Have you ever heard a dad describe his role in the home as “king of the castle?” I’m not sure if the phrase is quite as popular now as it was a decade ago, but I still hear it from time-to-time. Though I doubt that everyone would be on board with comparing the modern day home to an archaic style of leadership, I do believe that comparing our role as fathers to running a kingdom does have some merit. So, that’s what I want to focus on today. I want to answer the question, “How are we, as dads, like a king running a kingdom?” I did a little research on the role and responsibilities of a king during medieval times. I don’t claim to be an expert now, but it did stir up some thoughts I believe are worth sharing. So, with an introduction to our topic of discussion for the day out of the way, here is what I observed.
To begin, let me share a little about the medieval times and why I leaned toward this time period rather than another. The medieval times, also referred to as the Middle Ages, is commonly understood to have started after the fall of Rome and lasted until the beginning of the Renaissance period. Since there is some complexity as to when the Renaissance period is understood to have begun, let’s say that the Middle Ages were between 700-1000 years in length. I chose this period because, when many men think of a king sitting on his throne in the royal court of a massive castle, it is during this time period that they are likely thinking of. More accurately, they are probably thinking of a king during the last half of this time period. I promise I will try not to geek out on the topic much more than this, for the sake of appealing to a more general audience, but it won’t be completely unavoidable.
The first thought that came out to me during my research was the oath made by some of the kings during the time period. The oath was called “tria praecepta” (three precepts). During his coronation, the king would agree to uphold these three core responsibilities: to preserve the peace, to prevent wrongdoing, and to rule with justice and mercy. I believe that we, fathers, would be wise to live with this same code of conduct.
As fathers, we lead the household by maintaining peace in the home. We do so through modeling peace with our own actions/words and through teaching our children how to make peace with each other. We also lead through disciplining our children when they break the rules or cause harm to another. Having clear rules for the household that are consistently upheld is crucial to preventing wrongdoing. If a child, or parent for that matter, doesn’t understand the rules and how they should be followed, it is unlikely that the child will follow them successfully. Finally, a father, like a king, must be willing to view the day-to-day decisions he makes through the lens of both justice and mercy. Practically speaking, he must have a firm stance on following the “laws of the kingdom” (rules for the home) while also taking into account the needs of those that he is serving. Here’s an example- you are responding to a child that has acted out of character him or her. We, as a merciful and just “king” might ask ourselves, “Why is he/she acting differently this time? What does he/she need from me before I work on righting the wrong that was done?” To be a good king, we need to be intentional, selfless and insightful. If we are going to provide justice and mercy, we need to be able to look beyond ourselves and understand the needs of others.
One of the roles that a king would have during the Middle Ages was to be a protector over the people he ruled. During this time period, it was very common for other groups of people to raid an area, desiring the goods and land of the people settled there. A king would give land to lords, buying their loyalty, and the lords would lend out this land to serfs to work it and bring a yield from it. When war time came, the king would go out and lead the army of lords and militia to fight off the threat to the land. In the current times, we don’t have to worry about enemy invaders seeking to sweep the land and possessions of our family from under our feet. However, protection is something that we are still responsible for as a leader of the home. We protect our family from home invasion, child predators, safety hazards, and from the negativity of others. As a father, I understand that there are threats in the home and outside of the home that I need to protect my family from. At times, I must even protect them from my own self-centeredness and harshness.
Another role that a king had was to be a face for the kingdom. His wealth represented the prosperity of the kingdom; his rule was a reflection of the quality of the people to neighboring territories. If a king was weak, the kingdom was vulnerable. If the king was a tyrant, then others might fear him, but they also might not respect him (or those that he governed over). When we leave the home, we are a reflection of our family. I remember many times growing up hearing other men tell me that my father was a “good man” and someone that they respected. There were times when I would have to turn down free meals at a restaurant, because the owner knew my dad and wanted to show appreciation for what my dad had done. I can’t tell you how much pride that made me feel as a son. My father honored our family by the way that he acted when he worked and when he interacted with the community. I want people to say the same to my girls when they get older. I want them to know that their father represented our kingdom well.
The last thought that I had when reflecting on my reading was on the relationship between the king and the laws that governed the people. Contrary to what movies and books might leave us to believe, a king was responsible to follow the rules that were set in place, just as his subjects were to follow them. A good king lead his people by example, as should we. A few days ago, my daughter popped in to see me eating on our “new” couch. A few months before, I had told the children that we were not to eat on this couch, as this had led to the old one becoming damaged. My daughter, rightfully questioned why I was not following my own rules. I had failed to be a good example to my children. I jumped back into gear by saying, “you’re right” and finished my food where I was supposed to. When we don’t follow our own rules, we run the risk of sending confusing messages to our family, which in turn can often lead to bitterness. If you ever wonder what it might have looked like when a embittered people got fed up with a poor example of a king, just Google, “The French Revolution.” To paint a quick picture, they took the idiom, “heads are gonna roll,” very much to heart. We need to make sure, as leaders, that we are not abusing our power by holding double-standards.
These were some of the thoughts that stuck out to me during my reading over the roles and responsibilities of a king. I hope that this fresh approach to fatherhood met you well. If you have any questions, concerns regarding the topic, or you just want to say “hi,” feel free to leave a comment. I appreciate any feedback that I receive (it lets me know that the posts are getting some attention). I want to leave you with two questions for discussion in the comments, should you want to personalize this topic: What are some examples of good or poor leadership that you have seen growing up? Also, how does this affect the way that you want to be a leader in your own home? Thanks for tuning in, catch you next time!