Dictator or Servant-Leader? – Part 2

We are continuing this month with the topic of Dad the Dictator versus Dad the Servant Leader. If you haven’t read Part One, I would encourage you to read it before proceeding.

Here is the e-mail that began this discussion:

”You mention in a previous Corner that you think ‘many dads are dictators and are only thinking about themselves.’ You also rightly point out in other Corners that fathers are heads of their families and should make family policies for the good of the family.

“What are the differences between a dad who is a ‘dictator’ and one who is fulfilling his duties as spiritual leader and protector? This is an area in which I sometimes struggle as I try to lead and protect my wife and young daughter. I do not want to be legalistic or frustrate my wife, but I do want to keep ungodly influences out of our lives and our home as much as possible. My wife and I do not always agree about what or who may be a bad influence, although we are both fairly conservative Christians.

“How does a dad find the proper balance between honoring his wife, seeking her input on decisions, and being the leader without becoming a dictator?” A Dad’s Corner Reader

Now what sort of a portrait does Scripture paint of Dad, the Servant Leader? First, Dad is a servant of the family. “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21). “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). Will Dad work alongside his family as they wash the dinner dishes, clean house, or work in the yard? How does he do at changing dirty diapers, giving a child a bath, or putting the children to bed? If Mom is tired in the evening, would he tell her to rest while he takes over the household responsibilities? We all have certain strengths, and some jobs are better performed by Dad or Mom, but the Servant Leader doesn’t consider any job to be “beneath” him. Are you willing to do any job that needs to be performed?

I know of a company that had a policy that before a person could be hired into an executive position, he had to spend a year out in the factory, working from the bottom up. They were surprised to find that many whom they thought had management potential ended up quitting because they could not handle menial labor. Those who persevered were great leaders because they knew how to serve and understood what others did on a daily basis.

Dad is the leader and God-appointed head of the family. “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body” (Ephesians 5:23). The Servant Leader’s attitude is, “It isn’t my way or her way but rather the Lord’s way.” However, someone has to make the final decision. The Servant Leader is keenly aware of the weight of the necessity that his decision be the Lord’s direction. In a way, it is as if he were speaking for the Lord, because he is representing to the family that this is the Lord’s will in a matter.

There is a reason that commercial airliners have only one captain. One person always must have the final decision-making power because he bears the responsibility for those decisions. Can you imagine what might happen on final approach during an emergency, if the captain and co-pilot got into an argument as to whether to land or go around? That is why God gave the job of the final decision to only one of the family members. This doesn’t mean that any one is greater or lesser than another. They simply have different roles.

Just like a seasoned ox team, there is always one who takes the lead. He is the one who must be especially attentive to the teamster. Dad is the one who gently the leads the way, and he desires to follow the Lord’s will, not his own selfish will.

In a practical sense, let me give you an example from our family. When the decision was made to take Nathan and Christopher out of team sports, Teri wasn’t in favor of it. I felt strongly the Lord’s leading that sports were interfering with our ability to have nightly Bible time and to guard our children’s hearts. Teri and I had several discussions on this subject, and she shared her concerns with me. Then I made the decision. Since my decision was not the decision Teri would have made, I was very careful to be gentle in my communication with her. I told her that I strongly believed the Lord was directing us to remove the boys from baseball. I discussed it with her at length, and then took each boy out individually for a milkshake so I could tell him about my decision privately. The boys agreed to quit sports, and soon after the decision was made, Teri gave her wholehearted endorsement as well.

This example also illustrates another trait of the Servant Father. He communicates with his family—frequently, openly, gently, and lovingly. It will help if Dad will share with the family why decisions are made. We communicate with those we value, and how much we are willing to communicate with our family is an indication of how much worth they have to us.

Companies that truly value their employees communicate new policies carefully. They want the employees to understand why the policy is in the best interest of the company and those working there. When they don’t communicate, it is fertile ground for suspicion and distrust to develop. As Servant Dads, may we sit down with our families and have frequent heart-to-heart conversations with them about the direction the family is headed and why.

The Servant Leader’s time is the Lord’s time. Therefore his priorities will reflect the Lord’s priorities for the family. First and foremost that means that the Servant Leader will lead his family in Bible time every day. He knows that to raise his children in the nurture and admonition (Ephesians 6:4) of the Lord they need to be fed the Word of God multiple times a day. He will be encouraging his family to have their personal Bible time every morning and be an example by having his.

The Servant Leader makes decisions for the good of the family in accordance with his best understanding of how the Lord Jesus is leading. He is willing to always do what is best for the family, regardless of what is popular, within or without the family.

Ephesians 5:23 says that Dad is the savior of the body. The word “saviour” in the Greek means: savior, deliverer, protector. The Servant Leader is always protecting his family. In fact, he will risk himself for the sake of his family. That is the opposite of the dictator, who wants everyone to protect him and make his life easier. So if a decision causes extended family members to be unhappy, Dad is the one who takes the “arrows.” He gently informs others that he is doing his best to follow the direction the Lord Jesus has indicated He wants the family to go.

The Servant Leader asks and considers his wife’s counsel. “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21). If you cherish your wife and value her opinion through normal day-to-day life, when you find yourself in a situation where you must make a decision contrary to her preference, I believe it will be easier for her to accept. Strive to be a team and blend her strengths with your strengths. A wife will have great insight into the needs of the family and a host of other areas. God has gifted women incredibly, and we tie one hand behind our backs when we don’t seek and value their counsel.

It is critically important for the Servant Dad to learn to take a wife’s counsel to the Lord. However, I have often observed dads who are the opposite of the dictator by letting their wife make all the decisions regarding home and family. God rebuked Adam for obeying Eve. “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life” (Genesis 3:17). The Servant Dad is neither a dictator nor does he abdicate his God-given leadership responsibilities.

Every dad has a choice to make. Will he represent the Lord Jesus to his family by the example of being a Servant Leader? Regardless of mistakes made in the past, each of us has a decision to make going forward. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).


Holly Homemaker – Part 4

This month we delve once again into a comment that was left on our blog in response to a blog post. We didn’t approve the comment on the blog, but we saved it so that we could address the concerns that it was raising. If you’d like to read the previous articles in this series, please do so. Here is the blog post and the comment that is the basis for this series of articles.

5 Year Old’s Enthusiasm


From a recent e-mail: “I wanted to send this sweet picture of our oldest, Audrey, wearing her ChorePack the first week and getting ready to unload the dishwasher. She RAVED about how she loved the chore pack because it reminded her of everything she needed to do in the morning instead of her forgetting things that needed to get done. We’ve loved the system so far! Thank you for creating it.”

“Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men” (Proverbs 22:29).

Now, for the comment:

“That poor little girl. She’s happy because she’s pleasing mommy—like all children do. She should be out playing with friends, playing dress up or let’s pretend, MAYBE a few small chores here and there—but CHOREPACKS? You people are going to kill that child’s spirit before she’s 7. God forbid she wants to be anything other than Holly Homemaker—do they have ChorePacks for future lawyers? Or Astronauts? I hope that she grows up to realize that she’s worth more than just an unpaid scullery maid/nanny.”

I have addressed the benefits that I have found in my life of being a Holly Homemaker and how we would like our daughters to choose to be Holly Homemakers when they are married. Last month we started evaluating the part of the comment where the author indicates that she/he doesn’t think a child should have more than a “few small chores here and there.” Obviously a five-year-old unloading a dishwasher is beyond the chore criteria that the blog commenter would feel is reasonable. In the previous article, we observed that in real adult life everyone will have daily, household responsibilities. Learning to do chores as children simply prepares our children to handle those tasks as adults and to have positive attitudes toward them.

One mom wrote to me and listed the chores her children are doing and why it is critical to her that her children learn to work. Here is what she said.

“Today, my four-year-old washed the breakfast dishes and loved it. My six-year-old also does dishes, some sweeping, and setting/clearing the table. Between them my ten and nine-year-old sons sweep the kitchen, keep the house vacuumed (except for the master bedroom and basement), do the garbage and recycling duties, clean the garage, do other yard work as asked, clean the bathroom sinks and toilets daily, take care of the dinner dishes most nights, and sometimes cook a simple meal here and there.

“Recently a neighbor asked if the two older ones would be interested in helping her clean the stables of her little horse farm. She’s getting older and is unmarried. They were very enthusiastic even when they had no expectation of reward. I doubt that if it weren’t for the chores they have to do at home that they would be very eager to perform what they know will be reasonably demanding labor. “Our ‘chore life’ is not perfect, but it’s a long way from what I grew up with. I can remember moaning and fretting about small tasks until my mom gave up, and in the end, I don’t think I had any household responsibilities by the time I finished high school!!

“Anyway—all this to say: CHORES ROCK!” Mom I

When I e-mailed to ask permission to use Mom I’s testimony about chores from her childhood and chores for her children, she sent me a bit more of the story. This is what she said.

“After I emailed, I was thinking also about how my mom said when I was in my early teens that I should make a meal once a week. I just sort of ignored that, and nothing happened. Some time later my mom suggested maybe I should make a meal once a month. I didn’t pursue that either and eventually the whole matter was dropped. At the time I was thrilled. So of course when I eventually needed to make meals, I was quite lost, and still had the sense that this was ‘not my job.’ Perhaps that’s some good coming out of the fact that my mom didn’t persevere in having me do chores—it made me realize that it’s important to me that my children learn how to work! :)” Mom I

From Mom I, we have the perspective of growing up in a home where the children were given no chore responsibility. However, coming to her adult years and motherhood role, Mom I was not prepared. From this experience, she is choosing to raise her children in a different manner by teaching them how to work at home. From that decision, she is already experiencing children who can contribute a substantial amount of help to the household chores, and they are also being sought after for their diligence and skills by others even though the children are only nine and ten. In addition, these nine and ten-year-olds are excited about working to help the neighbor even though they aren’t expecting to be paid. “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). Don’t you think that those are children who have the potential to be whatever the Lord Jesus calls them to be in their adult lives?

This is another testimonial that was sent to me after the first Holly Homemaker article where the mom was raised in a home without being taught how to work. She shares the results of that kind of childhood and what she thinks about a five-year-old who is learning to do chores. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise” (Proverbs 6:6).

“I want to thank you for your ministry. I have several of your books and the scheduling has refined what I was already doing immensely. I also have the Chore book and the online ChoreWare program which has helped me tremendously. It has helped me not just with the kids’ chores but with my own housekeeping and getting organized. Which leads me to this month’s Mom’s Corner.

“I was raised by a single, working mom. She was too tired at the end of the day to care about the house, dinner, or even me. I was an only child. When I was asked to help out around the house, which was rare, I was defiant and lazy. When I got married and then had children, I found that I had to learn EVERYTHING on my own about how to clean and maintain a home. It has been hard.

“This five-year-old girl that you used as an example—what a blessing for her to be taught the basic things any person (man or woman) will need to know in her grown up years to maintain a home and feed herself and her family. In her childhood, she will become so engrained in dishwashing and laundry and mopping floors and staying on task, that she will be free in her grown up years to pursue other interests or even schooling and a career if she should choose without losing her school papers because she never learned to be organized, without eating fast food hamburgers because she never learned to prepare herself healthy meals, and without wearing her clothes for the second or third day in a row because she never learned to keep up with her laundry. Our culture says that children need to be free to play and do what they want to do when they are little, but then complain if they grow up to be lazy and living off welfare.” Mom J

The next testimony comes from the perspective of observing the results in young adult’s lives when they haven’t learned the basics of how to take care of themselves when they are on their own. As I read this testimony, I wondered about how gently a Marine Corps soldier would teach a new recruit how to clean his barracks room versus a mommy working with her little children.

“Today I read the Mom’s Corner for March and have to total agree with Teri about teaching ALL children responsibility. Whether we stay home and are ‘Holly Homemakers,’ love this name, or our daughters and daughters-in-law stay home and are ‘Holly Homemakers,’ all our children need to be taught to clean up after themselves and others plus be a team player. As a Marine Corps wife of eight years, I have seen MANY a young Marine come in and have NO idea how to do any of their cleaning or laundry because Mommy always did it for them. I’ve watched my husband have to in-detail train a nineteen-year-old Marine how to clean his barracks room—a task that our seven-year-old son and three-year-old daughter already know how to do in our home. I pray and hope that the Maxwell Family will continue to encourage families in training their children in simple things like chores and responsibilities and that we moms will continue to raise godly children who know how to clean up after themselves!” Mom K

The final comments I want to share with you have to do with the value of chores in helping children develop a servant’s heart. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17). Mom L wrote after she read the first Holly Homemaker Mom’s Corner and the negative comment about the blog post.

“How sad to think of children trained to self serve. What a giant chain and ball parents are putting on their children when they choose not to teach them to work and serve others. Thank you for ChorePacks and the helps you give to families.” Mom L

“I have enjoyed your articles about ‘Holly Homemaker.’ When I read the negative comment, I thought about my college roommates. These people never felt the need to pick up after themselves, do the dishes or their laundry. Needless to say, our home was a pit, and I was very unhappy. If the mess had been limited to their room, it would have been fine, but it even poured over into our shared space. Many times I waited for them to feel the need to do the dishes, to the point of them stinking up the whole house. It never bothered them. My point is this—everyone learning to do their share is important because someday we are going to live with others—whether it be a college roommate or a spouse. If we can learn to think of others by picking up after ourselves and sharing the load, it is just one less area of potential conflict. I don’t want my children to be the inconsiderate roommate or the person who expects their spouse to pick up their dirty socks off the floor. Chores can teach a lot about life and living at peace with others!” Mom M

As our children learn to work in our homes, we are teaching them how to work throughout their adult years. This life preparation will be transferrable to many areas in their lives. In the process, they will be learning positive attitudes toward work and developing a servant’s heart. Teaching these skills in our homes makes the transition to independent living for our children easier and less stressful because they know what needs to be done and how to do it. In addition, they are not waiting for others to take care of them. May we be mothers committed to giving our children the tools they need to be successful adults, including teaching them how to work.

Read Part 5.