[guestpost]This is a guest post from my friend Eric Dingler. Eric plays hard, laughs often, and lives with his wife, two kids, and friends in Virginia Beach. Eric is a pastor, leader, and entrepreneur. He is the founding pastor of CoastalCity.Church and helps others shepherd their brands to make their communities a better place to live. In his heart, Eric is about a better tomorrow for everyone. You can connect with Eric on Twitter and his blog www.EricDingler.com. If you want to guest post on my blog, check out my guest post guidelines and submit your post.[/guestpost]
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights….” You most likely have heard these words before. They are found in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America.
I remember as a kid that I was confused with the word “unalienable.” I thought that meant that these rights were for humans and not martians. Of course, now I know that’s ridiculous. Martians are totally included. (I’m kidding, I don’t believe in Martians.)
The phrase “unalienable rights” means that, just by nature of being born, we have specific rights that to infringe upon would go against the very essence of creation.
In today’s hyper-self-rights world, there can be a threat that creeps into our lives that we never see there. While this threat impacts every aspect of our lives, I want to narrow the focus of this conversation to parenting.
Parenting does not come with unalienable rights. It does, however, have unalienable responsibilities. We have two children, and I have no right to a relationship with them just because I’m their dad. In fact, I know far too many kids that have zero relationships with one or both of their birth parents. I bet you know kids and adults that have zero relationships with one or both of their parents. So, the future with your child has no guarantee of a relationship; you don’t have that as a right.
Rights vs. Responsibilities
Wouldn’t our kids be better off if we embraced our unalienable responsibilities? Because, like it or not, someone will step into those responsibilities.
For example, I’m hopeful my daughter will get married one day. As I write this, she’s five-and-a-half….so we have some time. But, just because I’m her dad, I don’t have the right to walk her down the aisle. I do have the responsibility, however, to model for her and her brother a healthy marriage. I don’t have the right to choose her husband (I’ve asked my attorney, however, to look for a way—he says there isn’t one.)
I don’t have the right to have influence in her life decisions when she is older. But I do have the responsibility to guide her in making decisions now. And, if I do so with love, I will earn the privilege to have influence in her life decisions later. There will be people speaking into her life in regards to the man she chooses as a husband. If I don’t earn the right to have influence someone else will….and the chances of them loving her as much as I do is very unlikely.
I don’t have the right to dictate a career path for my son. I do have the responsibility to model and guide him in developing a strong work ethic. If I forgo my responsibility, someone else will teach him his work ethic….and that could be from someone who thinks people are entitled to a paycheck just for showing up.
I don’t have the right to have a relationship with my future grandchildren. I do however have the responsibility to raise my kids to be great parents. And, if I do so by parenting with our relationship in mind, I’ll create the ability to have a relationship with my grandkids in the future.
As a pastor-dad, I don’t have the right to baptize my children; I do have the responsibility, however, to raise them to love God more than they love me.
If we want to have a meaningful relationship with our children when they are adults, we must parent today with that future relationship at the heart of our decisions.
I’m not advocating that parents should skip the first four stages of parenting (connecting, training, discipline, and coaching) and go right to the fifth stage of friendship. My three-year-old son and I are in the stage of discipline. I discipline him, so he learns cause and effect now. That way, when he’s older, and I say, “Son, when someone chooses that thing you are thinking about, this is what happens to them,” he will trust me. Not because I have the right to his trust, but because I fulfilled my responsibility; to connect with him, to discipline him, to train him, to coach him, and then finally I’ll have the responsibility (and the opportunity) to be his father, his friend, and his brother in Christ.
[reminder]What are you doing in your parenting today that will lead to a meaningful relationship with your kids in the future?[/reminder]
Good post, Eric. I liked your assumption of the meaning of “unalienable.” Lol, I had a similar struggle except I thought it meant: “not able to line up.” Whatever that meant, lol.
Regarding the rest of the post, I’d like to comment that trust is earned, isn’t it? Somehow many parents feel that because they’re taking care of their kids, they should automatically be trusted.
It is in the four stages of parenting that we learn how to establish trust and our kids learn how to live with our trust.
My wife and I have four children – two in their teens and two in college. Just today we were talking about the strong foundation we have given them. Now that two will be leaving home this summer (to school and a new job position) it’s becoming very hard for both parents and children to separate by distant, while we’re so close relationally.
We’ve been able, by God’s grace, to establish a great deal of trust with our kids, and now the very thing we trained them for is becoming a heart wrenching ordeal, lol. It’s a bitter-sweet experience to train them to become responsible and trustworthy individuals to respect others unalienable rights. One thing I’ve learned over the years as well that once a mom or dad, always a parent. My mom still acts like mom from time to time… more like all the time. lol. It’s cool though.
Hey thanks again for the great post. I look forward to connecting with you on your blog.
Alex, you are so right about trust being built. Parenting with the relationship in mind is what helps us build the bridge of trust strong enough to bare the weight of heavy truth. Thanks for adding to the post with your comment based on what sounds like solid experience.
My pleasure, Eric. I’d like to ad one more thing, if I may. Hopefully this might help someone.
Over 20 years ago, we felt compelled to homeschool our kids. In the process of learning and growing in that idea, we learned that homeschooling was way more than simply teaching your kids at home – it was more importantly about discipling your kids.
Our goal became more to earn/have our children’s hearts as opposed to just their heads.
In other words, we wanted them to mind us from the heart – because they wanted to – not just because they had to. So the process of that is a consistent hard work of developing a trusted relationship with them.
Homeschool or not, having your child’s heart, I believe, is a parents greatest reward. We’ve been successful on three out of four kids, lol… working on the forth one – but he’s 14 so you can understand, lol… But he’s almost there – thank God.
Alright, thanks again, Eric.
Lovely piece here, Jakie. I enjoyed this post and have learned from it.
Apeh, Glad you enjoyed it, but more honored to see you learned from it. It’s a joy to pass on what I’ve learned from others.