In a matter of seconds a wonderful time of father and son collaboration and sharing went from warmth and respect to anxiety and frustration. Unfortunately, my son was on the receiving end of my wrath and the image above only conveys a portion of the frustration I put upon him. As we can see from the Bible verse Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged (Colossians 3:21 NIV) and the following from C. S. Lewis’ book The Four Loves, I am unfortunately not alone in this:
We hear a great deal about the rudeness of the rising generation. I am an oldster myself and might be expected to take the oldsters’ side, but in fact I have been far more impressed by the bad manners of parents to children than by those of children to parents.
Who has not been the embarrassed guest at family meals where the father or mother treated their grown-up offspring with an incivility which, offered to any other young people, would simply have terminated the acquaintance?
Dogmatic assertions on matters which the children understand and their elders don’t, ruthless interruptions, flat contradictions, ridicule of things the young take seriously — sometimes of their religion — insulting references to their friends, all provide an easy answer to the question, “Why are they always out? Why do they like every house better than their home?” Who does not prefer civility to barbarism? (p. 42).
Fortunately, from my son’s face I recognized the hurt and frustration that I had caused and took a moment or two to consider that I was the source of this anguish and I apologized. The source or cause of this event really doesn’t matter because I was just wrong.
If I expect my teenage son to grow into a compassionate man who is aware of his impact on people and is respectful of others I need to model this behaviour and this means admitting when I am wrong and asking for forgiveness. We all react in ways that we later regret or say things that we know we shouldn’t have–it is what we do immediately following an outburst or error in judgment that will determine the lasting impact of that event. If we are able to acknowledge our mistake or incivility and apologize, the situation has the potential to strengthen a relationship and even become a learning opportunity.
All parents make mistakes while interacting with our children, we are only human, how we chose to deal with those mistakes will impact the level of respect our children not only have for us but for themselves.