Three Practical Tips for Raising Children
Together, parents have to represent a clear line - Parents have to be consistent - Parents should be ready to make concessions
I. Together for a Clear Line
Parents give their children the biggest gift by having a clear and good attitude themselves. A sound marital relationship creates the foundation for a good parent-child relationship. If husband and wife continually argue about their positions and rights, or if a misunderstood, unbiblical idea of emancipation shakes the marriage and causes a "Thirty-Year-War", then husband and wife will hardly be good parents. They will not be able to bring up their children together in unity - to the great disadvantage of the children. That's why we need to tear down all our false ideas about marriage which have made us either aggressive or timid, and which endanger marriage and the family. God makes the decisions about our marriage and family, and it is not a phase we go through or an ideology. Streams die off in the sand, and ideologies faint like stars, but the family gets its outline from an eternal perspective. Since raising children is not easy, God has entrusted this job to two people.
It is not for the one parent to say one thing and the other to say something else. It is not for one parent to pull the right rein and the other the left rein. They should be in unity; the reins should always be in one hand. The one who does not hold them, stands watching as an advisor. The husband is allowed to hand the reins over - and maybe sometimes this suits him very well! - however, this is only permitted temporarily. God demands that he bear the responsibility for the family before Him. He is the one whom God made "Captain of the Family Ship". Children need clear instruction. Order in the house can only be built and kept if the husband and wife have learned to become one, and support each other in such a way that the children cannot cause division or even cause them to undermine each other's authority.
To be consistent - this is the second condition of bringing up children. If it is not followed, bringing up children proves to be a boomerang. When children find out that father and mother do not really mean what they say, then parental authority disappears. Parents bring up their children in God's place. There is no dealing and discussion about God's Word and commandments. It is alive, bound to the person of God. Disobeying His commands hurts God, steals and undermines His authority and takes away our life. Then our life becomes unprotected. You can discuss what people have said, but not God's Word. If God gives an instruction and you say: "I want to think about that first," then you are putting your opinion above the instruction of God, thinking you know better. On the battlefield of our fallen earth no opinions or even experiments are of any use. We need clear instructions and actions which protect and promote life. Otherwise we will be lost, before we have even started.
When parents bring up children in God's stead, making sure that God's command is obeyed, and God's order is put into practice in the family, then children have to learn that what their parents say is what counts. For example, you say, "Tonight we will have dinner at six o'clock. You will be home at quarter to six, then you will have to get washed, and at six o'clock we will be starting." If the children only come toddling into the house at five past six, then this is a breach of the arrangement and order. We might think: "Unimportant details" - but everything suffers. The father nervously looks at his watch, because he is expected at a meeting at seven o'clock. Mother gets upset because the food is getting cold. The children have an argument about who is going to use the bathroom first, and the atmosphere at the table is spoilt. Well, it was not a "minor detail" after all! What disorder and a bad atmosphere comes over the family! If we want to be a family, then we have to stick to its rules. How nice it is to have dinner together - starting with a song or giving thanks to God! It is well worth investing some effort into it, even if it entails a lot of detailed work.
Without consistency we will not be able to train our children's will. Part of consistency in bringing up children is to check whether an order has been carried out. This is a little time-consuming, but very important. Once we have set an ultimatum, we have to stick to it and punish a child who does not keep to it. The punishment aims at "punishing" the child's will, so that he/she will not become weak-willed. With boys it is often laxity, and with girls the emotions, which go "overboard". They have to learn to control their emotions and their will, otherwise they will be taken advantage of for the rest of their days.
III. Being Ready for Concessions
Thirdly, part of bringing up children together in unity and consistency is being prepared to make concessions. It starts with parents being able to admit that they have made a mistake. Children have got a pronounced sense of justice. In order to save a situation, fathers can sometimes intervene too quickly, without examining the facts carefully beforehand. Accusing the wrong child can have dire consequences. Often children are very deeply affected by this. How desperately do we need to have
"...holy hands, without wrath and doubting" (1 TIMOTHY 2:8).
One of our boys once sat in front of me sobbing, his whole body shaking, because I had wrongly accused and punished him. How good it was that I could say, "You are right, I'm sorry and ask for your forgiveness." Had I not said "Sorry", the bridge of trust between us would have been damaged. I will never forget this incident.
Children do not expect their parents to be perfect, but honest. If we confess our failure, they start trusting a God who forgives, who you can be honest with, and who does not reject you. He draws you towards Himself, if there is anything to be sorted out which has disrupted order, justice and peace.
Another part of being prepared for concessions is that parents do not always want their own way, but also ask for their children's suggestions. When deciding a place for an outing, planning holidays, etc., this flexibility is good and necessary. But where God's principles are concerned, there are no concessions. An 18-year-old thanked his father after a five-year-long battle: "I thank you, father for resisting me."
Bringing up children means battle. It is not a battle to get peace at any price. Here there is something more important than peace, and that is to set our children free from evil. This will entail tensions, which have to be endured. But they are much more rewarding for everyone concerned, than a lazy peace, which feeds and gives space to evil. Jesus said:
"I came not to send peace, but a sword" (MATTHEW 10:34). With evil there is no compromising. ROMANS 12:9 says:
"Abhor that which is evil". Whoever makes peace with that, betrays life; does not cleave to that which is good; does not cleave to God anymore; and is finally inhumane. But he who uses the sword of the Word of God, defends and protects mankind and commands evil to go. This is humanity in the real sense.
by Volkhard and Gerlinde Scheunemann
Translated from the original German: 'Drei praktische Hinweise zum Erziehen'
Source: 'Ein Leben lang Glück und Geborgenheit', Hännsler Verlag, Neuhausen, Stuttgart (1982), in ‘Der Auftrag'