Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Dessert Discipleship

How Ice Cream and Good Questions Help My Parenting

I love being a dad. My kids are one of the clearest ways God has shown His lavish kindness and blessing to me. Now please understand, Aundrea and I have five children—four boys and a girl—so you can be sure that having kids doesn’t always make us feel lavishly loved and blessed by God! Sometimes it’s pretty rough going, but we know by faith (cf. Ps 127:3) and by experience that children are a gift and parenting is a privilege.

About once a week I take one of my sons out for ice cream after supper. We usually head over to Carl’s Jr. or McDonalds, where we get a booth and just hang out for 45 minutes or so. It gives me a chance to affirm my love for them verbally and nonverbally, to praise them for areas of growth Aundrea and I have seen in their life, to talk with them about concerns we have about their character and behavior, to ask them about their relationship with us and with the Lord, to counsel them about significant issues in a young boy’s life (like choosing friends, honoring girls, respecting adults, working hard in school, etc.), and just to make sure we’re still connected as father and son. I think it’s an important habit even with our three-year-old, because even though my discussions with him don’t get much deeper than how cool it is that hot fudge sundaes can be both hot and cold at the same time, we are forming the habit of talking one-on-one on a regular basis; and I think that is going to be a really crucial foundation for us when he’s older and we really do have some important things to discuss.

I want to make these little chats as meaningful as they can be for my boys, so I’m always looking for tips and ideas. Last weekend at the DG Conference, John Piper mentioned a list of questions for drawing out your kids and shepherding their heart. The list was originally developed by Rick Gamache, a friend of Piper’s who also pastors in the Minneapolis area. Here’s the list, for those interested:

• How are your devotions?
• What is God teaching you?
• In your own words, what is the gospel?
• Is there a specific sin you’re aware of that you need my help defeating?
• Are you more aware of my encouragement or my criticism?
• What’s daddy most passionate about?
• Do I act the same at church as I do when I’m at home?
• Are you aware of my love for you?
• Is there any way I’ve sinned against you that I’ve not repented of?
• Do you have any observations for me?
• How am I doing as a dad?
• How have Sunday’s sermons impacted you?
• Does my relationship with mom make you excited to be married?

(HT: Justin Taylor)


Unknown said...

Ahhh, Josh, you're so cute! LOL

I love your ice cream dates!

That list? Nah, not so much -- it made me laugh out loud! It sounds like the "I'm really insecure, please make me feel like I'm doing a good job!" list, sheesh! That's a lot of pressure for a kid who really just wants to hear his dad say, "You know what? I think you're pretty awesome -- no matter what you do, I'll always love ya."

Josh said...

Haha - I reread the list and can see what you're talking about. But not all of them are about my performance as a dad. And even the ones that are can be asked more than one way. You could be insincere about it, just manipulating your kid and looking for strokes. Or you could sincerely and humbly open yourself up to your kid's assessment - maybe not with these exact questions but with something else that shows true humility and a gives your kid a chance to express frustrations or disappointments with your parenting. You're right overall though - one of the main reasons to do this with kids is to give them absolute certainty that they are loved and accepted.

Unknown said...

Yeah, I definitely like the idea behind his words . . . it was just the words that cracked me up. I totally pictured a pastor-type sitting down with this kid he barely knows asking these questions from a 3x5 while the kid makes a mental note for his future therapist.