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Protecting Our Children

There’s no way to simplify parenting. Some people resort to rules, but a lifelong relationship will only come from safety and trust.

Parenting is not easy. It is not simple!

I meet people all the time who try to simplify parenting. You can’t blame them. It’s only human to try to simplify something that’s so hard to do. The problem is, parenting can’t be simplified. You can’t just adopt a handful of rules and then expect it to work.

It makes me sad when people say that all you have to do is yell at your children. Threaten them, they say, and it will all be fine. Well, yes. I suppose so. I could just yell threats at my sons. It might keep them safe from running out in traffic, or keep them healthy by forcing them to go to sleep.

But the next thing I know, I won’t have a relationship with them. By the time they’re sixteen, they’ll be done with me.

Some people say that it’s normal for your teenagers to tune you out. They say it’s inevitable. It’s just the status quo. “Wait until your boys are teenagers! That’s when they are going to reject you.”

You hear it all the time. It’s the conventional wisdom. “Wait till your boy’s sixteen. He’s not going to be around much anymore. My son is the same way. He’s sixteen now. He doesn’t need me anymore. That’s just how it is. You just have to deal with it.”

Well, no matter how many parents accept this as the norm, I don’t want it! I want my kids to want to be around me. I want them to need me at sixteen. I want them to have a strong relationship with me at sixteen. When my sons are teenagers, I want to dialogue with them about life.

That’s not going to happen if I push them away now. Yelling at them now will create a relationship in which they don’t trust me enough to tell me things. I don’t want that. I want to develop trust starting now. Now is the time to build relationships with them that will feel safe and nurture dialogue when they are teens.

Some people tell me that it’s impossible. There’s nothing I can do, now or then, because that’s just not how it’s going to be. Okay, maybe. Maybe I’ll relate now and love now and dialogue now in order to establish a strong foundation that lasts through the teen years, and then have pie in my face when my kids are sixteen and reject me.

I’m willing to take that risk. I’m going to do my best. I’m going to tell them that, too. I’m going to tell each of my kids, “Son, I am going to figure out a way that you and I will always have a relationship. That way, when you have an issue and you need help, you won’t be too embarrassed to talk to me. We will always be able to talk, because you will trust me. You will know that there will be no condemnation from me.”

To me, that’s big. That’s my effort to parent from God’s perspective, the best way that I know how. I don’t necessarily know how God would do things. But I work at it. I study and read scripture. I engage with my sons. Every day I try to understand them a little better. I’m learning all the time, and I will always do the best I can to protect my children and protect their hearts.

If I can do that, then I’ll feel like I did my best to parent my sons the way that God parents me. I’ve given God permission to know me for who I really am, and now I believe that He will protect me. He will discipline me as I walk with Him in a way that shapes me, lets me know when I’m wrong, and protects my heart from being hurt and pushed away.

That’s how I want to reflect God as a dad. I want to parent my sons as I see God parenting me. I want to reflect God because He’s the best, obviously. As my Father, His plan is always to protect me.

I am the author of To Stir a Movement: Life, Justice, and Major League Baseball (2013), and my second book is in the works. Visit my Huffington Post page here. I blog here. Follow me on Instagram & Twitter: @JeremyAffeldt.

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