Parenting “Hats”

The king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, “O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!” 5 Then Joab came into the house to the king and said, “You have today covered with shame the faces of all your servants, ESV 2 Samuel 19:4-5

A few days ago we were watching the Olympic men’s luge if I recall correctly. For the first time, the US men won a medal, and sadly the favored German made some mistakes on his final run, completely falling out of medal contention. As his sled came to a stop, his father/coach came onto the track and hugged him, consoling him. The words of the announcer really explained the situation as he commented that the man was “removing his coaching hat and putting on his father had to comfort his son.” As parents, we wear many hats and knowing which hat to wear at which moment requires God’s grace and our spiritual formation.

David struggled with his “hat choices” as well. As a parent, his soul mourned deeply for Absalom after his death. However, in doing so, he nearly lost his kingdom. Joab rightly challenged David to put aside his mourning hat and put on his kingly/leadership hat. After all, Absalom had led a coup against the throne. He willfully attempted to turn the people against his father, and in many ways received a just reward for his actions. David’s grief got the best of him, and he momentarily failed to choose the right hat for the situation. Only after Joab’s challenge, did David change his focus, encourage his people and begin to restore order in his kingdom. A careful read of the story indicates David never told his sons “no,” indicating he struggled to wear the disciple hat in his parenting. If we fail to wear the appropriate hat at the appropriate time, we risk destroying our children and ruining our own lives.

My wife and I regularly feel this tension. When our kids are struggling, we wrestle with whether they need discipline or encouragement. Do they need comfort or challenge? We generally opt for the tough love approach, but at other times hear the Holy Spirit encouraging us to back off our standards and try a lighthearted approach. Each situation requires a unique approach. Pray hard. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Be willing to change hats. God will guide you.

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