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 Fathers, Respect & Fences

Fathers, Respect & Fences

Posted by Kenny Vaughan on 26th May 2020

When I became a father, one of the first boundaries I drew was to demand that my children respect me.

I had two goals: one, to be respected as a father by my children, and two, for my children to live a respectful life. However, the boundaries I drew, communicated to my daughter that she had to respect me or she would be punished. She learned her father would not tolerate disrespect—and, by example, to fear and guard against others disrespecting her as well.

The problem was that was not my goal. I did not want her to be afraid or defensive. My goal was for her to be respectful. By demanding respect and punishing my children when they failed to respect me, I created distance in our family and fear and anger in my children.

However, as a three-year-old, my daughter Faith was tough, and like most parents, I hated to punish her. As she continued to be disrespectful, I began to wonder if punishing her was worth the fight.

That got me thinking deeper about what I was doing and why I was doing it. Eventually, I realized I couldn’t care less if she disrespected me so long as I did not have to punish her. I loved her. But when I thought of her growing up to be a young lady that was disrespectful and thoughtless of others, there was nothing on earth that I would not endure to prevent that.

The light came on for me then. Punishing Faith for disrespecting me as her father was enforcing a fence I had created out of fear. Punishing Faith so that she would not live a disrespectful life was love. From then on, I never told her she was not allowed to disrespect me. Instead, I told her I loved her too much to let her be disrespectful. Before, I had lectured Faith on all the things that were and were not respectful to me.

I lectured her on how to respect me and how I would not tolerate her being disrespectful toward me. After I took down my personal fence, I told Faith I couldn’t care less if she hurt me, but I could not tolerate her being disrespectful because of what it would cost her later. I shared with her examples of how disrespect leads to destruction. I made sure she knew that I didn’t like to punish her but that I loved her too much to allow her to do things that would hurt her.

It may seem that there is not much of a difference. My daughter still went to time-out either way. But I say the difference is life and death. It’s not what we do but why we do it that determines whether love or fear rules our lives. When we love others, we don’t have to draw boundaries or put up fences. We do what is best for them first, always, without regard for ourselves. When I loved Faith, no boundary was ever needed for me to be respected. My love for her protected me as well as her in the long run. When I failed to love her, the only way I got respected was to demand that respect.

Building fences in between you and the people who may hurt you may not necessarily protect the blessings in your life, but it will certainly cut your roots off from the love that produced those blessings in the first place. Love always costs us something, but it will never cost us as much as what not loving will cost us.

Laus Deo,