Our article last month in the ‘Rural Route Magazine’ was ‘Children – Our Priceless Treasure’. In that article we covered some interesting subjects about, ‘Have Children Changed?’, ‘Love From Both Parents’, ‘Heart-To-Heart and Eye-To-Eye’, and ‘Fellowship At Mealtime’.
Let’s take a moment to recap some of the highlights from the article last month. My wife and I believe that children are a priceless treasure. We grew up in the 1950’s and 1960’s when divorce was very rare. Getting married and having children was a priority for many people. Most families considered children to be ‘gifts from heaven’. I grew up in Toronto, and never saw violence. There was a sense of safety and security. Many people did not lock their doors or their vehicles. Today the neighbourhood I grew up in, and the schools I went to are not safe. Violence and the threat of violence are common. What has happened? What have we lost?
Have children changed? Yes, children have changed, but that’s because their parents have changed as well. The whole concept of parenting, and what it means to be a parent is different today. In fact, what it means to be a husband and wife, and a father and mother has also changed for many people. One thing that has not changed is that children need love from both parents. For children to feel loved, it’s essential that their father and mother love each other. When a husband loves his wife, his children feel his love for them. When a wife loves her husband, her children feel love from their mother. If the father and mother do not love each other, the child feels torn in two. Part of them does not love the other part of them.
The family is the most important team on the earth, because that’s where people are born, and that’s where their feelings of love and being cared for are rooted. So for the family to work, and for people to be loved and cared for, the family members cannot put themselves first. If the father lives for his wife and children, and the wife lives for her husband and children, and the children live for their parents and siblings, there will be a contagious spirit of unselfish love in that family. In reality, no family can practice this attitude all of the time. However, if we have this as our goal, people can grow and mature in that direction. If we don’t have that as our goal, selfishness will take over, and people’s feelings will be hurt. Eventually the hurts can build up to the point where there is so much pain and anger that people cut themselves off from each other and from the family. As we talked about in other articles, patience, kindness, unselfishness and forgiveness are foundational in building better relationships with people both inside the family and outside the family. And perhaps the most important is forgiveness, because the only way for us to be healed ourselves is to practice forgiveness in all of our relationships. See other articles on this subject at www.leggefitness.com/articles.
It’s important to spend time alone with each one of our children. Try to have a heart-to-heart and eye-to-eye talk on a daily basis. Tell your child that they are very important to you, and you want to improve the relationship you have with them. All of this should apply to our spouse as well, because for the family to work together as a caring team there should be a caring spirit between all the family members. If you believe that God loves us and forgives us, tell your children that. They need to hear that from their parents! When children hear about God’s love from their parents, they feel connected with God personally. The greatest need we humans have is to feel truly loved and forgiven, and that need is present even when we are very young children.
For the health of our family it’s important to try and eat as many meals as possible sitting around one table with our family, without any distractions from television, internet and cell phones. The practice of eating the same food together, at the same time, and with peace and thankfulness, can create a strong mental and emotional bond between the family members.
GROWTH AND MATURITY
Becoming parents helps us to overcome selfishness, because we have to care for this helpless new human being. We can’t just live to please ourselves and our spouse anymore, because there is a new priority now. Our new baby is a gift from heaven, and it needs a lot of time, care and affection to feel safe and loved. When we have our own children, we can understand better what our parents went through in raising us. When we realize all the work and self-sacrifice of caring for children, and teaching and disciplining them we can appreciate our own parents more. Having our own children can help us appreciate God more as well, because He is our Heavenly Father and He has to put up with a lot from us in raising us as His children. As we hold a child, it can make us feel like God is holding us, and loving us. We can feel and see God’s love for us as we extend it to our child! Children are very important to God. He feels very close to them because He is a Father, and He knows their helplessness and vulnerability. It is our duty to love and protect our children, just as God protects us and loves us with His unselfish love.
The New Testament Apostles describe God’s unselfish love, as being patient, kind, tender-hearted, forgiving, quiet, gentle, humble, faithful, truthful, and morally pure. These are the characteristics that we should practice if we want to follow God’s example.
By reading the Apostle’s letters to Christians, and through prayer, our character can be gradually changed.
Children are very observant, and when they see parents saying they are God’s children and going to heaven, and then they see us practicing selfish, hurtful habits they are not impressed. If they see us putting on a front for people, and pretending to be kind, patient and understanding with people outside the family, and then in the family we are quite different they will lose respect for us. We can’t force or discipline a child to respect and love us. Force and discipline can create fear, and a level of temporary obedience, but in the end we will lose the heart and devotion of our child. As parents we can’t be ‘plastic’ people, pretending to be something we are not. We have to earn the respect of our family members by having certain standards, beliefs and goals that are clearly defined, and also practiced. Of course, because of human weakness and our selfish nature, we will not always do what we should, and say what we should. This is where the beauty of confession comes in where we can admit our failings and turn from them. This sets a good example for our children to follow, by confessing and turning from their failings as well.
LINE OF AUTHORITY
Remember that children are not at the top of the line of authority, and we can’t allow children to run the family. One of the most important lessons we can teach our children is the value of the line of authority and of obedience. Obedience helps us to overcome our selfishness, and it also helps create peace and harmony in the family team. Doing our own thing and rebelling, will destroy relationships and people are left isolated and alone. We’ve all probably seen families where the children are the ‘boss’, and the parents are controlled by the children. This is not good for the children or the parents. All partnerships and teams are based on a line of authority in order to be successful. For a more thorough explanation on building partnerships refer to our article, ‘Freedom Through Partnering’ in the April 2016 issue of ‘The Rural Route Magazine’ or go to www.leggefitness.com/articles, or you can click on ‘Resources’ and then click on ‘Articles of Interest’.
Innocence is a very precious thing. It can easily be lost, but not easily regained. Never before in human history have so many people been exposed to so much violence, horror and moral impurity. This is mainly because of the internet, movies, television, video games, music, books and magazines that focus on these things. What we see, read, and think about has a very powerful influence on who we are, our character, and what sort of person we will become. This applies even more so for children because they are so easily influenced and shaped. Are we allowing our children to be exposed to good influences, or bad influences?
One of the reasons God created marriage and family is so that we can learn to understand and appreciate God better. Marriage causes us to stretch and grow because we are no longer just one person, but two individuals becoming one, and we each have the other person to consider. Instead of living for ourselves, we now have to share our time, our possessions, our wealth, our future, and our whole life with another person. When we are blessed with children, we have to stretch and grow even further. Instead of two people to think about, care for, and plan for, we have young helpless children who need their parents for everything. It is a responsibility, but also a great privilege to be entrusted with providing for our children. Their physical, mental and emotional needs go far beyond food, clothing and a home. They need to learn about love and forgiveness, sharing and unselfishness, and the purpose of our life here on earth. Teaching them, disciplining them, guiding them, protecting them, and loving them helps us to understand better what God is involved with everyday with all of us!
What makes parents happy is seeing their children treat each other with kindness and respect. It’s the same with God. What makes Him happy is when people care about each other, and treat each other with kindness, forgiveness and understanding. One of the best and most rewarding gifts we can give our parents is grandchildren who are kind, respectful and self-controlled. As parents we can receive a great sense of fulfillment and satisfaction when we see our children grow up and become responsible, caring adults. God experiences the same thing when He sees us grow up and mature in unselfish love. All of our experiences of learning to share in marriage, and having our own children should help to deepen our love and understanding of God, and of His love for all of us.
Let’s take a moment to summarize what we’ve been talking about. 1) Children feel the most love from their parents when the parents are kind, considerate and forgiving, and when both parents love each other. 2) Try to spend time alone heart-to-heart and eye-to-eye with each of your children and your spouse on a daily basis. 3) We are not the source of unselfish love, but God is. We need to rely on the Apostle’s letters to the Christians in the New Testament as our source for teaching, inspiration, correction and strength. 4) Try to eat meals together as a family where there is peace and love around the table without worldly distractions. People used to say, ‘take the phone off the hook at mealtime’, but now there are other electronic devices that we should ignore at mealtime as well. 5) Maintain agreed upon standards and beliefs which we practice inside and outside the family. 6) Reading the Apostle’s letters together, and praying together, and singing hymns together as a family will help bring God directly into the relationships. 7) Protecting ourselves and our children from the influence of moral impurity and violence is essential. 8) Becoming parents can give us a greater understanding and appreciation of our parents, and also of God’s relationship of love with us as His children.
Next month in the ‘Rural Route Magazine’ we will continue with ‘Children – Our Priceless Treasure’ (Part 3). There will be questions that will prompt discussion with your children about unselfish love. We will include a sample dialogue for your children that will help explain the process of building better relationships within the family. Don’t miss it!