1) One man who struggles with low self esteem recalls that his father paid very little attention to him, and that the attention he got was often hurtful. He sill struggles with feelings of failure and the thought that no matter how hard he tries it just isn’t good enough.
His father on the other hand felt that he was motivating his son with positive criticism “for his own good”, and that his lack of affirmation was to keep his son from becoming proud and arrogant. “All I wanted was to help him be the best that he could be. I know my standards were high, but the world is a tough place and I just wanted him to be prepared”. Although his intentions may have been good, the damage he caused would take years to overcome.
2) A lady tells the story about her father who was overprotective. She had very little freedom to go anywhere. If she asked permission to go somewhere there was always a reason why she couldn’t. She loved her dad, and toed the line. She was the good girl that kept the rules, but in her heart she was just waiting for the day she could leave home. After leaving home to go to college, her dad caught her doing something that she felt he disapproved of. She felt that she had broken his rules, and was absolutely devastated. From that day on she struggled with feelings of anxiety and depression.
If you were to ask her how her father impacted her life she would tell you that she became quiet and shy as a child, and learned to hold her feelings inside. She lacked the confidence to make decisions for herself, since she was always being told what to think, and today she still struggles with indecisiveness. In seeking her dad’s approval she became a pleaser and later when married, tried to please her husband in the same way that she had tied to please her dad. She often felt angry and resentful when these efforts were not acknowledged, as well as her perception that life revolved around her husband’s agenda. She still struggles with feelings of anxiety and depression, and she still feels trapped at home just as she had when she was a child.
3) Another lady tells the story of how her Dad was a workaholic and that there was a lot of tension and conflict in the home. He may have been there physically but he was emotionally unavailable to her. She felt ignored by him. She longed for his attention and approval. She grew up feeling empty, emotionally abandoned, and struggled with low self esteem.
If you ask her how her relationship with her father impacted her she would tell you that she felt she had to grow up too fast, and that she missed out on her childhood. She leaned at an early age to fend for herself and not to ask for help and that she couldn’t trust people especially men, because they would let her down. As a teen she looked for love in all the wrong places and would dress in a way that got attention from guys, but in the end it wasn’t the kind of attention she needed. The whole trajectory of her life was in the wrong direction and she ended up in a lifestyle of promiscuity and addiction.
4) On a positive note there is a man who describes his dad as being someone he could always talk to. He remembers having all kinds of discussions with him on many different topics. As a kid he felt that he could actually learn from his dad’s mistakes. His dad was not perfect by any means, but at least he was authentic. Even as a kid his dad would ask him for his opinions and his ideas and would listen curiously to what he would have to say. He remembers his dad as having boundaries but also being flexible. If he could come up with a good enough argument for why he should be able to do something he could usually convince his dad, as long as it wasn’t unreasonable. He remembered developing a strategy for picking his battles and not sweating the small stuff.
If you ask how him how his dad impacted his life he would tell you that he learned to think for himself. Despite his shortcomings and failures he felt affirmed and validated as a young man, and that this somehow gave him the “freedom to fail”. He attributes his success in life to this “freedom to fail”.
This man is an confident decision maker and has risen to be a leader in his place of work. At home he loves being a dad. His wife also loves that he can articulate his thoughts and feelings well. Generally speaking he seems to be a happy guy.
Isn’t it interesting how deeply our relationship with our fathers impact us?
A good balance between love and discipline is the key to great parenting. Barbara Coloroso describes four parenting styles based on love and discipline. The “jellyfish” parent scores high on love but low on discipline. The “brick wall” parent is like the father in the first example- high on discipline and low on love. The “permissive” parent, like the father in the third example, is low in love and low in discipline. The “backbone” parent represents the ideal. Like the father in the fourth example this parent scores high on love and high on discipline.
The themes of love & discipline run deep in the Bible. Jesus taught his followers to address God as Father when we pray. He also portrayed the Father as patient, compassionate and forgiving in the parable of the prodigal son (Lk.15:11). This understanding of God as a loving father becomes a model for all fathers. The scriptures also teach us that “the Lord disciplines the one he loves” (Hebrews 12:6). In the letter to the Ephesians Paul instructs fathers not to exasperate their children; instead, to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). If we lack love in our approach to discipline we can exasperate our children. Discipline involves providing guidance with clear, consistent and understandable boundaries. This is more effective than punishment. Providing positive affirmation when a child makes good choices and demonstrates good character is a very effective form of discipline, because it reinforces the positive. The principal of applying both love and discipline is the key to great parenting and to successful leadership as a father in the home.
I hope these insights will help you understand how your father relationship has impacted your life, and if you are a father I hope that you will be able to forgive your dad and avoid making some of the same mistakes he made.