Work Hard for the Salvation of Your Household
“Go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.”—EPHESIANS 6:4.
1, 2. What challenges face parents today?
A POPULAR magazine called it a revolution. This was in an article that described the startling changes that have taken place in the family in recent years. These were said to be “the result of an epidemic of divorce, remarriage, redivorce, illegitimacy, and new strains within intact families.” Such stresses and strains are not surprising, for the Bible predicted that people would face “critical times” during these “last days.”—2 Timothy 3:1-5.
2 Parents today therefore face challenges unknown to previous generations. Although some parents among us have raised their children in godly ways “from infancy,” many families have just recently begun “walking in the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:15; 3 John 4) Their children may have been older when the parents began to teach them God’s ways. Furthermore, an increasing number of single-parent families and stepfamilies are found in our midst. Whatever your circumstances, the apostle Paul’s admonition applies: “Go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.”—Ephesians 6:4.
Christian Parents and Their Roles
3, 4. (a) What factors have caused the role of fathers to diminish? (b) Why must Christian fathers be more than breadwinners?
3 Note that Paul addressed his words at Ephesians 6:4 primarily to “fathers.” One writer explains that in previous generations “fathers were responsible for their children’s moral and spiritual upbringing; fathers were responsible for their children’s education. . . . But the Industrial Revolution stripped away this intimacy; fathers left their farms and stores, left their homes to work in factories and later in offices. Mothers assumed many of the duties for which fathers were once responsible. Increasingly, fatherhood became an abstraction.”
4 Christian men: Do not be content to be mere breadwinners, leaving all the training and nurturing of your children to your wives. Proverbs 24:27 urged fathers of ancient times: “Prepare your work out of doors, and make it ready for yourself in the field. Afterward you must also build up your household.” Likewise today, as a working man, you may need to labor long and hard at making a living. (1 Timothy 5:8) Afterward, however, please take the time to “build up your household”—emotionally and spiritually.
5. How can Christian wives work for the salvation of their households?
5 Christian wives: You too must work hard for the salvation of your households. Proverbs 14:1 says: “The truly wise woman has built up her house.” As marriage partners, you and your husband share the responsibility of training your offspring. (Proverbs 22:6; Malachi 2:14) This may involve disciplining your children, getting them ready for Christian meetings and field ministry, or even conducting the family study when your husband is not able to do so. You can also do much to teach your children household skills, good manners, physical hygiene, and many other helpful things. (Titus 2:5) When husbands and wives work together in this way, they can better meet the needs of their children. Just what are some of those needs?
Caring for Their Emotional Needs
6. What roles do mothers and fathers play in the emotional development of their children?
6 “When a nursing mother cherishes her own children,” they feel safe, secure, loved. (1 Thessalonians 2:7; Psalm 22:9) Few mothers can resist the urge to lavish attention on their infants. Asked the prophet Isaiah: “Can a wife forget her suckling so that she should not pity the son of her belly?” (Isaiah 49:15) Mothers thus play an important role in the emotional development of children. Nevertheless, fathers also play an important role in this regard. Family educator Paul Lewis says: “I’ve never had a single case worker who has ever had a [delinquent] kid report a healthy relationship with their dad. Not one out of hundreds.”
7, 8. (a) What evidence is there of a strong bond between Jehovah God and his Son? (b) How can fathers forge a loving bond with their children?
7 It is therefore essential that Christian fathers carefully cultivate a loving bond with their children. For example, consider Jehovah God and Jesus Christ. At Jesus’ baptism, Jehovah declared: “You are my Son, the beloved; I have approved you.” (Luke 3:22) So much is expressed in those few words! Jehovah (1) acknowledged his Son, (2) openly expressed his love for Jesus, and (3) made known his approval of Jesus. Yet, this was not the only time Jehovah expressed his love for his Son. Jesus later said to his Father: “You loved me before the founding of the world.” (John 17:24) Really, though, do not all obedient sons and daughters need acknowledgment, love, and approval from their fathers?
8 If you are a father, likely you can do much to forge a loving bond with your children by regularly making proper physical and verbal expressions of love. Granted, it is difficult for some men to show their affection, especially if they have never received open affection from their own fathers. But even an awkward attempt to express love to your children can have a powerful impact. After all, “love builds up.” (1 Corinthians 8:1) If your children feel secure because of your fatherly love, they will be more inclined to be ‘real sons and daughters’ and to feel free to confide in you.—Proverbs 4:3.
Caring for Their Spiritual Needs
9. (a) How did God-fearing Israelite parents care for the spiritual needs of their families? (b) What opportunities do Christians have to teach their children informally?
9 Children also have spiritual needs. (Matthew 5:3) Moses exhorted Israelite parents: “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.” (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7) If you are a Christian parent, you can do much of your instructing informally, as “when you walk on the road.” Time spent riding together in the family car, shopping, or walking together with your children from door-to-door in the Christian ministry provides wholesome opportunities to impart instruction in a relaxed setting. Mealtimes are an especially good time for families to converse. “We use mealtime to talk about things that came up during the day,” explains one parent.
10. Why is family study sometimes a challenge, and what determination must parents have?
10 However, formal instruction by means of a regular Bible study with your children is also vital. Admittedly, “foolishness is tied up with the heart” of children. (Proverbs 22:15) Some parents say that their children can easily sabotage the family study. How? By acting restless and bored, by creating irritating distractions (such as fights with siblings), or by feigning ignorance of basic Bible truths. If this goes to the point of becoming a battle of wills, a parent’s will must be the strongest. Christian parents must not give up and let children dominate the household.—Compare Galatians 6:9.
11. How can family study be made enjoyable?
11 If your children do not enjoy the family study, perhaps some changes can be made. For example, is the study used as an excuse to review your children’s latest shortcomings? Perhaps it would be best to discuss such problems privately. Is your study held regularly? If you cancel it for a favorite television show or sports event, likely your children will not take the study very seriously. Are you earnest and enthusiastic in your manner of conducting the study? (Romans 12:8) Yes, study should be enjoyable. Try to keep all the children involved. Be positive and upbuilding, warmly commending your children for their participation. Do not simply cover material, of course, but try to reach hearts.—Proverbs 23:15.
Disciplining in Righteousness
12. Why does discipline not always involve physical punishment?
12 Children also have a strong need for discipline. As a parent, you should set limits for them. Says Proverbs 13:24: “The one holding back his rod is hating his son, but the one loving him is he that does look for him with discipline.” The Bible does not mean, however, that discipline must always be delivered at the end of a strap. Proverbs 8:33 states: “Listen to discipline,” and we are told that “a rebuke works deeper in one having understanding than striking a stupid one a hundred times.”—Proverbs 17:10.
13. How should child discipline be administered?
13 On occasion, some physical discipline may be appropriate. If carried out in anger, however, it is likely to be excessive and ineffectual. The Bible cautions: “You fathers, do not be exasperating your children, so that they do not become downhearted.” (Colossians 3:21) Indeed, “mere oppression may make a wise one act crazy.” (Ecclesiastes 7:7) An embittered youth can even rebel against righteous standards. Parents should thus use the Scriptures to discipline their children in righteousness in a firm though balanced way. (2 Timothy 3:16) Godly discipline is administered with love and mildness.—Compare 2 Timothy 2:24, 25.*
14. What should parents do if they feel inclined to give in to rage?
14 Of course, “we all stumble many times.” (James 3:2) Even a normally loving parent can succumb to the pressure of the moment and say something unkind or make a display of wrath. (Colossians 3:8) If that should occur, do not let the sun set with your child in great distress or with you yourself in a provoked state. (Ephesians 4:26, 27) Settle matters with your child, offering an apology if that seems appropriate. (Compare Matthew 5:23, 24.) Displaying such humility may draw you and your child closer together. If you feel that you cannot control your spirit and will give in to rage, seek help from the appointed congregation elders.
Single-Parent Households and Stepfamilies
15. How can children in single-parent families be helped?
15 Not all children, though, have the support of two parents. In the United States, 1 child out of 4 is being raised by a single parent. ‘Fatherless boys’ were common in Bible times, and concern for them is repeatedly mentioned in the Scriptures. (Exodus 22:22) Today, single-parent Christian households likewise face pressures and difficulties, but they take comfort in knowing that Jehovah is “a father of fatherless boys and a judge of widows.” (Psalm 68:5) Christians are urged to “look after orphans and widows in their tribulation.” (James 1:27) Fellow believers can do much to help single-parent families.*
16. (a) What should single parents do in behalf of their own households? (b) Why may discipline be difficult, but why must it be administered?
16 If you are a single parent, what can you yourself do to benefit your household? You need to be diligent about family Bible study, meeting attendance, and the field ministry. Discipline, though, may be a particularly difficult challenge. Perhaps you are still grieving over the loss of a beloved mate in death. Or you may be wrestling with feelings of guilt or anger over a marital breakup. If there is shared custody, you may even fear that your child may prefer being with your separated or divorced mate. Such situations may make it emotionally difficult to administer balanced discipline. However, the Bible tells us that “a boy let on the loose will be causing his mother shame.” (Proverbs 29:15) So do not give in to guilt, remorse, or emotional pressure by a former marriage mate. Set reasonable and consistent standards. Do not compromise Bible principles.—Proverbs 13:24.
17. How could the roles of family members become blurred in a single-parent household, and what can be done to prevent this?
17 Difficulties can arise, though, if a single mother treats her son as a surrogate spouse—the man of the house—or her daughter as a confidante, burdening her with intimate problems. Doing so is inappropriate and confusing to a child. When the roles of parent and child become blurred, discipline can break down. Let it be known that you are the parent. If you are a mother in need of Bible-based advice, seek it from the elders or perhaps from a mature older sister.—Compare Titus 2:3-5.
18, 19. (a) What are some challenges faced by stepfamilies? (b) How can parents and children in a stepfamily show wisdom and discernment?
18 Stepfamilies likewise face challenges. Frequently, stepparents find that “instant love” is rare. For example, stepchildren may be quite sensitive to any seeming favoritism toward biological children. (Compare Genesis 37:3, 4.) In fact, stepchildren may be grappling with grief for the departed parent and fear that loving a stepparent would somehow be disloyal to their biological father or mother. Attempts to give needed discipline may be met with a fierce reminder, ‘You’re not my real parent!’
19 Proverbs 24:3 says: “By wisdom a household will be built up, and by discernment it will prove firmly established.” Yes, it takes wisdom and discernment on the part of all for a stepfamily to succeed. In time, children must accept the often painful fact that things have changed. Stepparents may likewise need to learn to be patient and compassionate, not hurriedly becoming offended when faced with seeming rejection. (Proverbs 19:11; Ecclesiastes 7:9) Before assuming the role of disciplinarian, work at establishing a friendship with a stepchild. Until such a bond is established, some may consider it better to allow the biological parent to carry out discipline. When tensions arise, efforts must be made to communicate. “With those consulting together there is wisdom,” says Proverbs 13:10.*
Keep On Working for the Salvation of Your Household!
20. What should Christian family heads continue to do?
20 Strong Christian families are no accident. You family heads must continue to work hard for the salvation of your households. Be vigilant, noting unhealthy traits or worldly tendencies. Set a good example in speaking, conduct, love, faith, and chasteness. (1 Timothy 4:12) Manifest the fruitage of God’s spirit. (Galatians 5:22, 23) Patience, consideration, forgiveness, and tenderness will reinforce your efforts to teach your children God’s ways.—Colossians 3:12-14.
21. How can a warm, happy atmosphere be maintained in one’s home?
21 With God’s help, try to maintain a happy, warm spirit within your home. Spend time together as a family, striving to eat at least one meal together each day. Christian meetings, field service, and family study are essential. Yet, there is also “a time to laugh . . . and a time to skip about.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4) Yes, schedule periods of upbuilding recreation. Visits to museums, zoos, and similar places are enjoyable for the whole family. Or you might turn off the TV and spend time singing, listening to music, playing games, and talking. This can help the family to draw closer together.
22. Why should you work hard for the salvation of your household?
22 May all of you Christian parents continue working to please Jehovah fully “as you go on bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the accurate knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:10) Build your household upon a strong foundation of obedience to God’s Word. (Matthew 7:24-27) And be assured that your efforts to raise your children “in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah” will have his approval.—Ephesians 6:4.
See the article “The Bible’s Viewpoint: ‘The Rod of Discipline’—Is It Out-of-Date?” in Awake! of September 8, 1992.
How Would You Answer?
□ How can husband and wife cooperate in building up their household?
□ What are some emotional needs of children, and how can these be met?
□ How can family heads teach their children both formally and informally?
□ How can parents discipline in righteousness?
□ What can be done for the benefit of single-parent families and stepfamilies?
[Picture on page 16]
A father’s love and approval are important to a child’s emotional development