How Do You View Your Children?
“A BLESSING.” “A gift from God.” “A real joy.” “A delight to our hearts.” How heartwarming to hear such expressions from various parents! Particularly in view of the fact that not all parents consider their children a blessing.
But the question is: How do you feel about your children? Do you delight in the many facets of your role as a parent? Do you constantly assure your children of your love and gratefulness for having them? When last have you taken them in your arms and expressed your affection for them?
Assuredly, being a parent is not an easy task. It is hard, demanding work and oftentimes frustrating. Nevertheless, it can be extremely rewarding. And the good results achieved far outnumber the problems encountered along the way. Many parents feel that way. Do you?
Of course, there are dissenting views. Not all parents approach their roles with joy. To some, their children may represent a loss of privacy or freedom, since the children may have interrupted some planned pursuit. Others may not have been emotionally ready for the complex roles involved in parenthood. Still others may have resented the sacrifices for which their roles called. But whatever the reason, it is, nevertheless, sad. Especially since such negative attitudes will undoubtedly affect how these parents will regard and treat their children. Why, some parents even refer to their own children as “brats” or “devils.” It is little wonder, then, that certain children are unmanageable. They feel unwanted and unloved, and in various ways they seek to strike back.
Positive Aspects of Being a Parent
But what about those parents who do love and cherish their children? Can we learn anything from them? Can their view of their children give us some insight to help us to evaluate our own feelings? Indeed they can. The positive way they feel about their children is evident in the fruitage they bear: children who respond with love and obedience to the training and care they receive and who grow up into responsible and loving adults. Then they, in turn, eventually pass on to their own children the principles and fine training they received while young. And is that not what parenting is all about?
But what about your children? Are they responsive, obedient, respectful? If not, do not despair. You are not unreasonable to expect such reaction to your training. Why do we say this? Because children were put under the direct control of their parents by the Creator himself. It is truly a godly arrangement. Ephesians 6:1, 2 states: “Children, be obedient to your parents in union with the Lord, for this is righteous: ‘Honor your father and your mother’; which is the first command with a promise.” This scripture, then, encourages your children to obey you in your God-given role.
To be successful requires hard work. As one widowed mother of five boys declared: “I spent time training them and now I see benefits coming from them—their conduct, their attitudes. They’re not wild; but tame and respectful. The boys now say: ‘Well, mother, you’ve been around longer than we have—you should know.’ To me that’s a blessing.” How many mothers would not want to hear such expressions from their children?
On the other hand, if the children are to be responsive, the parents must be really interested in what their children are doing. It is not enough for the parents to set up rules and regulations to be followed. They must do all they can to keep the lines of communication open with their children. Those who keep up with their children’s hobbies and interests have little trouble communicating with them. The mother of an 11-year-old boy attested to this fact:
“I’m learning things from him that I wouldn’t ordinarily be interested in. For instance, I thought it would be good for him to care for something besides himself and so I got him some tropical fish. Well, not only did it work for him; it worked for me as well. Now I get so much pleasure in seeing those fish respond to me. As his interests expand, I find myself growing with him and it’s drawn us closer together.”
Is that true in your case?
In recent times, some fathers have become more involved in the emotional aspects of caring for their children. They have long been regarded as the disciplinarians in the family. But recent trends have projected them into areas of planning and caring for them as babies. One father said:
“I firmly believe that fathers should have an active part in their children’s birth if at all possible. So I was in the delivery room when our first daughter was born. Well, I can’t describe in words the beautiful feeling I had when the doctor put her in my arms for the first time right after her birth. Then and there I offered up audible words of thanks and praise to Jehovah God for this blessing. And my wife and I still think of both our girls as such.”
Can All Children Be Viewed as a Blessing?
What about children who are not born normal and healthy? Can they also be viewed as a blessing? And can their parents also find joy in fulfilling their roles? Let us have the parents of a retarded child with a bad heart condition answer these questions. First the father: “The doctors told us that we could give her up since she was going to die anyway. I asked them what could be done for her and they seemed surprised that we wanted to keep her. They said nothing could be done and they let us take her home to die.” The mother continued:
“From the start they encouraged us to institutionalize her but we wouldn’t hear of it. We never thought for a moment of not loving her. Why, she was our long-hoped-for daughter (after 4 boys) and we just wanted her with us. Now the doctors are amazed at her improvement. She is now 14 months old, although they said she couldn’t live past three months. She knows she’s loved and this has blossomed her development despite her retardation and serious heart condition. And she’s the most loving child I’ve ever seen. Of course, I love her because I’m her mother. But to see the love that Jehovah God has for her, that’s what’s tremendous. He and He alone has kept her going. So how can we not worship such a God?”
Admittedly, it is much harder financially and especially emotionally on the parents whose children are afflicted in some way. But such children require even more love and attention than normal children. And when the parental love is there, the child will usually respond in a positive way.
How to Cope with Problems
Nevertheless, problems do arise and the question is: What can parents do to cope with them? Little is accomplished by merely barking out orders to be obeyed. If children with problems are not allowed to communicate with their parents, resentment can develop and disrespect will naturally follow. As Ephesians 6:4 admonishes: “And you, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.”
One father of four boys shows the results of following such admonition: “I try my best to listen to them; to find out what’s on their minds. Only then can I really help them. I conduct a weekly Bible study and we usually let the Bible solve their problems. The boys understand that the instructions we give come from God and not from us, and it’s a great help.”
Another great help in coping with problems is being available. When children have problems, that is when they need their parents the most. One mother expressed herself this way: “We are always available. We let them know they can come to us with anything. Even when the problem may be small to us, it’s often very big to them; and that’s what matters at the time. Because they know we care, they come to us with everything.” How fine it would be if all children were free to approach their parents with any problem without first being condemned or criticized! Is that true in your case? Do you encourage your children to talk freely to you while you quietly listen?
Keeping your word is another important thing for you parents to remember. It seems that children can take a lot of things, but they cannot take disappointments or changes well. As one mother pointed out: “Making promises I can’t keep only creates frustrations in the children. They depend a lot on my word. So once I give it, I try to stick to it. Then if I can’t do something, I explain why and say I’m sorry. That lets them know that I fall short too at times and that has created a bond between us.”
When last have you expressed sorrow to your children for not being able to keep your word?
What Should Be Avoided?
There are some things that parents, if given a second chance, would do differently. Some have regretted not listening enough to their children. Others have regretted jumping to conclusions when first approached. They may have been hasty in their judgments. Getting all the facts before making a judgment is the wise course.
Another important thing is to be impartial in dealing with children. Comparing one child with another is unwise and unjust. It can foster jealousy and resentment. Children have different talents and each one has his worth. When one is compared to another disparagingly, it cuts down the confidence and self-esteem in one and fosters superiority and haughtiness in the other.
Another thing that should be avoided is to allow children the indiscriminate use of the television set. “Nothing has so altered the condition of childhood in a single generation as has television.” (New York Times, March 4, 1979) The truthfulness of this statement has alerted many parents to the powerful effect that watching television has over their children. No one can deny it can have educational value, but, at the same time, if caution is not used, children can be adversely affected, for example, by a steady diet of violent programs. In fact, the recent increase in juvenile crimes has been directly attributed by some to the children’s watching certain programs with violent themes.
Pal or Parent—Which?
Too much television watching may not be a problem in your family. You may even spend a good deal of time with your children personally, and that is commendable. But what kind of relationship do you have with them? Do they regard you as a parent or as a pal? It has been noted that in some homes, the children are allowed to treat and talk to their parents as equals. And when the relationship becomes too chummy the parents may find it difficult to administer discipline when it is necessary. It could even plant the seed of disrespect not only for the parents but for those outside the family circle.
One mother, disapproving of such relationship, said: “They don’t see you as someone older to be listened to and obeyed. A ‘pal’ is on their own level, and children cannot think, reason or correct themselves as adults. They need their parents for that role.” Her husband added:
“I believe in being a parent first, because if the firmness and respect are there, the friendship will follow and grow. Our children are encouraged to express themselves freely as long as they are respectful. We often tell them: ‘It’s not what you say, but how you say it.’ We’re trying to teach them how to say things. If they don’t respect us, whom will they respect?”
Of course, this is not to imply that parents and children cannot be friends in the true sense of the word. Many parents have a good, warm relationship with their children, and the children respond with love and respect. But in a world where respect for older persons is rapidly diminishing, care should be exercised that nothing is allowed to undermine respect for the parents’ proper authority. Familiarity can breed contempt if carried too far in a parent/child relationship.
God’s Role in Their Lives
When children respect their parents and others whom they can see, they are then in a position eventually to worship their Creator, whom they cannot see. The parents have a unique position in this training. They can lovingly direct their children’s attention to the Creator. Doing so lovingly is essential, but so is persistence. Parents must be diligent in giving such training. They cannot let either sentiment or pressure deter them. Nor can they delegate their responsibility to others—be it other family members, teachers or religious leaders—not if they want good results.
Clearly, there are no shortcuts. It takes time, effort, love and patience and many adjustments along the way. But good results are possible when the parents shoulder their God-given assignment. If they regard their children as treasures from God and let them know they are loved, the family unit will reap many blessings, and the parents will feel greatly rewarded. It is as the psalmist said: “Look! Sons are an inheritance from Jehovah; the fruitage of the belly is a reward.”—Ps. 127:3.
May that be how you view your children!
“When anyone is replying to a matter before he hears it, that is foolishness on his part and a humiliation.” (Prov. 18:13) Open-mindedness is one mark of a mature person. No one has the right to call himself mature who cannot listen to both sides of an argument.