By George W. Sarris
The story is told about a poor man who had a large family.
A wealthy banker in the community came to visit him one day. Looking at the children, he remarked, “These, sir, are that which make a man poor.” In response, the poor man looked up and replied, “Oh, no, sir. Quite the contrary. These are they which make a man rich. For, I would not give up even one of these precious children for all of your wealth!”
God has blessed me with five wonderful children. I have learned much from them. And, have sought to pass along to them much of what I have learned in life. Some time ago, a friend of my son emailed me to ask a question:
“What is the one lesson you taught your children that has yielded the biggest dividends?”
Wow! That is a really big question! I have taught our children – or at least attempted to teach them – so many lessons. And, all of them have been, in my mind, important. Was there one lesson that was most important? I had to think about that for a while.
Love In Practice
It may sound trite, but I finally concluded that the most important lesson I taught the children was that I loved them. But, love doesn’t occur in a vacuum. So, how did I communicate my love to them in practice? Three things came to mind.
They Were Important
First, I taught our children that I loved them by showing them that they were important to me. I did this by spending time with them.
I played with them, read to them, and did things with them that they wanted to do. But, I also involved them in helping me with things that I wanted to do. When we painted our house, they helped. When we raked leaves and cleaned up our yard, they helped. When I travelled to a speaking engagement or performance, I would often bring one or another of them along to help sell my Bible story tapes (now CD’s).
I always proudly introduced them to whoever I was with, and made sure they knew that I was willing to go out of my way for them whenever it was needed. On one occasion, I drove two hours one way from a men's retreat I was on to unexpectedly show up at one of my daughter's piano recitals. It was something I felt was needed at the time to show her that she was important, because she was.
A second way I showed our children that I loved them was by being careful to discipline them.
Proverbs says that parents who spare the rod hate their children! That is strong language, but it is clearly true. Mischievous or undisciplined children may be cute when they are small. But, an uncontrolled older child will bring deep sadness and often shame to himself and his family. I knew that if I didn’t teach our children to obey when they were young, it would be too late to try to teach them to obey when they were older.
There was a time when it was not difficult for my wife or me to control our son by sheer force. We were bigger and stronger than he was. But, there came a time when it was clear that my wife could no longer control him that way – he was too big. A little later, he was too big for me to control. If he had not learned inner discipline where he controlled himself, there was no way we could control him from without.
Once, when he was a little boy, we went to McDonald's with some friends for a meal. As we got out of the car, our son started running across the driveway to the door - right in the path of an oncoming car. I yelled, "Billy, stop! Come back!" He immediately stopped, turned around and ran back to me. With tears welling up in my eyes, I hugged him tightly and told him how much I loved him. I had been careful to teach him to obey, and it saved his life.
The third thing I did to communicate my love to our children was to be approachable.
The children had to obey – disobedience was not an option if I told them to do something. However, I made sure they knew why I wanted something, and I always wanted them to feel free to challenge me if they thought I was wrong. “Because I’m the dad!” was not a good enough answer from me. If they were to grow up to become responsible adults, they needed to know the reasons why I said or did something. And, if they could show me that I was mistaken, I was willing to change.
As I was preparing to write this article, I asked one of our daughters if she could remember a time when she challenged me on an issue and saw me change my mind. Immediately, she reminded me of an incident about a video series that I thought would be inappropriate for her to watch. She had seen some of the episodes and disagreed with that assessment. She invited me to actually watch one with her. I did, and, sure enough, she was right. I actually thought it was great.
A Final Word
I certainly didn't always do things right. But, by God's grace, I think each of the children know that their father and mother really do love them.
I shared some of these thoughts on my blog a couple of years ago and was encouraged to read the following comment from one of our married children:
I was just "surfing the net" with some extra time I had this evening, when I read this post. I just want to say that what you said was right on! What I mean is, I always felt secure because I knew that you and Mom loved me. I appreciate the ways you demonstrated this to me/us, and I know that because of them, I am who I am today. I love you, Dad! A