The Problem With Strict Fathers

I’m a big believer that balance in life is important. I don’t like extremes because they take a person off the path of a well-balanced mind that thinks clearly. There are extremes in everything such as politics, work and hobbies. When we take things too far we risk hurting ourselves and those around us.

I’m at University at the moment and there’s one guy there who comes from good money. He receives counselling for his mental health. He spills his heart too much and while he’s well-spoken the high achieving family he comes from has sent him off the rails. He admits this and tells me that there’s nothing worse than a strict father who wants to live his life through his children.

I explained I know all about it and have seen it all before. But for the first time now he’s getting to choose what it is he wants to do and no longer has any ties with his family. It’s sad but sometimes that’s the cost of freedom as no amount of money a strict ambitious father throws at you can compare to being happy. Some people want us to sacrifice our happiness to make them feel good. I know of one family where all the children studied law, not because they wanted to, but because they were trying to impress the father who himself owns many law firms and whose father had been a judge.

They tell me, “Oh I really wanted to do this because Gandhi inspired me to become a Lawyer”. hahahahaha. I don’t believe an absolute word of it. I know this person and she does NOT have the psychopathic personality required to be a lawyer and would drown in that world arms flailing and all.

But some of this guy’s children went into drugs and alcohol because they can’t handle the pressure. Others went on medical drugs to keep up with the pain of living under him. I’ve seen some horror stories here in Ireland where the kids completely crack and shoot their father. I’ve seen it in the United States also. One girl and her boyfriend killed the girl’s parents.

Strictness in a family is important but without balance and God at its core can easily spiral out of control. Saint Paul says we should never chastise our children to point of resentment and likewise, children are supposed to obey their parents. Here, Saint Paul levels the weighing scales and strikes a balance. But only the man committed to the Lord can find it.

There is another part of St. Pauls’s letters where he instructs the community to punish the man but not to the point where they completely destroy him and send him mad. See? Balance.

A man risks his image in future generations of being perceived as an evil hard man. All of my Aunties and Uncles won’t even keep a picture of their father in the house. He had been a world war II soldier for Britain from 1941 until the end of the Japanese conflict. My grandmother Mary said that before the war he was a gentleman but the man she got back was a devil.

At my son’s age of 9, he punched my father and knocked him unconscious. He was stingy with his money and believed that everyone should go out and make their own bed and lie in it. He drank and gambled and simply ignored everyone. He picked on one particular sibling that drove him to drugs and drink and to hate religion.

It’s a sorry sight to look at but if we are not careful as fathers we can drive our kids to either insanity or resentment. I pray this never happens to me and so I do my best to spend as much time with my children as I possibly can. I’ll guide them into the right career paths available to them but I won’t force the horse to drink the water, know what I mean? I don’t want to leave this world knowing my sons and their sons see me as a strict bastard unworthy of admiration or even have my photograph around.

I once went to a funeral of a stingy businessman who terrorized his family. I went in and nobody was crying. Instead, they were laughing and having good craic around the coffin. I went over to my Dad outside the funeral home and in private asked him why nobody was crying. “Did you notice none of them was crying? Strange funeral.” He answered, “Ah he was a very bad bastard to them all, Stephen…you don’t understand but be sure to pray for him.”

I would honestly hate to depart this world like that. It honestly scares the life out of me and has made me realize that for all his money and smarts, he’s regarded as nothing to his family who now enjoys whatever it is he left them.

It’s like what St.Paul said, that if he’d all the money in the world and could work miracles but hadn’t got love, he’d be nothing. Be careful as a father not to be too strict with your kids, because you do a lot of damage in this life that you’ll answer for in the next. The Lord is not going to ask what college you got your kids into, that’s not going to be on the agenda at all.

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