A Barrier to Help
by Douglas Wilson at Blog and Mablog
Over the years, I have seen many hard cases of difficult kids not effectively loved by their fathers. Because I don't see the problem disappearing, I thought I would post a series of short pointed exhortations to a dad who has a problem child. The child actually has a problem dad, but the child doesn't think that. He is too confused, lost, and hurting to think about much of anything. I am going write these posts in the second person. I have no particular people in view; these problems should be taken as a composite. But I trust that some of those who read these posts here will see the applicability to their own situations. When I am talking about a boy I will call him Jon, and when she is a girl I will call her Mary.
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You see Jon acting up in public settings and it embarrasses you. You know that there is a serious problem, and you find yourself frequently making generic excuses to people, but you don't do anything that will actually address the problem. You are not trying to help your son, but rather trying to smooth over awkward social situations for yourself. You are at church, and in front of others you ask Jon to do something for you, and he just stares at you and turns away. He ignores you, and so then you ignore him ignoring you. When he is gone, you make a lame joke to your friend about how Jon was up late last night, and is a real pain in the rear end when that happens.
One of the first things you need to recognize is that the central problem here is pride -- yours. There are people in your circle of friends or in your extended family who see the problem, and the causes of it, and who could very likely give you genuine, pointed help. But because of pride, these are the very people you are most likely to make excuses to, and are least likely to ask for their advice. You admire them, and their abilities with children, and so you are still trying to prove something to them instead of learning from them.
If the topic ever comes up, you may acknowledge that you have something of a problem, or a measure of difficulty, but you don't humble yourself completely. Because of this, the people who could really help you don't say everything they could; or they do and you don't hear it; or they do say it, and you hear it, but the next day your pride is back and most of their counsel is displaced by it.
But you don't want your pride to be the one barrier that prevents you from hearing what you need to hear, and learning what you need to learn. I am not talking about the people who think they know what your problem is -- I am talking about the people that you know understand what your problem is.