Three Parenting Questions for Chap Clark
Photo by Takuya.
I don’t know about you, but as a parent I’m always wondering how other parents manage life, work, marriage, parenting, and faith. And not just manage, but find ways to thrive.
As we celebrate the release of the new Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, we’re starting a new blog series interviewing other parents who think and write about faith, family, and ministry. This post kicks off the series with our very dear Fuller colleague Chap Clark, coauthor of Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids. Chap and his wife Dee raised three children to adulthood together, and we caught up with him to ask a few questions that were burning on our minds.
Chap, given all of your research and experience through the years with teenagers, what do you wish you had known about parenting when your own kids were younger?
That list is long! But when I think back to some of the core experiences through the growing years, one of the biggest is how difficult for me (Dee was always better at this) was my short-term thinking at times. There were "skirmishes" along the way, like what to wear to Sunday school, or what music to listen to, that sometimes ended up as major power struggles. As I look back and as I have conversations with our adult children, no matter who "won," these almost always ended up being negative (or at best neutral) experiences for our kids. My oldest, for example, recently shared with me how he wished that instead of outright banning certain bands or songs, we would have taken his interest in them more seriously, listened and researched some together, and figured out a way to train him about discernment while still honoring whatever drew him to that music. Picking battles is so vital as a parent. We have to realize how few "sprints" there really are when it comes to raising our kids, and that the journey is more like a marathon!
You've written books about dads and daughters as well as dads and sons. What's one word of advice you would give to fathers about their relationship with their daughters, and one word of advice you'd give about their relationship with their sons?
Dads, you have the strongest voice your daughter will ever know in how you help her to see her worth and value as a person, a unique and magnificent creation from God's hand. So much of what she will experience growing up in our society will teach her that her worth and value is found in how she can attract and please a man. You have to be the one to help her discover the inherent dignity of her person, as a person.
To your son, you are the single most significant model of being a man that he will ever know. Although almost all of the books and messages out there define maleness as innately aggressive, assertive, "hunter," and "warrior," the New Testament provides the characteristics of a man as one who is created in the image of God. That image "became flesh and lived among us" as Jesus. Both in the life of Christ and in the epistles, the marks of a disciple are clear in how God has created us to live our lives as men, with:
- "compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience" (Col. 3:12).
- "love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Gal 5:22-23).
- "gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15).
Dads, the life we are to live that defines who we are as those set free to live and serve in God's kingdom are what it means to be a man. Your son, and your daughter, needs to know that these are the characteristics that set you apart from a man who does not know God.
As a part of this modeling, fathers have the unique responsibility to teach their sons how to treat not only their sisters, but also all females. Jokes, glances, crude or even slightly derogatory comments about or to women are the worst model our sons could receive as they are trying to buck the trend of the objectification of women.
How has being married to a therapist made you a different father to your kids?
I happen to be married to an incredibly healthy, and in the best sense of the word, powerful person who was an extremely gifted intuitive counselor long before she became a successful therapist. I married a person who has been as rich and gifted a partner as I could ever dream of knowing. She has been gracious, patient, and kind as I have attempted to learn and to grow.
Dee has been careful to be honest, but in a way that has opened conversation rather than discourage me. She has been an invaluable coach as I have sought to "work out my salvation" by gently bringing up where I have had blind spots, all while being open to my input in her life. In parenting, she taught me to concentrate on responding rather than reacting to a situation, to know when to ask questions before jumping to conclusions, judgment, or advice, and how to be both a caring friend to my kids while also being their responsible parent (although I still have a ways to go on each of these). Lastly, her insights and giftedness have so wonderfully complemented mine. Together we have helped each other in our callings in ways I never could have imagined.
For more ideas from real families like yours, get the new Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family.