How I Came to Understand My Parents

Written By Lim Chien Chong

Chien Chong joined Singapore Youth For Christ (SYFC) full-time in 1998 after a six-year teaching career in a local junior college. In 2005, he became SYFC’s National Director. Since Jan 2021, he has taken the role of the Teaching & Resource Director. He currently serves in the pulpit, Bible class and children ministry in church, and also preaches, trains, and teaches in different churches and youth groups in Singapore. He has been married for 19 years and has two teenage boys.

“It’s just not fair!”

“Why am I always compared with someone else? I’m different!”

As a boy growing into my teenage years, I never liked to be compared with others, and found myself making these remarks to my parents quite frequently. Back then, there were many times when I thought I was being placed at an unfair disadvantage, and constantly felt the need to measure up to the standards my parents had set for me.

When my elder brother and I were younger (and probably even now), I was the rougher and louder of the two. I did not understand why I always got toys that came apart more easily, why I was always the dirtier and messier one, and why I was often the subject of much nagging and scolding from my mother. It seemed like my parents were indirectly telling me to be more like my brother.

To add insult to injury, I was always the recipient of “hand-me-downs” from my brother. He always got to wear brand-new clothes while I had to wear his old clothes. To be fair to my parents, they did buy me things that I needed. But somehow, I remember less of what they bought me, and more of what they did not get for me.

The irony of it all was that while I kept telling my parents to stop comparing me with others, I was subconsciously comparing myself with my brother, and my parents with my friends’ parents.

Have you experienced this too?

When the tables turned

Today, I am a father of two boys. As you can imagine, I have been given a taste of my own medicine. Every time one of my boys goes, “Daddy, it’s not fair!” it feels like retribution. Over the years, God has constantly taught me in many interesting ways that He is a just and fair God.

But the good thing is, I understand perfectly well how my children feel—because it is exactly how I felt when I was at their age. Now, I find myself trying my best to remind them (even before they complain about unfairness) about what my wife and I have done and are continuing to do for them. Thankfully, they look like they understand what I’m saying, although I can’t say the same for myself when I was at their age.

And while I’ve seen the wisdom in the common advice—do a role reversal so that we can better understand things from the other person’s perspective and be more appreciative of others—I have generally found that difficult to apply and rather subjective.

A working ‘formula’

Thankfully, God does have a golden rule for family life and how parents and children ought to relate to each other.

Ephesians 6:1-4 teaches children to “obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise—so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth”.

It also teaches parents (especially fathers) to “not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord”. In a parallel passage, Colossians 3:21, Paul further reminds parents to “provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged”.

As a Christian father, I try my best to please God. I’ve also come to learn that children can help us fathers to be more encouraging and nurturing. How this pans out for each family will differ.

In my family, I do appreciate good feedback from my children, especially when it is given with much love, sensitivity, respect and concern for me as their father and a fellow brother in Christ at the same time. This may sound a little strange, but that’s exactly how our relationships are described in the bible. Similarly, if my sons welcome feedback from me on how they can obey and honour me, I will gladly tell them how to (of course, as sensitively as possible).

Like in all families, however, our interactions and dynamics are complex. We do not always listen as attentively and speak as sensitively and respectfully as we should. Even when we try, we may still end up using words which offend the other party. Whether we recognize it or not, we desperately need the help of the Lord.

In any case, I have to pray for wisdom to be as nurturing and encouraging a father as possible, whether my children are supportive or not—and that, despite all the failures my boys may see in me, God will help them obey and honour their parents.

Today, I thank God for the opportunity to learn lessons on what it means to be a godly father. I am also grateful that I still have the opportunity to learn and live out what it means to be a godly son to my ageing parents. I realize that I need as much growing up to do as my boys.

The heart of Trinity

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (John 15:9-10)

It is evident that Jesus came because of His obedience to God, the Father. He is also the object of His Father’s love. With that understanding, playing my role well as a son to my father and father to my sons has a much deeper significance. My motivation is much greater than just trying to make my family work.

When I seek to be the father and son that God would like me to be, I am living out the principles that exist within the Triune Godhead. In addition, I catch a glimpse of the relationship that Jesus has with God, the Father.


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