Navigating Your Child's Education: Grades 9-12

4 min read

Two Big Mistakes Dads of Teens Can Make and Three Ways to Father Well

Jun 25, 2019 11:07 AM

Father. Simple to become. Really hard to be…at least in the fullest and best sense of the word: a critical constituent in the raising (bringing up, rearing, nurturing, looking after, caring for, taking care of, providing for, tending, protecting, cherishing, education and training) of a child.

The biggest mistake a father can make is to assume he has all the knowledge and tools to do the job. Given the knowledge of the former (which most Dad’s humbly/readily admit, they do not), the second mistake is worse: To do nothing about it and just wing it (or leave it to mom, a few coaches, and maybe a youth leader).

Most Dads I know have a sweet spot: a developmental stage they are favorably equipped for. But as you may know, our sons and daughters transition through a half-dozen stages, each requiring different words, attitudes, connection and guidance. Think about your job. How often do your skills and knowledge need to be improved, adapted or completely updated in order to advance or remain in the work environment?

And think about this: If you were fortunate enough to have a father (even a good or great father), he was still inadequate in some way. Even the best dads have had short-comings and likely made multiple mistakes (if not outright made a mess in a big way).

Confidently thinking, “I’ve got this,” is a dangerous starting point. We all need help-- even those of us who seem like we have it figured out! Read Chapter 3 in my wife’s book (Soul Healing by Dr. Tammy Smith) if you and your Dad had a rough go in any way. I’d also suggest Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp. While the writing is aimed at parents of younger kids, his insights are spot on and apply richly to life in general.

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My Two Cents

Be humble. Don’t power-up when you’re out of your depth or when you mess up. Own it. Admit your mistakes. Apologize first. Overly dominant, inflexible tough guys that are never wrong most often act out of fear. You want to be a good Dad? Teach your kids it’s okay to be wrong. Model for them how a man faces his fears honestly, vulnerably and head-on. The alternative is to attempt to control others/situations with bravado and threats to avoid exposing your own inadequacies. If you want to be a good Dad and help your child mature, you’ve got to do your own work moving across that continuum. And make sure you have a mentor for that very same reason.

Be an authority. We are created to live under the authority of the One who created us. If you want your kids to grow up to be and do what God has designed for them, then they must learn to live with and under appropriate authority (as well as under the authority of basic civil law).

We still have this sign displayed in our home: Because I’m The Parent, That’s Why. Who really likes to be told what to do? Our rationale is often reasonable. But the child that cannot learn to do/obey what is asked of them will suffer greatly in this life.

I’m not suggesting you be an authoritarian dictator. You decide what obligations, boundaries, and rules are good and right for the stage of your child. You clearly establish the consequences for non-compliance and you follow-through in a simple, consistent, firm and benevolent way. You have to pave the way before something big happens. You cannot let your child do whatever they want and then later ask them to do something they don’t like because you said so. Obedience is a skill that is learned over time by both of you!  

Here’s a great application (this illustrates how out of vogue learning to respect authority is): Stop yelling and complaining about the calls of referees, teachers, etc. Be a warm and firm authority figure in their lives not to oppress them but to free them to live as they are intended. You can ask either of my boys why we disciplined them…”because you love us and don’t want us to go to jail!”  

Be a visionary. Help your kids visualize a good and beautiful future. One that requires good judgment, patience, and some work to fully realize. I’m not suggesting you spearhead their dreams of being a celebrity. Keep it simple and focused on the values most important to God and a legacy.

Our family has a summer vacation tradition that’s been going on for over 40 years. It began with my original family of four (Mom, Dad, sister and me) and grew to include ten in the past 20 years (Mom, Dad, my family and my sister’s family). This year it will include 12 including our oldest son’s new wife and the long-time girlfriend of our youngest son.

Every year, my father asked me about my future and I’ve asked my boys to tell me about the same. What kind of women will you date and marry? What sorts of career do you imagine? Are you going to college? How are you going to treat girls? Are you going to be a leader or a follower? What will that look like? In the earliest stages and all through the growing up, myself and now my boys have continued to paint a picture of a good and beautiful life. I believe those pictures helped drive behaviors and decisions towards such things.  Beginning with the end in mind is a powerful tool. Oh, and get a mentor. Everyone needs help, and experience is a great teacher.

Our God is a good, good Father – listen and learn from Him and His Son. Be humble. Live under His authority. Tell Him all about the good and beautiful future you wish to paint.

Topics: Teens Parenting

Mike Smith
Written by Mike Smith

A former member of the US Air Force, Mike has spent the last 26 years planting and pastoring churches. He currently pastors Vista Community Church in Columbus, Ohio. He and his wife Tammy have two adult sons. He aims to live at the intersection of Jesus and real life. He loves the Church, his family, reading, flying, sports, ocean beaches, thinking and fixing stuff.