What Was It Like To Grow Up In Your Home? - How to Be a Great Dad

What Was It Like to Grow up in Your Home?

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4, NIV)

If you experienced positive parenting, you might say, “My parents were affirming” or “My parents were encouraging.”

But what if you can’t?

Ephesians 6:4 encourages fathers not to exasperate their children. How do fathers provoke their children to anger?

Here are seven generalized descriptions of negative parenting. Not every description will apply, but as you read, ask yourself, Was this generally the case?

“My Parents Were Passive”

Your parents were under-involved. They simply were not there for you. They were in the home physically, but they were distant and emotionally unavailable. They were not engaged with you. You didn’t regularly hear words of love, affection, and affirmation. You felt like you were on your own and had to fend for yourself, and you assumed this was your fault.

“My Parents Were Absent”

Your parents were not in the picture. Whether by divorce, death, mental illness, or choice, they were physically or emotionally absent. You were not the center of their universe. They were busy. Your mom or dad (or both) pursued money, career, position, prestige, and worldly notoriety. They sacrificed you on the altar of their success. Or they gave in to other addictions. Success addicts and drug addicts often display similar obsessions. Workaholic or alcoholic—there’s not much difference.

“My Parents Were Permissive”

Your parents let you get away with almost anything short of murder. This is “Yes, I love you, and yes, you can have your own way” parenting. Or maybe for you love wasn’t part of the equation—just “You can have your own way.” In either case, you suffered from a lack of structure. You didn’t know the boundaries. You grew up without guardrails.

“My Parents Were Enabling”

Your parents smothered you with attention because (to them) you could do no wrong. They showered you with freedom, things, and the faulty impression that you were the center of the universe. But they didn’t provide enough structure to teach you how to fend for yourself and take personal responsibility. Your parents gave too much and required too little. You never faced accountability because they always rescued you.

“My Parents Were Angry”

Your parents were usually upset about something—or their anger was always lurking just below the surface, ready to erupt. Anger is a normal human emotion. Jesus experienced anger. But one or both of your parents didn’t process their anger well. Even if they encouraged you with verbal and physical affection, their anger stole it back. They could be peevish, petty, and prickly. They easily and regularly lost their temper, but you never knew what triggered them. They were serial overreactors. This made you cower.

“My Parents Were Demanding”

Your parents were overbearing, demanding, and controlling. Their list of rules gave new meaning to the term “strict.” They didn’t have conversations with you; they issued commands. You learned not to ask too many questions, have a different opinion, or speak unless spoken to. You were not allowed to just be a kid—to be yourself. If permissive parents are too lax, demanding parents are legalistic. You felt unusually high demands for conformity and outward obedience.

“My Parents Were Belittling”

While emotional neglect is passive, your parents actively invalidated your emotions with criticism. They teased you, mocked you, and regularly made jokes at your expense. You felt like you were a disappointment—like they were sorry you were born. You didn’t know how to make them happy. When you did something that made them unhappy, they would exhale exaggerated sighs to show their disapproval or even disgust. Everything you did was questioned or called into doubt, and you never felt like you had done enough.

Reflection and Application

  • Describe what it was like to grow up in your childhood home.
  • If you have children, what’s it like for them to be growing up in your home? Are you repeating or breaking the cycle? If you’ve been on the wrong track, don’t despair. Help and hope are available. These devotions can be a good starting point.

From the Book: