“My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, 12 for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (ESV, Proverbs 3:11–12).
He was tired. So tired. I could see it in his sagging shoulders and forced smile. My buddy had just had his second child a couple months ago, and the fatigue was setting in. The work was catching up with him. Long days doing his day job, only to come home a struggle to catch his breath. Would he ever enjoy this new life?
That’s the rub. Often, parenting is straight work. Not enjoyment. Not delight. For the occasional laughter, there’s constant labor.
Notice our text, however. A father must delight in his children. The Lord corrects us like “a father the son in whom he delights.” So delight is part of a father’s role. We must enjoy our kids.
Delight Before Discipline
This Proverb helps us see that God’s correction flows from his parental delight over us. In other words, He disciplines because He loves. He delights in us. He enjoys us. Discipline that flows from something less than delight is terrible. Love must be the foundation.
Without this delight children are provoked. Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21 encourage fathers to avoid provoking our children. One sure fire way to provoke them is to discipline without delighting in them.
When we enjoy and build relationship with our children, our discipline is more well received. This is how it works for us with God. He delighted in us first. He sent His Son. He initiated. He demonstrated His personal interest by sending His Spirit to reside within us. His delight was sacrificial.
This means much to us, and it means much to our children. The order is important. Delight before discipline.
Delight With Time
An enduring method for delighting in our children is to give them our time. This is a busy world we live in, but our children need us. It might be difficult to make time, but we must.
Giving kids stuff is not the way to delight in them. I enjoy giving my children gifts. I think God enjoys giving me gifts, and I enjoy doing the same for my children. But my delight is not expressed with gifts, but with time. Time is crucial, to be with them.
To wrestle with them or go on little outings with them is life giving. Bridges are built. Conversation flows. To read to them or play catch with them, these little moments mean more than we know.
Delight In Their Uniqueness
Fathers can also enjoy the differences in their children. You went to school once, you know how to study. Study your children. Learn about them. They are different from you, and different from one another.
What motivates my child? What are they interested in? Don’t be discouraged when they carry different inner motivations than you. They won’t process the world exactly like you do. Delight in that. They are their own person. Enjoy the discovery.
Like many siblings, my children are different from one another. One of my favorite hobbies is to try to figure them out. Every year, they change, and as they do I learn. I want to discover who they are. I want to see and celebrate their uniqueness.
Delight In Their Kidness
Kids are kids. I think dads often forget this. I’ve had plenty of moments where I just need them to “turn it down” a notch or two. But they are kids. We need to delight in this. They think and energize differently than you.
Remember, you’ve been a kid before, but they’ve never been a grownup before. Don’t make them dread the inevitable. Help them to look forward to being grown themselves. They don’t know what or why you think the way you do.
It seems like previous generations had a hard time with this. They are kids. Celebrate that.
Delight In Each Season
I don’t like hearing someone talk trash about their teenager. The teenage years often get the parental eye roll (and we wonder where they get it). Be careful. Each season comes and goes. Each season passes quickly. You will never get to live it with that child ever again.
Admittedly, some seasons are painful. The teenage years aren’t universally bad, but for many kids they are tough. The twos aren’t always terrible, but oftentimes they are difficult. The newborn time might be a delight, but it also might mean sleep deprivation torture.
But all these seasons pass. There are refreshing elements of each one of these seasons. The questions of the teenage years might never get asked again. The bonding that can happen during the newborn stage is a limited window. The fun and laughter of the terrible twos is without parallel.
All this doesn’t mean we give our children the “center of the universe” syndrome. They were, like you, born with that.
But we have so much to be thankful for in our children. Life is hard, and your kids’ lives are no exception. When we delight in them we soften the hardship a bit. We build the bridge that enables us to be a guiding light for them.
Give your children yourself, like God does for you. Enjoy them. Delight in them. They are yours and you are theirs.