Pastor Doug Fields: My children don’t need me to be the perfect dad. Here’s what they need - they need me to follow Jesus, they need me to love their mom deeply, and they need me to be crazy about them and want to spend time with them.
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John Fuller: Quite a recipe for a healthy family, don’t ya think? And you’re gonna hear more today on Focus on the Family with your Focus president Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: Today, we’re continuing a message from Pastor Doug Fields, and he is giving us great parenting advice based on his experience as a father of three and also as a youth pastor working with teens and tweens for over thirty years, and if you missed part one of Doug’s presentation yesterday, please get in touch with u. We can send you the entire message on CD, or an audio download, or we can send the book called Intentional Parenting which he co-authored with his wife, Cathy.
John: You’ll find those resources and more at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or call us and we’d be happy to tell you more. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.
Jim: At this point, Doug is working on a list of six things all children need. Yesterday, we heard the first one, encouraging words.
John: Yeah, I thought those were really good, and here now on Focus on the Family, Doug Fields speaking at Mariner’s Church in Irvine, California where he’s on the teaching team.
Doug: They also need what I call genuine affection. Genuine affection. From the moment we’re born, social scientists tell us that we have something called skin hunger, meaning we need touch, we need affection. And that affection must be fed in appropriate ways, or else we’re gonna seek it out in inappropriate ways. Ladies, you’re much better at this with children than men are. Especially when it comes to affection. Kids know that moms are more affectionate. That’s why never in the recorded history of humanity has a child been hurt in the front yard, run into the house and yelled, “Dad.” (LAUGHTER) OK? Why don’t kids yell for dad when they need affection? Because dads don’t care. Right?
OK. I mean, my dad, I’d be running in crying. He’d be like, “Shake it off.” “But dad, the bone is sticking out of my skin. I can’t -” “Rub some dirt on it. You’ll be fine. You’re blocking the TV. Go get me some ice cream.” You know. Dads, we gotta figure this one out, because if you’re not affectionate to your child, what unaffectionate fathers can produce is boys who don’t know how to express themselves emotionally and girls who may express themselves sexually. You look at promiscuous teens. Oftentimes, promiscuous teens points back to an unaffectionate father, or a father who’s there, but just the affection lights aren’t on. Affection is one of the things that emotionally healthy kids have in common. They’ve been given proper affection, and they’ve been given a lot of it. And I know some of you are going like, “Well, you don’t know my - you know, my kid is in that junior high stage where they don’t even want to be around -” that’s when you pour it on. They - even when they don’t hug back, you be the parent, you pour it on. When you - sit next to them, throw your leg over them when you’re watching TV, put your arm around them. OK? If you can’t do that, trip and fall on them just so they get some affection.
And here’s the deal - hey, start somewhere. Don’t feel guilty about what you’re not doing. Start somewhere, regardless of the age of your children.
An intentional parent is also someone who figures out how to provide serious fun. And some of you don’t like this. Because you - “How does this make your Top 10 list? Really? That of all the things that parents need to have kids experience, serious fun makes the Top 10 list?” Yes, and here’s why. Because today’s generation of kids are totally stressed out. They’re totally, totally stressed out. Why? Well, one, because we live in a faster culture. And two is because they’re - for many of them, their parents are driven. Especially in this area, the parents are driven, and parents put a lot of pressure on them to perform and succeed and be, quote, unquote, “successful” kids because successful kids makes insecure parents feel better about themselves.
And by the way, shooting straight to some of you that are doing this - maybe you don’t even know you’re doing it - you need to get counseling before your kids have to get counseling that you should have got - OK? - that if you are parenting in order to make yourself look good, friends, that is so damaging to your child. They can’t live up to those expectations when it’s all about you. So deal with those issues.
So why does serious fun make this list? Because kids are stressed out, and when they experience a degree of fun and laughter, what it does is it releases their anxieties, it diminishes their fears, and it lessens their hostility and their anger. They have to have some fun release in their life. The scriptures say it like this, in Proverbs 17 - “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”
I happen to believe that those of us who are followers of Jesus - and I realize not everybody in here is, and some of you have been invited, or you’re investigating, you’re checking it out. I’m thrilled that you’re here, and I hope you get something out of it. For those of us who have redirected the course of our life to follow the person and teachings of Jesus, I think we’re the ones who need to be leading the way and leaking fun. Because we’ve been given life. We’ve been given eternal life. We’ve been given the presence and the power of Jesus. We ought to be the ones leaking fun. But somewhere in this Christian bubble, we’ve come to believe that, as Christians, the more serious you are, the more spiritually mature you are. (LAUGHTER) OK? That’s not true. The more serious you are is the more boring you are. All right?
How many of you know some boring Christians? Yeah. Absolutely. All right? See, the opposite of funny is not serious. The opposite of funny is unfunny. OK? And I - you know, I prove that a lot. (LAUGHTER)
...Because I use humor when I teach. And let me tell you why. I’ve never told you this before. But here’s why I use humor when I teach - because it’s effective. And while you’re laughing - “Ha, ha, ha” - I’m jamming truth down your throat, hard. And it doesn’t feel - (laughter) “I just got told I was an idiot. This is great, you know.”
That’s why I use it because it’s effective. Not because I’m funny. All right? So when - people say, “Oh, this one must be easy for you because you’re funny.” They would always say to my kids, “Is your dad funny at home?” Like, then they’re, like, rolling their eyes, you know. (LAUGHTER)
No. Actually, I’ll tell you the truth. When people meet me - and some of you have done this, in airports or wherever, around the community. You’re like, “Oh.” I mean, first thing people say - “You’re taller in person,” which I don’t know what - for some reason, the stage doesn’t communicate that I’m 6’8”.
And here’s what they either say or I - because they’ve said this to me, or they’re thinking or they’ve told other people - “He’s not really funny in person.” And people have actually said, “Oh, I thought you’d be funnier.” And I don’t know, I mean, I just say, “It’s my day off. OK?” And depending on what mood I’m in, sometimes I say (laughter), “Well, buddy, I’ve seen you in the audience, and up close, I thought you’d be better looking.”
You know, I don’t say that - think it, but I don’t say it. So here’s what I’m saying. I’m just like you. I had to figure out, as a dad, “how can I infuse fun into our family so that my kids would laugh, and have fun, and go and play and be adventurous?” So the question is, what are you doing so that they can have some fun in their family? Grandparents, what do you do when they come to your house so there’s some fun? Teachers, when they enter your classroom, coaches, when they’re part of your team, they’ve gotta experience some serious fun. And this might seem like a shallow idea, but I encourage you to give it some serious consideration because it can redirect the course of a child’s life.
An intentional parent also provides what we call delicate discipline. We live in a culture today where a lot of kids aren’t experiencing discipline, and our feeling is that you can’t really love your kids if they don’t experience discipline. But the keyword - delicate. Here’s how I would describe biblical discipline - OK, biblical discipline is guidance with love, not punishment in anger. And if you want a text for that, read Hebrews Chapter 12 on your own, and you’ll see that’s what biblical discipline is. It’s guidance with love, not punishment in anger. In Proverbs Chapter 3 it says this - “For my children, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you, for the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.” And if you were to study this text, you’d see that discipline is an act of love. So when I see kids that are out of control, lack of discipline, I don’t think, “What an awful kid.” You know what I think? Probably the same as you. What? “Where’s the parent? I mean, where’s the love? Where - is this person totally absent?” And then when it comes to discipline, the word delicate - we’ve put the word delicate in there because bodies are fragile, but spirits are even more fragile, OK? To be delicate with this - again, in Ephesians 6, it says this. “Now a word to you parents - don’t keep on scolding and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful; rather, bring them up with the loving discipline the Lord himself approves with suggestions and godly advice.”
What is loving discipline? Loving discipline is not discipline in anger. Let me say it again. Loving discipline is not discipline in anger. I live in the real world. I’m not saying you’ll never get angry. That would be insane for me to say that. Yes, you will get angry, but there’s a difference between being angry and discipline in anger. OK, you don’t have to discipline in anger. The type of discipline that I see isn’t discipline as an act of love, its discipline for the sake of compliance. Big difference - an act of love, the sake of compliance. Compliance is a quick fix. Compliance is a scream, a yell, a slap, a scare, a shame - something like that.
Yelling is quick fix. And those of you who yell - you obviously can tell I’m an advocate for children. Those of you who are yelling, it doesn’t work. It’s quick-fix parenting, but it’s not good long-term healthy. It doesn’t work. You’ve got to figure out another way that doesn’t shame and intimidate and threaten your - and wound your kids. Research reveals that yelling doesn’t work. It just increases humiliation and violence and embarrassment, and it actually creates more angry kids because kids don’t hear what you’re yelling at them anyway, they hear your spirit. And when kids see you lose control, they actually lose respect. So please, stop yelling. It’s not working.
John: Some great advice from Doug Fields on Focus on the Family, and his wife Cathy has written a book called Intentional Parenting. We’ve got that here. We’ll send a complimentary copy to you when you make a generous donation of any amount to Focus on the Family. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY. And online you can donate to get the book at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Let’s go ahead and hear more now from Doug Fields.
End of Program Note
Doug: Let me give you a little tip - you don’t have to discipline right in that moment. You’re not a cop. OK? You’re a parent. You don’t have to give out a ticket immediately. I learned this lesson from my dad. So when I was growing up, my dad, when he would get mad at me, he would call me three things - “Douglas Montgomery Fields” - yelling at them. And then he would say, “Go get me something to hit you with.” Yeah. And so what I realized - I wasn’t a bright kid, but I figured this out - the longer I took, the easier it would go on me because I gave him time to cool off. And so when I would return, three days later... (LAUGHTER) OK? With a large pillow... (LAUGHTER) ...You know, things just went better.
So parents, you gotta figure out what does it look like for you to put yourself in a timeout, to cool down before you provide discipline? And I - Cathy and I, what we write about and what we talk about is the discipline we call discipline by choice. And here’s the definition of discipline by choice. It’s a fair consequence that’s clearly communicated ahead of time that is connected to the offense. Now, you have to figure out what this means age-appropriate for you. But when you connect actions to consequences, what it does is it teaches children that they have a choice. And actually, they need to experience consequences in order to be healthy. Consequences, as odd as this sounds, it builds self-esteem because it gives kids power that they realize that, “oh, my actions actually have a consequence, and I had the power of choice in that,” so that when they get a little bit older, and they can reason with that - that’s why I said it needs to be age-appropriate - when they can reason with it, they go ultimately they chose their consequence. And what that does is it keeps you from being a foolish parent. It keeps you from yelling and posturing and shaming and screaming when they walk in the door late. No, they chose the consequence. Now, as a parent, you have to enforce it, OK, which is difficult to do. And when you enforce it, let me just tell you from my own experience of three kids, they won’t thank you for it. (LAUGHTER) My kids never said, “Oh, what a loving, wise dad you are.”
“I accept the consequence because I knew it ahead of time, and ultimately my behavior chose this consequence, so it’s really my fault. And thank you for having wisdom, and you should write a book someday called ‘Intentional Parent’.” They never said that, OK? They’re still mad and angry and think you’re foolish, but it saves you from screaming and shaming. They chose it.
And by the way, responsibility is not genetic. It’s not. You’re not born with a sense of responsibility. You have to learn responsibility. So for those of you parents with little kids, they’re never gonna learn to be responsible if you never get to three. You know what I’m talking about - right? - those of you that play the counting game. “Don’t let me get to three. One...” (LAUGHTER) “Two. Did you not hear me? Do not let me get - you almost let me get to three. And I’m gonna do it again. Don’t - one...” (LAUGHTER) “...Two - two - OK, ‘cause here’s what’s gonna happen - if I get to three, a cyclone of fury is gonna come out, and you are - you - one, 1.1, one” - you know, and you begin inventing fractions. Parents, get to three. (Cheering).
OK, get to three, and let ‘em experience the consequence because that’s how they become responsible. But in this area, we’ve got all these helicopter parents, who are hovering around, that don’t want our kids to experience anything. When you’re - when your school calls and says, “Uh, Betty forgot her lunch” - OK, I picked on dads. Let me pick on moms because, moms, you’re more likely to do this. “Oh, she forgot her - OK, OK, great, great. I’ll just - I’ll run it right over to the school. OK. I’ll be there - I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
OK, because - and I know you’re loving, you’re caring, you’re nurturing. ….on how overparenting robs a child of a learning opportunity, like if they forget their lunch on the way to school. But if she doesn’t have her lunch, she will what?
Doug: Starve, right? She will starve to... (Death). ...Death. (Laughter) I know. I know she will, right? (LAUGHTER) And so you’ve gotta get there fast with that lunch. Now, let me just let you know I’ve done a lot of research on death by starvation, OK. (LAUGHTER)
And it takes 65 days to die from starvation. Now, if she skips her lunch, she might go a little hungry, but she’ll come home and realize, (laughter) “Oh, this was my responsibility, wasn’t it?” And you’re helping shape her to be a responsible human.
Does all this make sense? Are you tracking with me? OK, good because you’re getting a little quiet on me. I’m feeling sad. Uh...
But what I want to recognize based - and I didn’t say this last night because when I was out there talking to people last night, this is what came up - guilt. People are like, ah, I’m just not doing it - I mean, I just was - you know, “Sweetheart, maybe if we, uh, if we really loved our kids, we’d put them up for adoption,” you know - you know, that type of thing.
Hey, we all have regrets. Every parent has regret. There’s no such thing as regret-free parenting. But start now - start now with something. And here’s what I want you to hear more than anything else - to be a caring adult in the life of a child, here’s what you have to do. You’ve gotta get the right relationships right. OK, if you forget everything I’ve said, remember this - to get the right relationships right.
See, maybe the most loving thing you can do for your kid is to get your relationship right with Jesus. That may be the most loving thing you can do as a parent - is to follow Jesus, because for me, the closer I get to Jesus, the more I experience that love from Him, the more I’m able to be loving to them, because on my own, I don’t have it. On my own power, I don’t have the depth or reservoir of wisdom, of grace, of forgiveness, of patience. But when you make Jesus the center of your life, here’s what happens - when you follow Jesus, He promises His presence. And when you have His presence, He promises His power. And then He also makes another promise - that you will become a person of peace. Kids, today, need to grow up in a peace-filled home. And there can’t be a peace-filled home if there’s not a peace-filled parent, OK. Because kids are in combat all day long. They’re battling pressures, they’re battling bullies, they’re battling comparison, body image, all this stuff. But if a kid knows that soon he’s going to go to his home, and that home is a peace-filled home, he can better temper the pressures and the temptation that he or she is going through throughout the day because pretty soon, they’re gonna be home, and home is safe and peaceful.
Your kids, they don’t need a perfect parent. There’s no such thing as a perfect parent. Even the illusion that some of you are trying to create of being the perfect parent, it creates intimidation and, uh, insecurity in kids. My children don’t need me to be the perfect dad. Here’s what they need - they need me to follow Jesus, they need me to love their mom deeply, and they need me to be crazy about them and want to spend time with them. Because in the child’s life, time and presence is the equity in which they understand. They need that time and presence from adults.
And those of you who are single parents, I know - I know you don’t have the time. Um, you’re working. And I’ve talked to a lot of single parents. And as I said, you’re my heroes. And I really believe in God’s sovereignty and the way that I think God will reward you for your hard work as a single parent to keep your family alive, and there will be a time when your kids will call you blessed.
But what kids don’t appreciate is those of us who are not working just to survive, we’re overworking to drive a nicer car, to live in a better house and to stroke our own ego. Because what - and then we get mad at our kids because we can’t show up at their stuff, and we blame it on them. “Well, if you weren’t involved, I’d have to pay for this (unintelligible).” Come on. What kids want is your - your presence, OK. And all of this starts when I get my - my act together with Jesus.
And then part of getting the right relationships right - there’s another part of parenting, and it’s this. It’s getting other people around your kids in addition to yourself. That is huge. That’s why good coaches are so important - teachers and mentors and - and youth workers and small group leaders. Because all studies reveal that healthy kids - listen to this - regardless of where they come from - Cambodian refugee camps, housing projects in New York City or upper-middle-class Orange County - all these kids, what they have in common, if they’re healthy kids, in addition to parents, there were other people involved in their lives who were significant. That’s why being a part of a faith community like this is so
Why should you care about kids? Because Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me.” Jesus, may we be different because we were here. I pray that you would relieve the guilt that we feel of the mistakes that we’ve made in parenting and replace it with the wisdom of how we can better love and direct our lives to be encouraging, to give affection, to care deeply about the kids that you’ve entrusted to our lives, whether we’re parents or grandparents, coaches, teachers, neighbors, friends, aunts, uncles. Give us a vision of what it looks like to impact the next generation. We ask this in your holy name. Amen.
John: Doug Fields has been our guest for the past couple of episodes of Focus on the Family, speaking at Mariner’s Church in Southern California. Jim, I so appreciated what he had to say, I - it was pretty inspiring, actually to hear these parenting ideas, and I can’t wait to put some of ‘em into action.
Jim: Yeah, me too, John. Of course we try to do a lot of the things Doug mentioned, like having fun together as a family, but it’s always great to get a little tune up as a parent and find some new ways, new ideas to try with our kids.
John: Alright so you mentioned family fun, it is summer time, how about camping? You taking the boys camping at all?
Jim: Yeah, we’re gonna get one or maybe two or three, who knows. I love camping with the boys and Jean because it’s just so kick back, and we can do a little fishin’, and we do a lot of talkin’ on these trips.
John: Yeah you can remember, as I can do, back to when the kids were little and you had to keep eagle eyes on ‘em cause you’re out in the woods...
Jim: Oh yeah!
John: ...the wilderness, but now when they get older, it’s sorta like casual, relaxed.
Jim: Oh, it always felt that way. You know the - the best times we had is when it would rain.
Jim: We’d be inside...
John: My kids did the same thing...
Jim: playing Uno or some board game...
John: Uh huh.
Jim:...around the kitchen table in are little RV.
John: While the rain just pours buckets...
Jim: You’re staying nice and warm and the kids are very grateful that you have something to walk into.
John: Unless the tent fails like it did for us on more than one occasion.
Jim: LAUGHTER. Man, Jean, we’re so far beyond tent camping now...
Jim: It’s glamping. But listen, I am always counting down to when our boys will turn 18 because I know, once they go to college, those kind of summer opportunities won’t come together as easily for us, and it’s so important to build those great memories now while they’re still willing to hang out with us as parents.
John: Yeah, there are times at school, and work, and someone else in their life kinda all get in the way of - of those family times.
Jim: Yeah, these are precious days for us, and you know what? There’s an old saying especially for parents of younger kids that days are long, but the years are short, and that’s so true. I’m feelin’ that. Here at Focus on the Family, we want to come along side all parents to say, “We’re here for you to help you at any stage in your parenting journey.” Here’s a fun fact, thousands of people reach out to Focus on the Family for help every day by phone, mail, and email. And many of those are parents just like Jessie.
Jessie: I was married with little kids and feeling overwhelmed by life and just went onto a podcast…the general podcast thing and searched for parenting, and the first thing I found was Focus on the Family. And I gave it a whirl a couple of times and I just found amazing truth, and inspiration, and help, um, the situation that I was in. God definitely used all of the people who came on your show to speak truth into my life and to revive it.
John: I love all of the ways that we can share this content. We have a mobile app, a podcast, we’re on satellite radio, internet streaming, there are all the great radio stations that feature the broadcast around the world, and we almost have the YouTube channel. You can subscribe to.
Jim: That’s right, John. Hats off to you and your department for expanding our reach in all these newer forms of media. And let me take this opportunity to remind our friends, we need your financial support to get this program out to listeners, like John said around the world. So please, make a generous donation today. And when you make a donation of any amount, we’ll say thank you by sending you a copy of Intentional Parenting written by Doug Fields and his wife, Cathy. And I know you’ll get a lot out of it.
John: And our number is 800-A-FAMILY. 800-2326459, or you can donate online and request that book, a CD of this message as well at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Let me note that the book includes a free code which gives you access to 10 video sessions and a small group discussion guide as well. And when you’re online, be sure to take a look at our free parenting assessment. It only takes a few minutes to discover your areas of strength and maybe some areas to improve in your parenting. Well, have a great weekend and be sure to be back with us on Monday. Rosaria Butterfield challenges you to expand your idea of hospitality.
Rosaria Butterfield: And we’ve neglected people. You know, we say family of God, but then our Christmas dinner looks like everybody whose last name is the same.
Rosaria: And that’s not family of God.
End of Teaser
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Doug FieldsView Bio
Doug Fields is a teaching pastor at Mariner's Church in Irvine, Calif., and the co-founder of DownloadYouthMinistry.com, a web-based resource library for youth pastors. He's a popular speaker and author of more than 50 books, including Intentional Parenting, co-authored with his wife, Cathy. The Fields have three grown children. Learn more about Doug at his website, dougfields.com.