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FIRST-PERSON: 4 mistakes I made as a father

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- Anyone who knows me understands. Anyone who has heard me speak understands. And most who have read my books understand. They all know how much I love my three sons and how proud I am of each of them.

Indeed, I often go overboard with the stories and sometimes sappy sentiment I express about Sam, Art and Jess.

On more than one occasion, I have received accolades about my parenting. People have told me that I've done such a great job as a dad. I confess that I often swell with pride at the compliments.

I am now a grandfather of three boys and a girl. And in this second half of life, I sometimes review those days when my boys were at home. I miss them greatly. And I do have regrets.

You see, I have made many mistakes as a father. I have failed more times than I am comfortable admitting. Allow me, with a great deal of discomfort, to share some of the mistakes I have made as a father.

Several years ago, I told my wife, Nellie Jo, that I was thinking about writing a book about mistakes I've made in ministry. She suggested to me that it would have to be a multi-volume series. The same would be true if I wrote a book about mistakes I made as a father.

For the sake of brevity, and perhaps because I do not enjoy self-inflicted pain, I'll limit the list of mistakes to four. My recollection of these times was painful in itself.

-- Mistake No. 1: I stopped studying the Bible with my sons when they became teenagers. I was consistent with prayer and Bible time with the three boys while they were young. I really don't have a good reason to explain my dereliction of Bible study with them after they reached their teen years. I missed some of the most formative years of their lives by abandoning that opportunity and responsibility.


-- Mistake No. 2: I sometimes disciplined my sons when I lost my temper. I therefore punished them as a result of my anger rather than correcting them in a godly manner.

-- Mistake No. 3: I often majored on minors. Too often I was more concerned about the boys taking time to clean their rooms rather than spending time with me or doing something of greater value. I was fastidious about their bedtimes when I should have had flexibility if they just wanted to talk to their dad.

-- Mistake No. 4: I didn't always give my boys focused time. I remember the time I was working on a book while Art was playing baseball. I was physically present in the stands at the ballpark, but my mind was on other matters. My wife told me that Art was at bat, but I continued to write. I missed his triple that drove in the two winning runs. I will never forget the disappointment on his face when he asked if I saw his triple. I couldn't lie to him. I hurt my son greatly that day.

I am not having a pity party nor do I enjoy recalling my failures as a father. And I am not writing out of a sense of false modesty.

My purpose in sharing a few of the many mistakes I made as a dad is to, by the grace of God, reach out to parents today. I want you who still have your children at home to cherish those days as an incredible gift. I pray that you will make the most of every moment with them. And though it's cliché to say, the time is really going so very fast.


I was so very far from being a perfect father. May God take my mistakes and use them for good in others' lives.

Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources. This column first appeared at

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