Harry Chapin was an American singer and songwriter. He was best known for his song, Cats in the Cradle. It was his only song that topped the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1974. The song became so popular because of its deep meaning and relevance to the society. Frankly, it is as relevant today as it was in 1974.
Maybe, some of you know the song. It actually has a catchy tune. The song is about a father who did not have enough time for his son. It was a song that portrayed how a father made the wrong priorities in life and made his career more important than his family.
Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin, 1974
Here’s the lyrics of Harry Chapin’s Cats in the Cradle. You can find a YouTube video of it here.
My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say “I’m gonna be like you dad
You know I’m gonna be like you”
And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home dad? I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then
My son turned ten just the other day
He said, “Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let’s play
Can you teach me to throw”, I said “Not today I got a lot to do”, he said, “That’s ok”
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said, “I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m gonna be like him”
Well, he came home from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
“Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while?”
He shook his head and said with a smile
“What I’d really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please?”
I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind”
He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job’s a hassle and kids have the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you”
And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me
The sad state of dads today
Today, fathers are getting ridiculed by popular media. We see so many TV shows nowadays that regularly portrays dads as irresponsible dudes, drunkards, adulterers, and wife- and child- beaters. We live in a world where women want to dominate, where women are forced to rule because of men’s lack of leadership.
Even in schools, girls academically perform better than boys. Boys are being discouraged to be boys. There’s even a term lately that I have read: “war on boys.”
Look at this statistics. 3 out of 10 children belong to a single parent. 9 out of 10 single parents are mothers.
One can’t help but ask, “Where are now the godly-principled men of our society?” Day by day, it’s getting harder and harder to find these men in our homes, communities, government, and the world as a whole.
Husbands love your wives
I read a quote about marriage, and it goes like this: “The best thing that a father can do for his children is to love his wife.” I believe, there is a lot of truth in that statement. If a father loves his wife, he will also naturally love his children.
Ephesians 5:25-29 tells us:
“Husbands, LOVE YOUR WIVES, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”
The Apostle Paul made it clear that wives should submit to their husbands. But, this does not mean that husbands can rule over them in any way they want. That’s why Paul urged the men to love their wives in the same manner that Jesus loves the Church. This is no any ordinary love, but it sets a standard on how we must love our wives.
This brings us to another point. Paul was telling us we need to pattern our fatherhood on how God the Father and Jesus Christ love the Church. We need to be a father and a husband in such a way that our children can see what God the Father and Jesus Christ like. We need to reflect what God is.
Jesus Christ gave up is His life for the Church. In the same way, husbands must be willing to make the necessary sacrifices just to fulfill his duty to his family even if it means death. Christ died to save the Church. In the same way, husbands should help their wife gain salvation.
Only then, your kids will see the level of your love to your wife. They will learn from your action. They will learn how you properly treat women. When they finally have their family, they will remember how to foster a harmonious, nurturing, and loving family based on your actions.
Train your children
The Apostle Paul did not stop on how we must treat our wife. He also gave instructions on how we must train our children. Ephesians 6:4 tells us:
“And, ye fathers, provoke NOT your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
This verse is straightforward. It speaks to the fathers because they are the leader and head of the family. Among the family members, the fathers are usually the strongest, and they have the natural authority over others.
Paul went on to say that you must not provoke your children to wrath. What does this mean? It means that you must not do anything that may eventually lead to your child’s harm. A child who grew up with constant criticism, condemnation, and disapproval will surely live in wrath. Punishing a child without cause or hearing them will make them susceptible to self-pity. Another way to provoke your children to wrath is letting and tolerating them break God’s commandments.
So instead of provoking them to wrath, what must you do? Paul said that bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Bringing them up means helping them to learn God’s way of life and teaching them how to live a life pleasing to God.
Paul said that fathers must train their children. Training is not a one-time action. It is a consistent reinforcement and teaching of good values to your kids. It does not mean that if you have done it once, your job is already done. It is not a one-time deal. Nourishing our children means that they should be loved and cared for every single day.
As a matter of fact, your duty as a father is a lifetime responsibility.
In addition to training, you need to admonish your children, meaning to put into mind the teachings of God. Actions start in the mind and planting the seed of God in the heart and mind of your children will make it easier for them to remember how to follow God’s commandments.
Your primary goal in training and admonishing your child is not just to prepare them for this life, but also to prepare them for the Kingdom of God. Remember that God entrusted these human beings into your hands. You are not just raising children, but you are raising future leaders, kings, and priests of God.
Colossians 3:21 added:
“Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.”
What is the best way for you to provoke your children and get them discouraged? It is by continually finding fault in them. If you always find fault, never satisfied, always complain, and criticize, you will eventually break the spirit of your child. On the other hand, you can also go to the other extreme end where you flatter them with unrealistic words, making them vain and proud.
Instead of discouragement, you need to fill your child with hope and confidence. That’s the opposite of discouragement.
You give them hope and confidence, but hope and confidence in what? Is Paul telling us that I want your children to be freed of discouragement by filling them with hope in wealth, hope in this world? Hope in their future career, academic achievements, and success in life? Of course not. Paul is telling us that parents should fill their children with genuine hope and confidence that can only be found in God.
A righteous father will ponder: How can I be like my own heavenly Father?
In conclusion, as fathers, our main goal is to raise godly children, and we can’t do that if we don’t put in the hours and effort. We can’t do it by simply focusing on our work and forgetting about our fatherly responsibility to our children. And we can’t do it absolutely by ourselves either. We need the help of God.
Before we can know what to teach our children, we must first know how to be like God the Father. There are different principles to remember for child-rearing. However, the best strategy we can have in child-rearing is to be converted ourselves, to become a new man in Christ. Only then, we can be more efficient in raising our children to be future kings and priests in the kingdom of God.
Here’s an Amazon book that is related to the parenting topic. The title is, “Shepherding a Child’s Heart.” It has attained 4.4 out of 5 stars from its almost 800 reviewers.
Shepherding a Child’s Heart is about how to speak to the heart of your child. The things your child does and says flow from the heart. Luke 6:45 puts it this way: “…out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” Written for parents with children of any age, this insightful book provides perspectives and procedures for shepherding your child’s heart into the paths of life.
In this revised edition of Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Dr. Tedd Tripp not only draws on his thirty years experience as a pastor, counselor, school administrator, and father, but he also shares insights gained in many years of teaching this material in conferences worldwide, providing more valuable help for parents (Get your copy here).