True story - Several years ago Jeannie came to counseling because her daughter, [Susi], was in rebellion. Susi was 12-years old at the time. As I began to unpack what was going on in the home, Jeannie told me when Susi was five years old she asked her mom,
“Why does daddy love Johnny more than me?” Johnny was her three-year old brother. This interpretative question led to an obvious question from me: “What does your parenting model look like?”
Jeannie simply explained how Bill spends more time with Johnny while she spends more time with Susi. Hence, Susi logically concluded, “Daddy loves Johnny, but does not love me.”
Though the story is true, the names have been changed. It is a variation of a common theme frequently seen with troubled teens: a passive, distant dad who delegates the primary parenting leadership in the home to his wife.
Leader dad is not an option
A common theme in most troubled teen counseling is how the sessions initiated by the mom rather than the dad. While many dads work during the day and it is easier for the mom to make the phone call, it typically becomes apparent during the counseling how the dad has been a passive leader. Passive or angry dads are two of the biggest factors in teen rebellion.
Children need their dads stepping up to the plate. Their earliest theological understanding of who God the Father is comes from a dad and his leadership style, regardless of what his style may be.
Poor leadership by a father is leadership nonetheless. It might not be the best leadership, but he is leading even through his abdication. To be a leader is not an option to select. It is the option the LORD selected for us. Our choice is to either lead well or lead poorly.
I have counseled scores of teens in trouble and almost without exception the patterns are clear and strikingly similar. Here are a few patterns I’ve observed:
- A passive dad gives the impression God is distant, preoccupied or disinterested in the child.
- A distant dad gives the impression other things are more important than the child.
- A child of a distant dad will find other companions by the time he/she becomes a teenager.
- Teens are tempted to rebellion because they know the family dynamic is not how things should be, but feel hopeless it will change.
- Children of distant, passive dads are insecure. They sense something is wrong with them, which motivates them to pursue