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A Christian Man Grows

Bill with Ted Dibiasi (The Million Dollar Man) with Station Manager in Canada

This past weekend, I spoke at a Promise Keeper’s event in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. The topic that got the most response was the idea of being friends with our kids. I mentioned in one of my talks that my goal is to be friends with my kids by the time they are 30. Well, that raised a few eyebrows and prompted a question during the Q and A session as some of the men were concerned that I wanted to be friends with my kids at the expense of being their dad. I described for them the five stages of parenting:

Stage 1: Dictator. This is the time when kids are under the age of 5. They can’t do much for themselves and they don’t have discernment about life. As a result, parents make all their decisions. Without a strong, commanding parent, toddlers get into danger, mischief and foolishness. In fact, basic character is developed during this time of life so parents need to be vigilant so that kids learn the most important lessons in life, such as honesty, teamwork, urgency, sharing and discipline.

Stage 2: Director. This is that period time in between kids entering school and exploding into puberty. Kids explore during this development stage to figure out his or her possibilities. It is best during this time for kids to try out a lot of different things. Kids discover whether they are good at athletics, music, academics, socializing, technology, etc by trying them out. It is a parent’s job during this time to direct kids into activities and commitments that help them discover their basic capabilities. Kids get more freedom here but they are still under the close supervision of directive parents.

Stage 3: Coach. This is the awesome years of puberty. Adolescents mostly develop through experimentation because they are growing physically at a frantic pace which makes it harder for them to think strategically. Without a coach who challenges them to make decisions, teens will just “feel” their way through these tumultuous years, which may or may not turn out well for them. As an illustration, I pointed out this is the time when parents ought to stop saying, “No,” and start staying, “Tell me why I should say, ‘Yes.’” This gives decision-making responsibility to the teenager while leaving veto power in the hands of the adult.

Stage 4: Consultant. This role happens during the 20s. Your kids have made decisions about who they are and they are now actively trying to live out their identity. Parents at this point wait in the shadows until they are asked for advice. Our kids know we have knowledge that will help but they are determined to make it on their own. They are, therefore, reluctant to ask but hoping we are available if necessary.

Stage 5: Peers. If things have gone well, your kids grow up and become adults. At this stage, they know more about some things in life than you and they respect the fact that you know some things better than they do. As a result, a true friendship is possible where you both contribute to the relationship as equals.

It makes sense to me that 2 Peter 3:18 should apply to our relationships, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” As we grow, we ought to expect that our most important relationships will change. They will mature, they will require new skills, they will bring new challenges and they will bring fresh rewards. Let’s all be better a year from now than we are today!

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  1. You know Bill, the relationship I have with my sons has changed over the last few years. I sensed the difference, but I had never thought through these different aspects of being a father.

    Great stuff, Bill.

  2. I have a 16, 12, & 7 year old. Currently I’m a director and coach. It seems when I’m in the midst of parenting my kids, trying to provide for all their physical needs, love their mother, grow my career, etc… it’s easy to lose sight of these stages of development. (Especially since the transitions from one stage to the next can be subtle and each child is different.)

    I’m sure not matching the best parenting style with the appropriate stage is a sure way to cause havoc in your family, (like being a dictator to your high school teen). Ephesians 6:4 says: Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

    I didn’t grow up in a Christian home and my parents separated in my early teens. I can’t say my dad was there for me a lot in my high school years, but I valued him being there in my college and career years. Even though I didn’t agree with a lot of things he did in his life, he did try to encourage me to try new things and was supportive of my schooling and job choices. As an adult I really enjoyed hanging out with him, and miss him a lot now that he is gone.

    Bill, I’ll keep these stages in mind as I continue to parent my kids, and hope when my kids are grown I have three kids that enjoy my company. I know I’ll enjoy theirs.


  3. Wow! What a refreshing way to view parenting! This brought tears to my eyes, some tears of joy, some of concern but mostly tears of hope! There is a better way!
    Thanks Bill!

  4. Well said, my kids ( ages 23-26-30-32) ..I always wanted to be a friend to them, but early on I realized that being a parent first would have far more value down the line. Your five stages are perfect.

  5. Hello All. Looking at Bill’s post, it didn’t dawn on me that us fathers wear so many different hat’s but I guess we do. Sometimes I don’t know when to switch hats though and which one to switch to. I learned early on though that my main goal was not to be their “friend” but was hoping that through the years to be a mentor. Sometimes being the dictator is hard to do by nature but needs to be done. At this stage with my older boys I tend to be filling the role of “Consultant”. I like that role. Now, to keep it in their minds and hearts as they go out on their own that they have access to FREE advice!

  6. that was great! i loved it. I feel like i got most of that right with my kids. i am still working on all areas, i have grown kids, and am helping raising a toddler, so this is good and helps keep me aware of my responsibilities and the kids needs.
    thanks bill!

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