When An Iron Fist Turns Soft


When an Iron Fist Turns Soft

My six-year-old son follows me into the cool room; last bits of sunlight cascade onto the brown couch where we sit down. Looking down at my son I search for the right words to speak to him.

I quietly pray, “God, help me not lose my temper. Help me talk to him gracefully and not become angry.”

There is a fine line with my son when speaking to him.

Through many failures of my own, I have sharpened the tipping point. If I am too harsh and yell when he screws up, his heart shuts down towards me, rendering me useless in getting through to him.

I had just found out that he had done something quite harmful; sinful.

My wife called me at work to let me know what had happened, asking me to talk to him when I arrived home.

Anger, frustration and uncertainty clouded my mind through the remaining hours of the day. I was uncertain about how I should handle the situation.

Should there be discipline?

If I go soft on him, will he not take me seriously?

Doubts of my own ability to handle the situation creep in.

Sitting on the couch with my son, looking at him, his body language telling me he doesn’t want to be there. Fearfully he sits, quietly, intently waiting for me to explode.

Processing through my mind I realize (insert God telling me because I am utterly helpless in this area) that if I come down hard on him, yell or be insanely firm, he will throw walls up and I will lose his heart.

His heart.

Often I have bought into the lie that if I am soft on him, he will grow up to be wild and out of control. I have allowed my fears of my son not being an honorable, upright, truthful follower of Christ, to guide my fathering of him.


I have been parenting most times out of fear.

Because of my fear, the very thing I am fearful that my son will become, I have parented out of. I end up fathering him dishonorably and untruthfully. Through being quick to anger, ruling his heart with an iron fist at times, and not extending much grace to him when needed, I am the one who is then repelling him to the very things that I fear most he’ll be.

I turn to my son sitting on the couch and by the grace of God, softs words come out towards him. I see him ease into me. Because I am being soft to him, he softens his own heart to me.

And we talk.

I listen.

And he hears me.

As time passes he inches close to me and embraces me.

Through the softness I had once feared would turn him from the Way, it has now steered him towards the Way.

I squeeze him tight.

I quietly thank God for His own graces with me and for this moment with my son. I thank Him for being soft with me, working with me patiently to see the errors of my ways so I can have restoration with my son.



You can find Jesse writing about his attempts (failures) at being a good father, husband and follower of Jesus. The good news is, Jesus is the redeemer.  And that is what he clings to.  There is no amount of failing or screwing up that He can’t redeem.  He writes on his own blog here.

Twitter: @jessemhoover

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessehooverwrites


It’s No Cake Walk

Hey Dad,

Greetings from vomit-central. I’m typing away on an iPad from my bedroom where my kids, Cal (6) and Maggie (8), have been quarantined and are eating popsicles and watching videos. I’m on duty because my wife doesn’t do body fluids…if she’s forced to she is prone to adding to them.

Up until last night we have been stomach flu-free. All that changed so quickly. And now here we are hoping we’ve stemmed the tide before we have an all out epidemic.

No Cake Walk

That’s just part and parcel of being a dad. It’s always something. Last week it was another something. I ‘caught’ one of my children…or better yet God placed me in his path so he would get caught.

We both knew right away that this was going to be a big deal. He tried to deny it, but I knew he was guilty and so we didn’t give him much room to dig any deeper. It wasn’t one of those things where you can just yell and chastise…it demanded more involvement than that. It required me to talk, probe, understand, and pray. My wife was indispensible and deeply involved as well.

It wasn’t very fun, but we made it through and I find myself so thankful it happened and was uncovered. Still, I hate those times. I would much rather smile though parenting, pop in a video, eat pizza, and have good memories. But that’s not the way fathering works.

Sometimes it’s not much fun…like when you’re emptying another trash can full of puke at 3:30 in the morning. But that’s what being a dad is all about. It’s hard, stinky, messy, and terrible. But our children need us as much when they’re heaving up…stuff, as when they’re caught in sin. It’s why God gave them to us. And in a way…I like it. I like being a dad.

You should too, my fellow father, because you’re doing something big!

You da dad,



Five Nuggets From a Dad of Seven

Carolyn and I have been married for 23 years. We have four biological children and are fostering to adopt three more. God has been very gracious to us over the years, and we are so thankful for the men and women that our biological children are becoming. Each of them has a relationship with Jesus Christ, and all four have been great students and citizens. We probably would have been smart to quit while we were ahead, but we have always felt a desire to adopt.

We explored foreign adoption, but found it cost prohibitive, and the agency we were working with didn’t like my answer to, “Why do you want to adopt?” I thought I had a good response: “Because we feel we can provide a good home for a child in need.” WRONG! Evidently, I was supposed to say, “Because we want more children.” Honestly, we already had four young children, and my heart was more “willing” than “desiring.” We also fostered three children 11 years ago until we found them a permanent home. In the process, we learned some valuable lessons that have prepared us for the foster and adoption process we’re in today.


Here are five nuggets that I’ve discovered:

Avoid “Alpha Dog Syndrome

Whether fostering or adopting, I have found that it is wise for the children to be younger than your biological children to avoid the “Alpha Dog Syndrome.” When you have a pack of children, much like when you have a pack of dogs, there will be a fight for supremacy. If the children you are fostering or adopting are the same age as or older than your biological children, there will be ongoing and unexpected challenges to establish control of the pack. These challenges disrupt the overall family dynamics and can contribute to an unhealthy living environment.

They all come with baggage

Even young children, like the boys we are fostering, come with baggage. They have experienced abuse and abandonment like most of us have never known, and it has affected them. They are incredibly sweet and loving one moment, and the next are on a destructive tear—ripping up books, writing on carpet, squirting diaper rash cream everywhere, even stabbing their siblings with pencils. Don’t be fooled by their sweet little faces. Evil is real, and its effects are insidious.

They may be small, but they are determined

Even if you outweigh them by 200 pounds, their will can be stronger than yours. This isn’t limited to foster or adoptive children, but I have been reminded of this lately with our 3½-year-old. For some reason, he doesn’t like to go to sleep at night. We rock him, read to him, rub his back, pray over him, and lay with him until he appears to be asleep, but the moment we get up to leave the room, his eyelids spring open, his vocal cords engage, and his body goes in motion. Before you know it, he is out of bed, exploring new ways to defy you and disrupting the sleeping patterns of his siblings and, of course, his parents. At times like these, you regret ever praying for patience, because God has just enlisted you in the patience boot camp.

Bribery works

While we would never tolerate bribery in business and government, we succumb to it when it comes to influencing the behavior of our children. We may refer to it as an “incentive” rather than bribery, but the bottom line is that a Skittle or M&M is more appealing to a child at times than pleasing his parent. We must walk a fine line here, but, in the end, giving a child a piece of candy to behave in the car or go poo-poo on the potty is a price I’m willing to pay.

Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8)

We all fall short as parents, but telling your children you love them and demonstrating your love to them daily will compensate for those momentary failures. Children need to know they are loved, not because of what they do, but simply because of who they are and whose they are. Creating a loving environment for your children will help produce the godly attributes you desire in the end.

Raising children, especially foster or adoptive children, can be like mining for gold. It involves long, tiresome days, understanding the lay of the land, and digging deep to uncover some small, glimmering nugget, but the reward of one redeemed child is priceless.

Obedience Vs. Relationship

raising boys

We’re a hockey family. And a school yard-style, neighborhood version of the Stanley Cup happens in front of my house on a daily basis.  The other day my middle son came storming into the house, whimpering, sniffling, and plopping on the sofa with a huffin’ and puffin’ sound. He was MAD. Someone had done something to him he thought was not right and he was ready to explode.

I used to handle this several different ways…none of them really having any fruitful, meaningful, or lasting effect. Yelling, ignoring, playing judge & jury, overprotecting, or punishing everyone involved were epic fails.


I’ve learned that my reaction will do far more in setting the tone of what will follow than simply trying to get my son to behave in the way I want him to behave.  It’s taken many years, but here are a few things I’ve learned:

Learn to ASK  questions rather than make STATEMENTS—We parents are really good at “telling” our kids what we want them to do, how we want them to behave, and how we think they should react in conflict situations. But where’s the learning in that method for the child himself? When we ask questions, we are giving our children freedom to think, process, and consider the situation. By allowing them to have some of the control in the situation, we open the opportunity for them to  develop self-control. A more important reason is that when we ask questions we are bestowing respect to our children. We are connecting with their hearts. Our engagement with them says, “You have value, you matter, you are unique, and I’m interested in hearing what you have to say.” Above all else, we want them to consider the ramifications of their choices. Think about it: if we never allow our children the freedom to make some choices and then guide them through the consequences of those choices, why should we be shocked or disappointed when they’re older and they turn belligerent, rebellious, or incompetent in correct Biblical thinking?

As far as questions go…

Get in the habit of asking your child, “How does that make you feel?” It’s taken me a long time to discover the power in this question. We make choices based on how we’re feeling . Our feelings  and emotions come from what we’re thinking and believing. If I can understand how you’re feeling I have insight into what you’re thinking. Therefore, if you’re believing a lie it will affect your emotions, which will result in unhealthy behavior. Most parents begin with trying to correct or control behavior. This method might work sometimes, but it doesn’t address the heart of the matter. Right living (behavior) is a result of right thinking (beliefs). The Enemy seeks to attack us in our thinking. It is in our mind where the battle rages (Romans 12:2). As parents, our job is to nurture our children in right believing. Notice I said “nurture”, not order, control, manipulate, or punish them into obedience. I should know- I’ve ventured down these paths many times to no avail.

What about you? What’s your M.O.? Have you, like me, had occasions where you’ve gotten what you wanted from your child—obedience–but felt no heart connection? What is gained when we win the individual “battles” but lose the war? Next time your child finds himself in conflict ask the Holy Spirit to give you insight to ask and listen; to focus on how they’re feeling, not necessarily how they’re behaving; and to guide them through the choices and consequences that are available to them. Remember the goal–heart connection!

Chad Smith