I didn’t grow up camping, but as a husband and father, I’ve decided I want our family to be a family that camps.
In my head, camping with our daughter will lead to memories she will enjoy forever. In order to get started on this journey, I picked up some basic camping gear, including a six-person tent (we’d like to enjoy the outdoors without roughing it too much, so we ensured the tent was big enough for small air mattresses).
Recently we practiced setting up the tent. I wanted my daughter to enjoy it as soon as possible and thought we should test it out in the safety of the backyard. In my mind, we were taking the first step into my fantasy of beautiful family memories and Instagram-worthy pics.
The setup started well, but my two-year-old daughter soon began undoing the tent poles as I laid them out. I guess I should have expected this from her since she’s two and she just wanted to help, but sometimes her help isn’t helpful. All I could think of was how my plans for this amazing time were being interrupted by her desire to help and play.
After telling her to stop a couple times, my tone shifted and I barked, “Don’t touch those poles again!” and “I told you not to do that!” She’s sensitive (already), so it led to flooding tears and thunderous cries—a full-blown emotional storm.
Cause for Reflection
My wife was kind enough to point out that I was too mean. I defended myself by saying my daughter needed to listen. Though right, I was also wrong.
My daughter does need to listen, and it’s sometimes necessary to be firm, but my response was more about my frustration than about the caring guidance of a father. My plans for the day had quickly become more important than loving my daughter well. My angry tone hurt her more than it helped her see the need to obey. I had to admit my failure and ask for her forgiveness (always a bitter pill to swallow).
As I reflected on the experience, I asked myself, How could I better reflect God’s fatherly love to my daughter? Here are three cautions for dads that came out of that reflection.
Be Firm Without Being Harsh
All kids are sinners, so we shouldn’t be surprised when they’re stubborn and selfish. They inherited more than looks from mom and dad.
Children need boundaries. They need to be taught right and wrong. God gifts parents to instruct children on what’s true versus false, good versus evil, and right versus wrong. Kids need a loving adult to enforce rules meant for their good.
This requires being firm. By being firm, I mean explaining and enforcing boundaries. Children must learn that just because they want to do something, it feels right, or it seems like a good idea, doesn’t mean they should do it.
My young daughter is attracted to scissors. She would happily carry scissors around the house, cut a chunk out of her hair, jump on the couch with them in hand, and even glide down her backyard slide with them.