimes a contractor does not put a lot of attention to detail into a piece of concrete and decides to give it just a broom finish. This rough finish is great for exterior use on sidewalks and such. But it has no finesse or polish to it. You cannot build a great building on broom finish.
Excellent crete work involves a power trowel. This machine is like a push lawnmower with flat blades that smooth out the concrete even more. Done correctly, a power-troweled floor shines and you can wax it. Office buildings and meeting centers desire this caliber of floor finish. A parent can build children who are exterior grade and of minimum usefulness or those of showroom quality.
Do not give up on the project God gave you. Builders start with a blueprint and carry it through to the finish even when it gets tough. God has a plan for your child. To give up on the child is to give up on the Designer. You were full of hope and excitement when God gave you the gift of that child. Be just as excited to finish it.
One of the most frustrating things for me as a parent has been when I had to go back and trowel out the blemishes I had put in a child. My anger left ruts in his character and now I had to work it back out. It takes a lot longer to work out those ruts and boot prints once the child is older and has had more time to cure.
I cannot blame anyone for how my children turn out. God did not give them to a teacher, daycare, or grandparent to raise. He gave these projects to my wife and me. Many children grow up with tractor-tire ruts in their life because they were left to be raised by a stepparent, public school system, or babysitter. Some wounds are so deep you will never smooth them out. To prevent damage to your little projects, get the right mindset and work toward the finished product from the beginning.
Begin with the end in mind
What is God’s plan for each of your children? If you do not know, ask Him. Watch the child. Does he play church and like to pretend to preach? Does she love to sing and pretend to play the piano? Pretending is practice for reality. What skills and talents are your children developing? You are not sculpting clay into the design you want for their lives. You do not pick what kind of building they will be, just polish the foundation, just help them settle into the mold God has planned for them.
You fill in the gaps in their lives by teaching and discussing God’s Word. Involve them in church. Get them addicted to Jesus and His house. Pray with them.
You screed their lives out by casting a vision instead of making rules. You level them out by lovingly firm correction instead of damaging discipline. You smooth out their rough spots by joyful leadership and loving affection.
Whether I am working with or playing with my kids, I keep their future image in mind. I watch their attitudes and actions in view of what image it might leave on them for life. If I let my son hit his sister, what ruts will that leave in his character? If I let her whine and tattle, will she make a good wife or an annoying nag? While I do not micromanage everything they do, I look at the big picture and keeping honing toward a good finish.
When you pray, picture your child in the image you know God has for him or her. This may be vague or very specific depending on what the Lord has shown you. I picture my daughters as devoted mothers and women of God. I picture my sons as good businessmen and leaders of godly homes. I see specific things and pray toward that end. This is polishing—you do a lot of the finishing work in prayer.
When I am tempted to get mad or belittle my child for his fault, I stop myself when I look at the finished product. I do not want leave marks where I just spent so much time floating it smooth. If I call my daughter an idiot I am not preparing her for the permanent design she should be. If I leave boot marks of rudeness and anger, she might marry a husband who treats her the same way since the grooves are already there. The more I speak to God about my children and the more I speak His Word into them, the less I am likely to want to mess it up in a moment of frustration.
Beyond Facebook fatherhood
The dad shooting up his daughter’s laptop has as girl with deep ruts in her life. He just left more grooves by fighting fire with fire. I doubt he is working toward any other image in her life other than her getting a job. I would bet he gave up after the form was first poured. Popular culture and her peers have marred this life with deep grooves of disrespect and selfishness. He had better work quickly to salvage anything of that 15-year-old, moldable soul.
If I exasperate my children and they harden themselves against me, there is no more chance to smooth out the imperfections. Scripture tells us that hard hearts have to be broken either by tragedy or by coming and falling on the Rock (Proverbs 29:1, Matthew 21:44). When concrete has set up, the only way to smooth it out is to smash it into gravel. You can get a gravel floor pretty level, but it will never be smooth. It will never support a big building. I want to help my children work out their flaws now so they can spend the rest of their lives building upward, instead of constantly re-laying groundwork.