Parents—How Can You ‘Build Up’ Your Home?
“By wisdom a household will be built up, and by discernment it will prove firmly established.”—PROVERBS 24:3.
1. What is one essential for a strong family?
A RECENT survey asked over 550 professionals who specialize in helping families which traits they most commonly found in strong families. At the top of the list: communicating and listening. The survey’s author, Dolores Curran, explained why: “It’s the energy that fuels the caring, giving, sharing, and affirming. Without genuine listening and sharing of ourselves, we can’t know one another. We become a household of roommates who react rather than respond to one another’s needs.” Yes, open flow of communication is the life stream of a strong family.
2, 3. (a) What problem is noted even in some Christian homes? (b) What does Proverbs 24:3, 4 reveal that can help build a strong family? (c) What questions need answering?
2 A lack of closeness, though, can have tragic consequences. For instance, one of the Watch Tower Society’s branches in Africa was asked why some Christian youths abandoned Bible morality. “The main weakness relating to the whole problem,” according to the reply, was “the failure of parents to be good listeners and their inability to reason with their children. So many parents do not have a really intimate relationship with their children.” Of course, this is only one aspect of the problem—though an important one. Individual obedience and godly devotion on the part of youth, just as with everyone else, ranks first. (Romans 14:12; 1 Timothy 6:6) Consider, too, Proverbs 24:3, 4. It reads: “By wisdom a household will be built up, and by discernment it will prove firmly established. And by knowledge will the interior rooms be filled with all precious and pleasant things of value.”
3 But how can you apply wisdom, discernment, and knowledge to achieve the needed emotional intimacy, especially with adolescents? How do you avoid inadvertently creating communication blocks? (Compare Proverbs 14:1, 12.) Above all, how can you build a family that is steadfast in true worship? With so many demands on your time and attention, you may wonder where to start. The first quality, wisdom, can help you to establish priorities.
Wisely Set Priorities
4. What should be a Christian family’s chief priority?
4 “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom,” wrote the psalmist. (Psalm 111:10) Your own wholesome dread of displeasing God, along with putting his worship first, is essential. One mother explained how she and her husband successfully reared their two sons to serve Jehovah: “We filled our lives with the truth—going to all the conventions, preparing for and attending the meetings, and making field service a regular part of our lives.” Her husband added: “The truth is not part of our life, it is our life. Everything else revolves around it.” Do you likewise set Jehovah’s worship as the top priority in your home?
5. Why is balance needed by Christian parents?
5 Engaging in the field ministry as a family will draw you closer, yet the unique needs of children require a commitment of your private time and emotional energy. Therefore, balance is needed to determine how much time you can use for the preaching work or congregation duties while you also care spiritually, emotionally, and materially for ‘those who are your own.’ You must “learn first to practice godly devotion in [your] own household.” (1 Timothy 5:4, 8) To help fathers, especially, to get the balance needed between family obligations and ministerial duties, the September 15, 1959, issue of The Watchtower urged: “Let proper weight be given to the interests of your own family. Certainly Jehovah God would not expect a man to use all his time in congregational activity, in helping his brothers and neighbors gain salvation, and yet not look after the salvation of his own household. A man’s wife and children are a primary responsibility.”
6. What danger must be avoided by parents, and how can this be done?
6 This responsibility is not necessarily cared for by spending many hours with your children but by making full use of that time. Sadly, some parents have become so wrapped up in caring for congregation matters, a challenging job, or material things that even when they are with their children, their minds are on something else. Only after family tragedy have they realized the need to reevaluate their priorities. “The wisdom from above is . . . reasonable, ready to obey.” (James 3:17) Such heavenly wisdom will help you to divide your time and emotional involvement properly so as to obey all of Jehovah’s commands.
Rod and Reproof Give Wisdom
7. How can Proverbs 29:15 be effectively applied?
7 Firmness for right principles, displayed in kindness, tells your children that you care. Permissiveness breeds both juvenile insecurity and delinquency. “The rod and reproof are what give wisdom.” (Proverbs 29:15; 22:15) To be effective “the rod and reproof” must be accompanied by love. Discipline applied unreasonably or in the heat of emotion can break a child’s spirit. “You fathers, do not be exasperating your children, so that they do not become downhearted.” (Colossians 3:21) The “rod” of discipline includes appropriate punishment, but if you make unreasonable demands, are overly critical, and humiliate the child, it is a misuse of this “rod” and may shatter a child’s confidence both in himself and in you. He may “become downhearted.”
8. Explain why “reproof” means more than chastisement?
8 But both “rod and reproof” are needed. Reproof requires more than chastisement; it involves the presentation of facts to convince another person.* The Hebrew word for “reproof” is also rendered ‘counterargument.’ (Psalm 38:14) Therefore, to reprove truly means being willing and able to present facts so that the child can see the reasons for your action. The publications of the Watchtower Society contain material, some written primarily for youths, that can help you to present sound reasons to your child as to why a certain course is wrong. Are you making full use of such?
Discernment Creates Empathy
9. What is discernment, and why is it important?
9 Discernment is also an essential communication skill. The original Hebrew word comes from a root word that means to “discern between,” “to distinguish.” This perceptive insight probes beneath the obvious, and therefore is akin to understanding, empathy, and compassion.—1 Peter 3:8.
10. How did probing beneath an apparent situation prevent hostilities in Bible times?
10 A Bible example that shows the value of discernment is recorded at Joshua 22:9-34. The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh, who were given land inheritances east of the Jordan River, constructed a gigantic altar on their land. The other tribes, considering this to be apostasy, prepared to punish what appeared to be a deliberate breaking of God’s law. (Leviticus 17:8, 9) Before acting, they sent a delegation to talk with the two and a half tribes. (Proverbs 13:10) The discussion revealed that the altar was not built for offering up sacrifices but “rather out of anxious care.” Separated from the other tribes by the Jordan River, the two and a half tribes were deeply concerned about the possibility of their future generations being cut off from Jehovah’s worship. The altar would serve as a constant reminder, “a witness,” that they, too, were God’s people. What a turnabout this explanation made! A different light was cast on what seemed to be a daring sin. Being “slow to anger,” those other tribes were enabled to discern the true situation, and this created understanding.—Proverbs 14:29.
11. How did one parent show discernment?
11 When a problem arises with your child, do you try to be discerning? For example, one of the sons of a Christian couple began coming home after school ‘mad at the world.’ “He refused to say why he was so angry,” explained the father. “At first I thought he was just being rebellious, but then I noticed he got quiet when I asked about school. Well, we had a long talk, and I found out that because he was small for his age, the kids at school were picking on him. After reassuring him that I understood how difficult this treatment was, I gave him some practical suggestions to help him deal with it.” The boy’s disposition quickly improved.
12. Why are the teenage years difficult for most youths, and what is needed on the part of parents?
12 Would you have shown the same patience with your child? Youths, especially teenagers, can be deeply influenced by such things as school, physical appearance, sexual desires, and popularity. “Of all the states of man’s development, adolescence is the most difficult,” stated the journal Adolescence. “The adolescents, self-critical and inexperienced, feel themselves lacking in a world that is competitive and insensitive. Instead of being able to accept humiliation and failure, they react with strong feelings of resentment and anxiety.” Such troublesome emotions can affect a child’s behavior. (Compare Ecclesiastes 7:7a.) Only by developing close communication with your child will you understand the real problem and be able to discern the best way to help.
13. (a) What are some communication barriers? (b) Why do parents have to apply Proverbs 20:5 persistently? Illustrate.
13 Putting their apprehensions into words is difficult for many youths. Therefore, as your child starts to open up, avoid thoughtless comments that stab, such as: ‘Is that all? I thought it was something important.’ ‘The trouble with you is . . . ’ ‘How could you do this to me?’ ‘Well, what do you expect? You are just a child anyway.’ (Proverbs 12:18) At times a youth will need some probing, especially if he has a sensitive problem. “The man [or, woman] of discernment” will persistently endeavor to ‘draw up’ such feelings. (Proverbs 20:5) One Christian couple found that their daughter was withdrawing from family activities. The parents probed but to no avail. They persisted. “Finally, one day I sat on the bed with her, put my arm around her, and again asked what was the problem,” reported the mother. “With tears she told me that she felt that we and others just did not like her company, so she stayed away as much as she could. My first impulse was to say, ‘That’s absolutely ridiculous,’ but I held it in and just listened as she poured out her heart.” The parents assured her that they cared very much and made it a point thereafter to make her feel at home in the family circle. She overcame the problem and now serves as a happy full-time evangelizer.
14. Why is having a family that is emotionally close not enough?
14 Building a close-knit family is important, and even some worldly families have accomplished that. But it is another matter to build a spiritually minded family that stays close to Jehovah and that is united around his Word. To accomplish this, more is required than just being emotionally close to your children.
15. What kind of knowledge is vital, and why?
15 “By knowledge will the interior rooms be filled with all precious and pleasant things of value.” (Proverbs 24:4) These precious things of value are not material treasures but include spiritual security, self-sacrificing love, godly fear, and faith based on the knowledge of God. These create a rich family life. (Proverbs 2:5; 15:16, 17; 1 Peter 1:7) This knowledge will give children inner strength so that they can resist Satan’s tactics, even subtle ones, for Proverbs 24:5 states: “One wise in strength is an able-bodied man, and a man of knowledge is reinforcing power.” But you have to inculcate such knowledge into their hearts.—Deuteronomy 6:6, 7; 1 John 2:14.
16. (a) What is essential in order to get knowledge of God into your child’s heart? (b) For children really to benefit, what is necessary?
16 One of the finest aids for inculcating the Word of God into your children is the conducting of a regular family study that encourages them to make the truth their own. “The family study sets the right mood, so that your child’s mind is receptive to instruction,” explains one successful parent of four. He added: “When you start to correct children, automatically you have a ‘hostile audience.’ But when you can discuss material at a time when there is no hostility, such as at the family study, there is more of a chance that the points you want to make will penetrate.” But for the children really to benefit, you need to imitate the apostle Paul, who wrote: “I am longing to see you, that I may impart some spiritual gift to you in order for you to be made firm.” (Romans 1:11) A gift is especially appreciated when it is something the receiver can use and that is of real value to him. So draw out from the material something that touches the child’s life.
17. (a) What can help make a family study both interesting and informative? (b) Do you have additional suggestions?
17 Parents should also make sure that all in the family know the time of the study, as well as what material will be considered. Some use visual aids, such as maps and charts, to enhance the material. Other parents include refreshments either before or after. Following the study they may discuss the day’s or the week’s problems. (See accompanying box for additional suggestions.) Above all, conduct this Bible study regularly! Many parents have to put forth much effort to provide food and shelter for their children; but it is of even greater importance to provide “the unadulterated milk belonging to the word, that through it [our children] may grow to salvation.”—1 Peter 2:2; John 17:3.
18. What will help ‘build up’ your home?
18 Building a spiritually strong family takes skill and time. Be determined to develop the needed communication skills so as to keep emotionally close to your children. Do not allow anything to prevent you from taking the necessary time to strengthen your family through wisdom, discernment, and knowledge. Pray for, and with, your children, knowing that only Jehovah can crown your ‘building’ efforts with success.—Psalm 127:1.
According to The Hebrew and English Lexicon, by John Parkhurst, the word for “reproof” comes from a verb meaning ‘to show plainly, point out by facts, to demonstrate, show by evident or convincing reasons or arguments.’ Old Testament Word Studies, by William Wilson, says of the same verb: “to prove.”
Do You Remember?
□ How is a home strengthened by wisdom, and what can help children develop it?
□ Why does discernment help create good family communication?
□ Why is knowledge of God essential?
□ How can a family study be made interesting and informative?
[Box on page 24]
AN EFFECTIVE FAMILY STUDY
How should a study be conducted?
Keep a relaxed, yet respectful, atmosphere. Avoid mechanical, overly formal procedure. Ask additional questions and use illustrations to stimulate thinking and to keep all involved. Simplify material when necessary. Better not to use study period to scold children. Perhaps any necessary reproving can be done in private.
What should be studied?
Choose according to needs of family. Be flexible. May be preparation of weekly lesson in The Watchtower. Specific issues may need to be discussed, such as problems youths face in school, dating, extracurricular activities, sports, and immoral tendencies. Use articles or publications that deal with these. Could divide up study time to cover different subjects.
When should it be held and for how long?
Family head can determine after discussing schedules of family members as well as considering their limitations. Need to appraise ages and attention span of children. May want to have abbreviated session several times during the week if children are young. Some have had such sessions at the dinner table immediately after the meal. Important factor is not length but quality of time spent together.
How can you be sure of reaching child’s heart?
Encourage child to put answers in own words. Tactfully use viewpoint questions to see how child really feels about matter. You could ask: “How do children in school feel about this matter? Do you feel they have a point?” Or, “How would you explain to a classmate why we do not commit fornication? Do you feel this is really for your good? Why?” Be careful not to overreact to answers given to viewpoint questions, so that child will feel free to express himself honestly. Take time to let each one speak, to be sure he or she understands important points correctly.