A: Someone once said, "I'd rather see a sermon than hear one." There is truth to this statement. Children may not remember what you say, but they are usually affected for life by what you do. Consider the task of teaching your boys to be honest, for example. Yes, you should teach what the Scripture says about truthfulness, but you should also look for opportunities to live according to that standard of righteousness.
I'm reminded of something that happened several years ago in Georgia, when the Bulldogs of Rockdale County High School overcame a big deficit to win the state basketball championship. Coach Cleveland Stroud couldn't have been more proud of his team. But a few days later, while watching the game films of the playoffs, he noticed that there was an ineligible player on the court for 45 seconds during one of the games. He called the Georgia High School Assn. and reported the violation, costing the school the title and the trophy.
When asked about it at a press conference, Coach Stroud said: "Some people have said that we should have kept quiet about it. That it was just 45 seconds, and that the player wasn't really an impact player. But you gotta do what's honest and right. I told my team that people forget the scores of basketball games. They don't ever forget what you're made out of."
You can be certain that every member of the Bulldogs' team will remember the character of Coach Stroud. A letter to the editor of the local newspaper summed it up well. "We have scandals in Washington and cheating on Wall Street. Thank goodness we live in Rockdale County, where honor and integrity are alive and being practiced."
Your boys need to see you doing what is right, even when it is inconvenient to do so.
Q: I'm a single mom who's labored, sweated, prayed, cried, scrimped, saved, cooked, cleaned, taught and shepherded my children through numerous crises without the help of a husband or father for my kids. I'm having a very difficult time of letting go now that they are grown. Do you have any words of wisdom for me?
A: My office at Focus on the Family sits across the valley from the U.S. Air Force Academy. From there, I can see the cadets as they train to be pilots and officers. I particularly enjoy watching the gliders soaring through the heavens. The only way those graceful yellow crafts can fly is to be tethered to a powered plane that takes them up to where they can catch a wind current. Then they disengage and sail free and alone until returning to land.
While watching that beautiful spectacle one day, I recognized an analogy between flying and child rearing as a single parent. There is a time when your children need to be towed by the "mother plane." If that assistance were not available, or if it were not accepted, the "glider" would never get off the ground. But, inevitably, there comes an appropriate moment for a young pilot to disengage and soar free and alone in the blue heavens. Both operations are necessary for successful flight.
If you as a parent are not there for your kids when they are young, they are likely to remain "grounded" for life. On the other hand, if they stay tethered to you as young adults, they will never experience the thrill of independent flight. Letting go not only gives freedom to your grown son or daughter but allows you to soar as well. It's all part of the divine plan.
- James Dobson is chairman of the board for Focus on the Family, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the home.