Years ago, I had a debate with a good friend about how much of your past you share with your kids. He’d used a fair amount of drugs while in school and thought, “I need to be transparent about it. When I tell them my story, they’ll see that drugs aren’t the best way to go.” I don’t need to tell you what happened. Oldest son. Rehab. Police record. Drugs changed the trajectory of his life.
Would the boy have avoided drugs had his dad not revealed his experience?
I don’t know.
What I do know is that certain parts of our history . . . our story . . . need to be reserved for when our kids are grown, established in their lives and faith, and mature enough to handle them. Parents don’t have to answer every question they’re asked. We can say, “Son, there’ll be a time when I’ll talk about that part of my past, but this isn’t that time. I promise, I won’t ever keep anything from you that will help you. But that question isn’t where we’re going right now. Let’s get back to you and the subject at hand.” End of answer.
Parents can tell their kids, “Do as I say, not as I did,” but kids are deaf until they grow up. Kids listen to what you say but, they watch what you do and they remember your stories. “But Dad, you told me that you (fill in the blank).” If you did it, they interpret that as permission for them to do it. No matter how wrong, how selfish, or how devastating.
John Maxwell teaches ‘the law of the lid’ . . . how we never exceed parameters we set for ourselves. I get that. But some ‘lids’ are there for our protection. If my mom and dad worked it out, stuck together, made their marriage work, that’s a ‘lid’ . . . an example . . . a parameter that guides you. Their tenacity gives you permission to be tenacious. If they give up and get divorced, by their behavior they give you permission to do the same thing.
Alcohol. How do you deal with it in your family? Early in our marriage, we would hide it. Hide that we were social drinkers. Our friends ‘socialized’ it in their homes. Unlocked open bars with cold beer in the fridge and wine in the cabinet. “Don’t make a big deal of it,” they’d say.
I didn’t know what to do. I still don’t. But here’s what I did.
After I surrendered my life to Jesus, I could no longer deal with the dishonesty of hiding it nor the ambiguity of ‘socializing’ it. So I quit altogether. Oh, I didn’t shut up about it. I preached my share of sermons to our kids about drinking. They knew my story and they seriously considered what I had to say mainly because I had the moral authority of having stopped drinking altogether. They had to figure it out for themselves . . . on their own . . . and they did.
Living out good habits and good deeds invites your kids into Christ-likeness. Modeling bad stuff and bragging about your childhood adventures gives your kids permission to do everything you did.
Question: What are you giving your kids permission to do? Will you think and pray about what God would have you know about it? And will you ask Him to give you the courage to act on what He shows you? Tell us about it here.