From Hebrews 12:7, 11
For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline? At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later It brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.
The above reading is an excerpt from this past Sunday’s second reading at Mass which was a large part of what we discussed at men’s group this past Saturday morning (which, by the way, 45 guys? I love how it keeps growing! From 18 to 81 years of age, gotta love it.)
Midway through, my man D pointed out the bolded line and he talked about how important it was for fathers to discipline our sons. It was like he was speaking to my soul. What fuels me to write almost every day is the epidemic in our culture of lost manhood which includes the absence, lack of or improper use of discipline from fathers to sons.
One of the books I’m currently reading is called Point Man: How a Man can Lead His Family by Steve Farrar. Although the author, who is Protestant, is missing some needed Catholic aspects in my opinion, it’s a great book that all family men, including Catholics, could read and use. It’s timely that this Mass reading came this weekend because I just read his chapter on the importance and how-to fathers can discipline their sons and daughters. He writes that when disciplining children, fathers need to have both firmness and tenderness. He says that many fathers either have one without the either and conveys that the lack of one of them can deeply wound a child. Let’s break it down:
Discipline with too much firmness, not enough tenderness
Maybe we’ve experienced this: a dad who gets easily upset and yells, maybe (and hopefully not) abuses to whatever level. A dad who says, “How could you be so stupid?!” or “Are you an idiot?!” An eruption of anger and maybe a lashing. You knew you were getting it, was terrified, and wish all in the world that you could be somewhere else.
Though firmness is good, without tenderness, especially at a young age, a child will be scared of his/her father, and maybe possibly resent him later on.
Discipline with too much tenderness, not enough firmness
These types of parents let their child get away with things, and if there’s something wrong with them, it’s not the parents’ fault. A great book I’ve read about boys is called Boys Adrift that talks about how unnecessary, and in fact, bad ADHD medicine is for boys. As a doctor, many parents ask him to prescribe their son ADHD medicine because of the suggestion of a teacher or neighbor who “diagnosed” their son, when in reality a true diagnosis takes 45-minutes from a trained professional, a test he says many boys wouldn’t pass. He writes that by way they are naturally designed, boys will be and need to be boys. He writes his frustration that many parents rather have the medicine to “fix” their son instead of having the courage to discipline their son, like telling him to turn off the video games (which is a huge initiator of ADHD) and play outside, for example.
Sax notes these parents are the not-my-fault parents and blame education and the culture for the way their children turn out. These parents don’t take responsibility nor take to heart that the first face of education starts in the house and that they are the first teachers of their children.
Right with Our Father
In Point Man Farrar writes how fathers raise their sons and daughters with both firmness and tenderness will attribute largely to their children’s formation of their sexual identity, and fulfillments as future husbands, wives, fathers and mothers.
I believe my man D said it best when he followed up saying that his fatherhood with his sons strongly correlates on how strong his relationship is with God. For example, when he’s distant from God and his sons mess up, he feels he can easily erupt and is ready to lay the law hard. However, if he’s close with God, has felt his mercy recently (using confession as an example) and his sons mess up, he’s ready to lay the law still, but yet with a tender and merciful.
Another added, “Wouldn’t it be ridiculous if you went into the confessional and you said your sins and then the priest said, ‘How could you be so stupid?’ or ‘Are you an idiot?’.” When we mess up, it’s not like we are doing it against someone or were preemptively thinking about doing bad against God. Our children are the same.
For any of us who has been discipline well by our fathers or parents, can you tell the difference between yourself and your peers growing up with the same school, same friends, but different parents? I bet you could. And it comes back to that line in Hebrews, the one I underlined:
At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later It brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness.