This is part of a series about Bible principles for raising children. This article should be studied in context of the whole series of articles. To start at the beginning of the series, please click here: Raising_Godly Children
The relation of parents to children must be characterized by love.
Matthew 22:37-40 - The greatest two commands are to love God and love our neighbor. The basis of any good relationship is love, because love leads us to seek the wellbeing of others. It leads us to do what is best for others (1 Corinthians 13:4,5).
Love is not always easy and pleasant; sometimes parents need "tough love." Let us consider what love leads parents to do and what it leads them to not do.
To have the proper loving family for their children, husband and wife need to start by loving one another.
Matthew 19:9 - Surely love should lead husband and wife to be faithful to their marriage covenant. Neither should want their marriage to end. Children deserve the security of knowing their home will always be there.
Modern hedonistic society defends divorce by saying the children will soon get over it, and they may be better off. Parents think, "I can't make my children happy if I'm not happy, but I'll never be happy in this marriage." But this is selfishness, not love.
Divorce is incredibly traumatic to children, leaving scars for life. What troubled marriages need is not divorce but to learn to get along.
It isn't enough just for parents to stay together; they also need to love and treat one another right.
Titus 2:4,5 - Young women should learn to love their husbands and children. Love for children is associated with love for ones spouse. In fact, you cannot truly do either one without the other.
Ephesians 5:25,28,29,33 - The husband must love his wife as Christ loved the church and as he loves himself. Love her enough to provide for her, cherish her, and care for her as surely as you do yourself.
Notice that these passages teach that love can be learned. Biblical love does not always come naturally. Parents should have a natural affection toward one another and toward their children, but natural attraction itself does not always lead us to do what is best. Biblical love leads us to learn God's will for the family, then it motivates us to do it.
1 Corinthians 7:3-5 - Husband and wife should not deprive one another but give "the affection due" to one another. Context shows this includes especially sexual love, but there is a lot more to affection than that.
Husband and wife need to speak and act affectionately. Intimacy should be kept private, but children should never doubt that their parents love one another.
Do you love your wife/husband? If not, then repent and learn to love (previous point). Did you hug and kiss and hold hands when you were first married? Then what's so hard about it now? If you do love, then say so and show it! Your spouse needs to know it and your children need to know it.
Many children say, "I've never seen my parents hug and kiss." Or, "I've never heard my parents say they love one another." Why not? Would your children say that?
Children need to be raised in an atmosphere of love and good will. A pattern of fussing and fighting between parents leads to insecurity and fear for the children. And often the children will imitate that disruptive behavior in their own families when they marry.
On the other hand, when parents establish a pattern of stating and expressing affection, children have a sense of security and they learn the importance of showing affection in their own families.
The first and most basic aspect of love that any parents need is to learn to love one another. Their love for the children should follow from this.
Colossians 3:21 warns us not to provoke our children to discouragement. This is also part of love. Just as love leads us to do good toward our spouse, it should then lead us to do good for our children.
There is a danger that we might be too lax and not require proper obedience. But there is also a danger that we may continually belittle the child till we make him feel worthless. Consider some specific concerns.
Humor is good, and can be valuable in dealing with children. But humor is only good if everyone enjoys it and no one gets hurt by it. Humor that hurts other people's feelings is poor humor and violates the principle of love.
And remember that children are more sensitive at certain ages than at other ages. Things that may not bother us or other children at all, may yet really hurt a particular child at certain stages.
This especially hurts the child when done in the presence of others and most especially in front of his friends. If a mistake needs correcting, do it in a way that shows the child you still love him.
And don't bring up a child's past mistakes and embarrass him in the presence of others. If the child can genuinely join in the humor, fine. But if you discourage him and make him feel inferior, what good have you accomplished?
Too many parents expect perfection or achievements that are simply beyond the child at his best. Some parents demand things the child can't accomplish till he is older. Others compare him to other children who may simply possess abilities this child lacks. ("Susie got straight 'A's,' why can't you?")
Some parents constantly criticize and complain, but rarely give praise. We should challenge children to do their best. But many abilities just develop later in life than many parents expect. If a child makes a sincere effort but just receives criticism instead of praise, he will become discouraged and quit trying: "What's the use? I'll never please them anyway."
Read Col. 3:21 again.
We should not build our lives around our children or grant their every whim. But neither should we destroy their sense of worth by being indifferent to their feelings.
Do you treat your children in a way that makes them feel they are loved and appreciated?
Children sometimes think that being a parent means you get to do whatever you want. This is a misunderstanding, but could it be that their parents' conduct gave them that idea?
1 Corinthians 13:3 - Love does not seek its own; it is not selfish. Love motivates us to do, not what we want, but what is best for the whole group.
Listen to the child and consider his view as you make decisions that affect the child. This is also a matter of love - doing to others as we would want them to do to us (Matt. 7:12).
One of the surest ways to discourage a child (Col. 3:21) is to act selfishly and unjustly toward him, using our authority unreasonably for our personal pleasure. This does not mean the child should just have his way. That is not good for him or for anyone in the group. There must be rules, and rules must be enforced. But they must be made for the good of all.
Some "authorities" claim that all punishment is inherently unloving. One says that, whenever punishment occurs, parents have forsaken "the positive feelings of love and understanding" (The Complete Book of Mothercraft via Plain Truth about Child Rearing, p. 58). This conclusion is false, but if parents aren't careful it can be true.
Hebrews 12:5-11 - God's chastisement of His people illustrates a father's discipline of his children. God chastens those He loves. This is for our profit and yields good fruit. Properly done, chastening is an act of love that benefits those who receive it.
Proverbs 13:24 - He who spares the rod hates his son. One who loves will chasten (use the rod) when needed. (Cf. Prov. 23:13,14.)
The child needs to learn to act properly and respect authority. This will give him a much better life as an adult. We will discuss spanking and punishment later, but the point here is to remember to punish in love for the child's good.
These involve personal judgment but are generally valid.
Sometimes parents punish simply because they have been inconvenienced or embarrassed by the child. For example, suppose the child interrupts the parent from a pleasant activity or uses a bad word in front of the parent's friends. The child may need to be punished, but are we motivated by concern for the child, or are we acting from selfish reasons?
Not all anger is sinful, nor it is wrong to punish a child in anger. God has often punished people in anger. But anger must be controlled (Eph. 4:26).
Sometimes parents beat a child (or worse) in a fit of rage. Others yell, scream, clench their teeth, and lose control. Such parents are not likely to act for the child's good.
Usually the solution is to punish the child before the parent loses his temper, while he is still in control.
Some parents seem to dominate children just to prove that they are boss, to satisfy their ego, or to impress their friends. Like tyrants or dictators they get a thrill from controlling others.
Parents who use authority in unloving ways are wrong, first because they have disobeyed God's law of love, second because they unnecessarily discourage their children, and third because they are not likely to gain the child's respect and obedience.
When you make rules or punish your child, are you acting in love for your child's good?
Sacrifice and giving of ourselves are essential to Biblical love.
John 3:16 - God gave His Son because He loves us.
Luke 10:25-37 - The good Samaritan illustrated love by giving time, effort, concern, and even money for the wellbeing of another.
1 John 3:16-18 - We imitate the example of Jesus and show our love for others by giving what they need, not just by claiming to have love.
Too many children are unattended ("latch-key children"), roam the neighborhood, or go to day-care or baby-sitters day after day, simply because the parents are busy doing other things. Many misbehave because they are starved for attention and just want the parents to notice them. Other children may seem well behaved, but they never serve God faithfully because their parents never take the time to teach them God's ways.
Some parents are too involved in recreation, entertainment, or social activities to take the time to care, love, and guide their children. Many families rarely play together, work together, worship and pray together, and may not even eat together. We must spend time with children to answer their questions, listen to their problems, and give them guidance and instruction.
Fathers are often too wrapped up in jobs or personal interests. We must provide a livable income (1 Tim. 5:8). But again, the goal is to raise godly children. What does it profit to provide physical necessities and luxuries, if our children do not grow up to serve God faithfully (Matt. 16:26)?
Fathers should make a point to eat meals with the whole family every day. They should take time to play with their children and study with their children and work with their children.
Many fathers realize too late that their priorities were wrong, but by then the children are gone and it is too late to establish a relationship with them. What sacrifices are you making to give your children the time and attention they need?
This is God's plan, and anything less is less than satisfactory. Granted there may be emergency situations where the father is unavoidably unable to provide even basic necessities, and the mother may need to leave the home temporarily to help out. But this is never a good situation and should be changed as soon as possible.
God blesses a woman by giving her a home and making her a joyful mother of children. Motherhood is a cause for joy. Praise God for it! No profession is more valuable, more needed, or more fulfilling. Yes, it is frustrating and tedious at times, but so is man's work.
Young widows should marry, bear children, and guide the house. Woman was created to protect unborn children, give them birth, and then nourish them. This creates a unique bond between her and her child that no one else can ever replace. She is uniquely suited both physically and emotionally for the care of children. When she marries and has children, her work is at home caring for her family.
Many parents have accepted the false arguments of "Women's Liberation." They think children won't suffer if the mother leaves to take a job away from home. Yet often the result is that children spend many hours unattended or at day-care. And then when mother is home, she is too tired or too busy catching up on housework to spend time with the children.
Young women should be taught to love their husbands and children and be "workers at home" (ASV), "homemakers" (NKJV), "keepers at home" (KJV). The mother's work is "at home," and her work is to keep or care for the home (family). Note that love for her family should motivate her to do this work. Her family needs her time and attention, and she thereby fulfills the purpose for her creation. [See also Prov. 31:27; 7:11.]
Many Bible examples show men laboring away from home to provide income for the family: carpenters, shepherds, farmers, physicians, fishermen, etc. But the mother's work is at home caring for the family. There is simply no one who can fully replace her.
Question: How many of the responsibilities in vv 4,5 may a woman hire someone else to take over for her, while she chooses to do something else instead? May she hire someone else to love her husband, be discreet, chaste, or obedient to her husband, while she chooses to do something else? The idea is absurd!
We may pay people to provide secondary assistance by doing some specific task under our supervision (paint a room or provide health care or some specific instruction). But why have many come to believe that a woman may hire other people to take over supervising her household or take over the care of her children hour after hour, day after day, while she chooses to work a secular job? Is that what God intended when He inspired this passage?
Jesus contrasts a hireling to a shepherd who owns the sheep. The owner will give his life for the sheep, because he cares for them. The hireling does not have the same commitment or care and will not make the same sacrifices for the good of the sheep. Note the principle: a hireling will give inferior care and will not make the same sacrifices, because the sheep do not belong to him.
If this principle applies to sheep, how much more so to children who are of much greater value than sheep? To hire other people to raise children in the parents' place puts the children under inferior care. Even if the "hireling" is a Christian, she does not have the natural attachment and sense of care that the children's own mother ought to have. If a woman has properly learned to "love her children," why would she choose to put them under inferior care while she does some other job? How can that be harmonized with love?
Again, there may be emergencies where the father is incapacitated or otherwise unable to provide. But isn't it true that many mothers simply choose to work away from home, while other people take care of their children? Doesn't this often mean that children do not receive the training and instruction they need, many end up having serious moral problems, and many simply never do serve God faithfully? Isn't this a major cause of family problems in our society?
Parents simply must realize that raising children takes much time - quantity time and "quality" time. We must take the time to be with them and teach them. They must know that we are available when they need us and that we are willing to spend time with them. This will require parents to love their children enough to make sacrifices of time and of material prosperity.
Christian families should be affectionate families. This is also something that can and should be learned.
Genesis 33:5 - Jacob stated that God had graciously given him his children. Is this how we feel? Some people obviously don't appreciate their children. They abuse them, desert them, leave them to die, give them away, or murder them before they are even born.
Psalm 127:3-5 - Children are a heritage from the Lord. A man who has his quiver full is a happy man. Yet some act like caring for children is unbearable drudgery. We grumble and complain every time we have to do something for them.
Psalm 128:3,4 - Children around our table are a blessing from God. We need to improve our attitude toward children. Let there be no "unwanted children," not because we have murdered them as pro-abortion advocates suggest, but because we have learned to love and appreciate them (Titus 2:4).
How often do you really thank God for your children? Do you consider them a blessing or a burden? Do you act like you appreciate them?
Deep emotional needs are met for children when their parents say they love them and then show that they really mean it.
Men tend to think it is effeminate to show love. This was another of my mistakes.
My father was not particularly affectionate. His mother died when he was young and he grew up living with other families. The most affection I remember him showing when I was little was "whiskering" me. As a teenager, I did not want to show affection for others.
Karen's family is affectionate. They hug when they greet and say goodbye. Sometimes the women cry. It took a while, but I now know their way is best.
Every person has a fundamental need for security and a sense of belonging and closeness. If this need isn't met in the home, children will seek it elsewhere such as among peers. Boys may join gangs. Girls may become sexually promiscuous to find acceptance from a guy.
Do it often every day! This includes your teenage boys!
* Is our Heavenly Father an example of a good father? He frequently assures us, both by deed and by word, that He loves us.
* Genesis 33:4 - When the brothers Jacob and Esau met after a long separation, they embraced, kissed, and wept.
* Genesis 45:15; 46:29 - After long separation Joseph embraced, kissed, and wept with his brothers and then his father.
* Genesis 48:10 - Jacob kissed and embraced Joseph's sons.
* 1 Kings 19:20 - As a grown man Elisha kissed his father and mother goodbye.
* Luke 15:20 - When the prodigal son returned, his father embraced and kissed him.
* Romans 12:15 - Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Surely that applies in the home.
Are these examples somehow unmanly? Is this "corny"? Is it "mush" as Grumpy says in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? No, it meets a basic need.
The superintendent of a home for juvenile delinquents said, "Love is a major need of these boys. Their parents will give them a car, but won't say, 'I love you.'" (Webb, p. 125) Some families meet physical needs but neglect emotional needs.
Families should learn to be affectionate both in words and in touch. It begins with snuggling and holding the babies and nursing babies the natural way when possible. As they grow it may include hugging and embracing, telling them we love them, putting an arm around them, holding hands during prayer, having group hugs, and sympathizing with one another in times of trouble and rejoicing together in times of happiness. It includes remembering special days (birthdays, anniversaries) and giving gifts.
People need a sense of security, belonging, and closeness, as well as physical needs. These needs should be met in the home. Whose duty is it to take the lead to see that family needs are met? It is the father's duty as the leader and provider.
If your parents were not affectionate, you can and should change it in your family. This affection should include all the family members, including the men and boys. Should your family learn to be more affectionate?
[Gen. 27:26,27; Ex. 4:27; 18:7;
It is important for a child to understand that we are not rejecting him, but we object to his conduct. This becomes clear if, after punishing the child, we take time to hold him on our lap, talk to him, and then include him in other activities. Don't make him feel an outcast, but assure him of forgiveness (provided he is truly penitent).
Won't it be a shame if, in our old age, we must look back with regret because our children have grown and left before we took the time to show them that we care? Let us live now so that we won't have that regret later.
by Edgar Guest
Home ain't a place that gold can buy or get up in a minute;
Afore it's home there's got t' be a heap o' livin' in it;
Within the walls there's got t' be some babies born, and then
Right there ye've got t' bring 'em up t' women good, an' men;
And gradjerly, as time goes on, ye find ye wouldn't part
With anything they ever used - they've grown into yer heart:
The old high chair, the playthings, too, the little shoes they wore
Ye hoard; an' if ye could ye'd keep the thumbmarks on the door.
1 Corinthians 13:13 - Now abide faith, hope, and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Is your family characterized by love? Surely love is a key element in raising godly children.
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Copyright 2004, David E. Pratte
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