Building a Happy Family
1. (a) Why is the family circle the basic unit of human society? (b) What powerful forces are at work to threaten the existence of the family circle?
THE family has been described by experts and laymen alike as the basic unit of human society. From families come villages, towns, cities, states or provinces and finally whole nations. It is generally recognized that good families make good communities, and yet the family is under pressure as never before from both the inside and the outside. Powerful forces are at work threatening the very existence of family life. The industrial revolution, the rise of nationalism, the cry for independence, new views on sex and life have all taken their toll on the family circle. It appears to be almost broken as the foundation of human society.
2. Describe conditions in early family circles.
2 To early humanity agriculture was the primary way of life. The father was head and ruler of his family. Strict obedience was the first rule of the home. Families grew up together, lived together, worked together and fought together. The home was the center of religious instruction. Divorce was frowned upon. Those getting a divorce were considered to be breaking God’s law. While none of these things have disappeared entirely from family life, their combined influence is not the same. Times have changed. Some believe that the family circle is on the way out.
3. What factors do some authorities believe contributed to the downfall of earlier civilizations?
3 Many historians agree that the first factor in the downfall of the Grecian and Roman civilizations was the decay and breakdown of the family circle. Additionally, a noted sociologist at Harvard University recently wrote: “Immorality has helped to ruin many a great nation in past centuries. Today it threatens even the United States . . . Many scientists are already wondering whether there is a connection or not between the shaky status of our sexual morality and the rise in the rate of crime, suicide, juvenile delinquency and insanity.” In the light of these observations, what is needed to save the family circle and restore it to its proper foundation as the basic unit of human society? Essentially, how can happiness be achieved in this fundamental unit? Also, how may a family be defined, and for what reason was the family circle brought into existence?
4. How may the term “family” be defined?
4 The family has been described as “a group of closely related individuals or groups, or a group comprising immediate kindred, especially the group formed of parents and children.” Another definition is, “A formal union established according to custom and law rigidly binding the persons united by marriage, their children by birth and adoption and all other persons in the same household by generally recognized and enforced rights and duties.” Children are usually an important aspect of the family unit.
5. (a) Show how the first human family circle came into existence. (b) What is happiness, and how is it essential to the Christian family circle?
5 From the very outset Jehovah God clearly purposed for Adam to be a faithful family man. The Genesis account states: “Further, God blessed them and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it, and have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is moving upon the earth.’” (Gen. 1:28) With this divine command it is obvious that the fundamental purpose of marriage was established as childbearing, bringing into existence the full family circle. Moreover, since such children, brought forth from the marriage union, could be taught to worship God and give praise to him as their Creator, something which he desires and requires, we can see why man was originally meant to live in a family unit in happiness. (Ex. 20:5) But what is happiness? Happiness is defined as a state of well-being and pleasurable satisfaction. In this pleasant atmosphere family life would be conducive to satisfaction, security and praise to God.
6. After what is the human family circle patterned?
6 Moreover, it is helpful to realize that, in a figure of speech, Jehovah God himself is spoken of as a husband, the head of his universal family circle. His wife, the mother of his vast family, is the mother of everyone in this universal organization, and the children are his loyal subjects of such a union. Isaiah states: “Your grand Maker is your husbandly owner, Jehovah of armies being his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Repurchaser. The God of the whole earth he will be called.” (Isa. 54:5) The human family circle, patterned after such a lofty and successful arrangement in heaven, is virtually assured of happiness if we but follow the principles governing family life outlined by Jehovah in his Word the Bible.
7. (a) What twofold responsibility does a Christian father have toward his family? (b) How will a good father view his family circle?
7 Since the great Husband and Creator Jehovah carries the load of responsibility in his family, it is only logical that we should look for such an example of leadership in the human father. Yet what do we see today? Dr. John J. Kane, head of the Sociology Department at the University of Notre Dame, declared that today “the occupation of father is almost as obsolete as a harness maker or blacksmith.” Nonetheless, here is the starting point for happy family circles, for father’s responsibility is twofold: to provide for his family both spiritually and materially. This he will want to do in love. (1 Cor. 13:4-7) Why? Because love is neither harsh nor domineering, yet it is certainly not sentimentality. A good father recognizes that the family circle is like a delicate machine with parts that are working intimately together. Without oil there would be wear and friction. Thus the sensible father will take the lead in supplying the oil of love, which cushions the shock of misunderstanding and dissensions and keeps family interests properly balanced. But how is this love really demonstrated? Best by example, for actions speak louder than words. Perhaps the best example is when the father demonstrates keen interest that his family is a happy family of praisers of God. In this connection, happy families do not just happen—they are planned and built according to specifications.
8. (a) What do research studies point out as an important factor for success in marriage? (b) How do both Moses and the apostle Paul underscore parental responsibility in connection with religious training for children?
8 It is interesting to note that, according to research studies, the facts show that in general in our culture the presence of a religious faith is associated with more favorable chances for marital success. In reporting on the happy and unhappy married men in his study one researcher says: “Unfavorable attitudes toward religion characterize more of the unhappy men. Happily married men are a distinct majority among those . . . who believe that it is essential that children have religious instruction.” For many parents, however, this means sending their children off to a Sunday school or church service while they perhaps remain at home. Is this what the Bible teaches? To the contrary, Jehovah’s command is stated at Deuteronomy 6:6, 7: “These words that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart; and you must inculcate them in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” Parental responsibility is therefore a divine command when it comes to religious instruction from God’s Word. To underscore this principle note what the apostle Paul wrote: “Children, be obedient to your parents in union with the Lord, for this is righteous: ‘Honor your father and mother’; which is the first command with a promise: ‘That it may go well with you and you may endure a long time on the earth.’ And you, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah.”—Eph. 6:1-4.
9. What good habit should Christian parents form, and how can teaching be employed therein?
9 One good habit for Christian parents to form is the consideration of a Bible text each day. Jehovah’s witnesses subscribe to this idea by reading the text and comments outlined for each day in the Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some parents feel that this is a small detail that can be overlooked; however, good parents, like good architects, cannot overlook details. Attention to even the smallest details is what produces quality, and do you not want your children to give praise of the highest quality to Jehovah? If it is not possible to discuss this Bible material for each day in the morning as a family group, perhaps time can be set aside at the evening meal. Encourage the children to read the text and comments each day. Have a dictionary handy and urge them to look up unfamiliar words. Take turns in asking questions that are simple and to the point. Train each one to give a brief comment; and then father can give an interesting summary, including appropriate counsel to build up his family circle in a spiritual way. If the daily Bible text is so discussed, it will be looked forward to with anticipation, and it will be a refreshing period of instruction each day.
10. (a) Why should systematic Bible study be encouraged at a very tender age? (b) What illustrates why self-reliance and initiative in children should be taught from an early age?
10 Additionally, an essential part of a Christian father’s responsibility is to provide for a regular period of systematic Bible study with his family. Young years are formative years. Some parents may be surprised at the early age at which their offspring become alert to new things and new surroundings. At a very tender age self-reliance and initiative can be taught children. Many parents, particularly those with their first child, do not realize at how early an age the child’s urge toward independence may appear. For example: The mother of a nine-month-old baby was struggling through dinnertime with the baby in his high chair. Each time she offered him food on a spoon he swung at her hand and frequently succeeded in knocking either the food or the spoon to the floor. She said, “I don’t know why he is so naughty lately. I have a terrible time feeding him.” A friend said, “Why don’t you just let him go it alone? He may be swinging at the spoon because he would like to get hold of it and feed himself instead of having you thrust the food at him.” The mother soon found out, despite her protests, that the child was feeding himself with no more spillage than had been occurring when his mother had been trying to feed him, and his great satisfaction in being able to do for himself independently was easily apparent in the enthusiasm with which he welcomed mealtime. Yes, children are very alert from a tender age and can be helped to learn many useful and practical things.
11. What examples show that children are capable of learning much from Bible study? With what profit to the parents? to the children?
11 Some parents may argue that their children are too young to get much from Bible study. But if four- and five-year-olds can repeat TV commercials word for word and learn catchy phrases on certain programs, certainly they are capable of learning Bible principles. One four-year-old can already point to the more than eighty illustrations in the Bible educational aid published by the Watch Tower Society, From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained, and can tell what is depicted by each picture or what story is associated with each character. Think of the training this youngster is receiving and think also of the benefits the parents are receiving. Why? Because it takes diligent Bible study on their part to prepare constructive studies with their children. What can the outcome be? Remember what Proverbs 22:6 says: “Train up a boy according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.”
12. Why should parents be concerned about setting the right examples in respect to worship?
12 Parents, too, should be concerned about the family regularly meeting together at the local place of worship. Children are born imitators. Parents, do you give your children good examples to imitate? Or do you expect your children to go to meetings while you stay at home watching TV or performing some chores around the house? Remember, too, it is your responsibility to set a good example in commenting at these meetings so your children will learn at a young age that it is not only the right but the expected thing to do.—Heb. 10:24, 25.
13. (a) How vital is it to give adequate care and attention to one’s family? (b) What scriptures prove family salvation should be of major concern to parents?
13 And when it comes to training young children, directing them into the way of salvation, here perhaps lies the greatest test of the parents’ skill as teachers. While many parents are successful in training others, what results do you obtain with your own children? Often Christian parents become so absorbed in taking the way of salvation to others that adequate care and attention are not given to their own families. Remember that the way of salvation begins in one’s own family circle. Family care and training is a divine principle. Paul wrote Timothy: “Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.” Paul further wrote on this matter: “Ponder over these things; be absorbed in them, that your advancement may be manifest to all persons. Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” (1 Tim. 5:8; 4:15, 16) Parents, do you want to “save” your children? Children thus trained can be assisted to train others, even as Paul wrote Timothy, at 2 Timothy 2:1, 2: “You, therefore, my child, keep on acquiring power in the undeserved kindness that is in connection with Christ Jesus, and the things you heard from me with the support of many witnesses, these things commit to faithful men, who, in turn, will be adequately qualified to teach others.” This training, started at the family level, will reach out and expand, providing more and more qualified ministers to spread this good news of the Kingdom.—Matt. 24:14.
14. How may children be trained in the fundamental principles of the Christian ministry? With what effect?
14 From experience many parents have learned that the best way to train their children in Christian ministry is to get them started in the house-to-house distribution of the Watchtower and Awake! journals. (Acts 20:20) This is a wholesome work, one that can be engaged in easily by children and which generally produces good results, enabling sincere inquirers to learn of God’s kingdom. Parents, do you aid your children to have talking points on each magazine so that their presentations are both effective and knowledgeable? Yes, teaching one’s own children is a prime responsibility for the parents, and both should share in it to the full. This parental teaching and training leads to family maturity.—Eph. 4:13, 14.
15. (a) Illustrate parental responsibility in connection with the application of Bible principles. (b) How should discipline be administered?
15 However, it is one thing to know some Bible principles but another to understand where and how to apply them. This is particularly true in the case of children. Wise parents will therefore recognize this and will constantly help their children to understand the whys and wherefores. For example, a child may be told not to steal. This does not mean much to a youngster with no sense of property rights and who sees something that he wants. So the parent will have to sit down and simply explain what stealing is and that it started with Satan and, since we do not want to be like him or end up like him, we will not do the things that originate with him. (Isa. 14:12-15) Also, when wrongdoing occurs and discipline must be administered, it should be done in love and according to the needs of the particular child. Some children need only a word and they understand. Some need firmer discipline down low enough and hard enough. Still others will best respond when they are deprived of something they love very much. Wise parents will learn which medicine works best and then administer it in the right doses at the right times.—Prov. 23:13, 14.
16. (a) How should parents view Paul’s words at 1 Corinthians 15:33? (b) How can Christian parents successfully guide their children through school years?
16 Another point that is worthy of consideration is that this is the time of the end, according to the Bible. (2 Tim. 3:1-5) Therefore, wise parents will heed the counsel of the apostle Paul at 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.” Parents, guard your children against improper association and bad thinking. When children commence school, many parents notice a change in thinking and attitude in their children. Some become more difficult to manage because of the environment in which they now find themselves. Others become so engrossed in study that they find little or no time for Scriptural studies, ministerial activity and family pursuits. It is a time for a balanced direction on the part of the parents. School years can be upbuilding years but at the same time. without proper training and guidance from parents, they can be difficult years.
17. How should extracurricular activities be viewed by parents and children?
17 For example, one point on which most children need guidance is the matter of extracurricular activities. Sports and other activities can be time-consuming and cause one’s thinking to be off balance. Paul wrote Timothy: “On the other hand, be training yourself with godly devotion as your aim. For bodily training is beneficial for a little; but godly devotion is beneficial for all things, as it holds promise of the life now and that which is to come. Faithful and deserving of full acceptance is that statement. For to this end we are working hard and exerting ourselves, because we have rested our hope on a living God, who is a Savior of all sorts of men, especially of faithful ones.” (1 Tim. 4:7-10) Christian parents, therefore, will always aid their children to see school in its proper perspective, namely, as a means of getting the necessary education. Children in the New World society are looked to for examples and should strive to set good, wholesome scholastic standards, for this is a commendation and witness itself. Their conduct too should be jealously guarded, lest reproach be brought on Jehovah’s name and organization.
18. What is recreation, and how can a balanced view of recreation be adopted in the family circle?
18 At this point it would be well to discuss the subject of recreation. What is recreation and what forms can it take? Recreation is generally defined as a recreating or a refreshment of strength and spirits after toil; diversion or a mode of diversion. Basically it means a change of pace, and recreation seems to be a vital factor for balanced living. Just what form recreation should take would have to be decided upon by the Christian in harmony with his enlightened conscience. (2 Cor. 1:12) Participation in games of one sort or another would be recreation for some. Others feel that reading, walking or hiking through the woods or perhaps even a hobby would be acceptable. The main thing is not to let this become the biggest factor in life, but, rather, it should be fitted into its place, with stress on the most important thing, namely, the preaching of this good news of the Kingdom. However, it is vital that parents spend some time with their children in recreational activity; and in this connection it has been said, “Hardly any boy would be a problem child if his father would put his foot down now and then on a spading fork with the kid holding the bait can.” Regardless of the form the recreation takes, as long as it is wholesome and does not violate Christian principles its good effects will be appreciated by balanced Christians.
19. (a) Against what should parents fortify their children? Illustrate. (b) How did Paul indicate Christians would suffer?
19 Another factor that Christian parents should carefully consider is that youth must be fortified against ridicule from others. Children, even more so than adults, like to be well thought of. Some children have been known to steal just to get enough money to dress better and go places with their crowd. Other children find it difficult to stand up against the pressures exerted because of their stand on certain issues. In this regard it should be patiently and lovingly explained that the Christian way of life is superior and follows the standard set by Christ Jesus. The apostle Paul himself said: “All those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted.” Christian children may, therefore, suffer or be ill thought of because they do not attend wild parties, wear their hair a different way, conform to certain types of clothing, or drive around in hot rods. Is it wrong to be ill thought of? No! Praise from Jehovah is better than popularity, and virtue is more to be desired than vice.—2 Tim. 3:12.
20. What Scriptural counsel is given as to avoiding wrong association?
20 Also, is it wrong for parents to give straight but loving counsel to their children, pointing out the pitfalls of dating and otherwise keeping company with those not of their faith? No! Wise parents will realize that Jehovah commands, at Deuteronomy 7:3: “You must form no marriage alliance with them. Your daughter you must not give to his son, and his daughter you must not take for your son.” The apostle Paul also stated: ‘Marry only in the Lord.’ (1 Cor. 7:39) One cannot disregard this divine command and expect to have Jehovah’s pleasure. Parents, yours is a heavy responsibility to guide your children in the right way, with a view to marriage that is both honorable and Scripturally sound.
21. Why may the Christian congregation rightly expect good examples from Christian fathers?
21 Also, when commenting on Christian fathers who would qualify to be overseers and ministerial assistants, Paul wrote Timothy: He must be “a man presiding over his own household in a fine manner, having children in subjection with all seriousness; (if indeed any man does not know how to preside over his own household, how will he take care of God’s congregation?) “ (1 Tim. 3:1-7) The Christian congregation can therefore rightly expect good family examples from overseers and ministerial assistants. Christian fathers failing to provide such examples could hardly be expected to be retained in positions of oversight.