Leading Your Family When Chaos Is the Norm

Illustration of a dad remaining calm while surrounded by chaos
Chris Sandlin

"I honestly don't know what to do," I said to my wife over the phone. Crisis always seems to strike when I'm out of town for business, and Angela sounded desperate. Our son was battling asthma attacks. Our oldest daughter was struggling with schoolwork. And, now, to make it a hat trick, our minivan was failing.

Should Angela buy a van? Could we afford it? I was trying to answer these questions while hurrying between speaking engagements. This was not the image of fatherhood I envisioned before I became a dad.

In our family, parenting amid chaos and crisis never seems to be an anomaly, but the norm. Yes, we try to establish good, healthy habits. But I've recently had to embrace two realities: Crisis is an unavoidable part of leadership, and admitting to my weakness is essential to good parenting.

Calm leadership

As Christians, we know that the world is broken, but we're often surprised when the brokenness shows up in our homes. If we expect no problems, we can become irritable and impatient when the inevitable chaos arrives — and we don't lead well.

If we're continually shocked when bad things happen, we're not equipping our kids for their futures. We're training them to be shocked by brokenness, to panic in crisis.

I have to regularly remind myself that being a dad means stepping into chaos with calm leadership and grace.

Graceful humility

Nothing has humbled me quite like being a father. All the bravado, the know-it-all attitude and the dismissal of my own parents' decisions have quickly evaporated. I cannot do this on my own. I need supernatural help.

God has intentionally allowed me to have more than I can handle so that I'm forced into deeper dependence on Him. The truth is, I'm not clever enough or wise enough for this parenting job. Understanding my limitations frees me to put my trust in God's limitless power and wisdom. It allows me to live out my faith in front of my family. When I come to the end of myself, I arrive at a divine opportunity to see God's grace show up amid the chaos.

Daniel Darling is the vice president for communications at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He is an author, speaker and columnist.
This article first appeared in the June/July 2018 issue of Focus on the Family magazine and was originally titled "Keep Calm and Be Dad." If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family's marriage and parenting magazine. Get this publication delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.
Copyright © 2018 by Daniel Darling. Used by permission.

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