Well, we’re going to get started tonight talking about what I believe is one of the pleasantest tasks that falls to a man and his wife, and that’s the job of raising children. Even I have had the experience of raising three children. Dick, he’s twenty-nine now, and Mary, and they have one and two sixths kids;, and Beth is twenty-seven and she’s married, and they have a little daughter; and Sue, she’s twenty-five and single, so we’re through with the job. And I have to confess that this is my favorite stage of family living.
The kids are gone. I’m not saying that because we didn’t like the job, I’m saying that because every one of us who have children realizes that there is an element of suspense in this job of raising them, in wondering, how are they going to turn out? It’s kind of a relief to be at this stage of the game where we have a reasonably good idea that they’ve turned out quite well, especially when you wrote the books.
Lots of folks want to know, ”How did your children turn out?” And we can say that they’ve done fine. Dick has his Ph.D., and he’s on the faculty at Michigan State University, and Beth’s husband will probably get his Ph.D. this year, and Sue’s all through college, and it’s really been a pleasant job to raise those children. I believe that one of the pleasantest parts of the job involves the children when they were in their later teens. So you don’t need to be afraid of that phase, provided you set the stage at the beginning.
Now I came across this quotation, let me read this to you. This is a quotation made by Socrates in 469 B.C., and this is what he said: “If I would get to the highest place in Athens, I would lift up my voice and say: What mean ye fellow citizens that you turn every stone to scrape wealth together and take so little care of your children to whom you must one day relinquish it all?” That sounds like a modern statement, doesn’t it?
Isn’t it true that so many of us, by the time we do our job, and look at our recreational opportunities, and carry out our social opportunities, it becomes a little difficult to pay attention to our children? And I want to share with you what I believe you can do in order to carry out your task effectively as a parent.
I’ve made some assumptions across these days and the one assumption that I have made is that I’m talking to a nice lady. And I believe this is important when your children come walking home from school, and the house looms into view, and they realize that in that house is a predictable happy lady.
Now anybody that has invited Jesus Christ to come into their hearts and live there, and anybody that has opened his heart to the resources that God makes available to you can consistently live that kind of a life. When Dad comes wheeling into the driveway and pops out of the car and into the house, here comes a predictably, congenial, happy man.
Now I’m making that assumption, and if we can’t make that assumption, and obviously we’re not talking about the marriage relationship, you need to pay attention to your own personal life. So we have to assume good will and friendship, and admiration and faith, and respect between you and your partner. That’s an assumption we have to make. So I’m assuming that. I’m talking about a man and his wife sitting down together who are teammates, not opponents, who intend to cooperate, and the job then is to develop a plan, a way of life that will commit the whole family.
Assuming that then here is this foundation, one of them that I believe is basic when it comes to an effective relationship with children, and it’s in Exodus 20:12, and it’s called one of the Ten Commandments. Here it is, “Honor your father and your mother.” Now here is a basic attitude on the part of a mother and a father for them to expect their children to honor them.
That’s not an old fashioned idea, that’s a basic, fundamental idea. And if you want your children to honor you, one of the simplest ways for them to do it is for you to be worthy of it. After all, why should your children honor a crabby old lady? That’s asking a lot of a child to give honor and respect to a man and a woman who are scraping with each other. It’s a pretty difficult thing for a child to give honor to some parents who differ with each other, and if you please one you can’t please the other. Caught in the middle between a mother and a father.
So there’s a fundamental requirement here that involves the two of you, and when the two of you are working together, it’s reasonable for you to expect and work at your children honoring you. “Honor your father and mother that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God hath given you.” Now here’s the basis for truly happy, effective family relationships. A mother and a father who are friends and working together with the children, and we’ve got what we can call a happy family. What’s that based on? It’s based on mutual respect, and it’s based on mutual commitment, that’s what it’s based on.
I’ve heard young people say this to me, “Why should I go to church? Hasn’t done my dad any good.”
They brought a young man to me awhile ago who refused to go to church, and so they brought this fellow to me and asked me to talk to him. This is sort of the story that I got from him.
He said, “Why should I go to church? Now look at the way my mom and dad treat each other. For instance, last Sunday morning we were sitting there at the breakfast table and my mother and father even refused to talk to each other. And after breakfast, my dad says, ’You get ready and come to church.’ And they forced me to go to church and all the way to church those two people didn’t even talk to each other and then we pulled into the parking lot. When we got out of the car, my mother takes my dad’s arm. Between the parking lot and the car you would think those two people were friends, the way they acted. She cuddled up to him, and they smiled at each other, and they were just as friendly and congenial, and they acted that way all through church, and then didn’t even talk to each other all the way home from church. Now why should I go to church?”
My answer to him was, “You’ve got me. I wouldn’t want to turn out like your dad either. I wouldn’t want to turn out like your mother either.”
See, here’s a man and a woman working hard at being phony, and working hard at deceiving their friends. Now how do you expect your children to respect you when you do that? I don’t believe you’re going to have a lot of difficulty with your children going along with your suggestions if the older they get, the more they realize that my mother and dad are easier to live with the older they get. When you see a man and a woman mellowing as the years go by, that’s quite different.
I was here one time at Campus Crusade headquarters, and I made myself available to college students for a whole summer, and I just had hundreds of them that I talked to. It began to dawn on me after awhile that there was a theme to the concerns that these young people expressed. Now many of these folks became Christians in college, they were Christians, maybe a year.
Do you know what the common thread was? These folks, new Christians would say, “Doc, what can I do to help my well-groomed, well-cared for, well-housed, miserable, unhappy, nervous mother?” Isn’t that something?
Do you know what they said, “I’m concerned about my hard-working, hard-driving, successful, wealthy, crabby, selfish father.”
Now if we expect our children to honor us, we need to be worthy of it, and so we have to make that assumption then that I’m talking to people who are worthy of expecting your children to follow you.
Let me give you a couple more Bible verses that I believe are important in establishing the foundation for relating yourself happily to your children. Romans 12:10, “Be kindly, affectioned one toward another.” Doesn’t that sound good? “Be kindly, affectioned one toward another in brotherly love, and in honor preferring one another.”
The realization that my dad tries to make mother happy, my mother makes an attempt to cooperate with my father, and there’s a spirit of good will between these people. Now, I realize that I’ve spent a lot of time talking about partners because I’m convinced that if your partnership is what it ought to be, you can do anything. Do what comes natural, and it will turn out all right.
Now here’s another Bible verse. Now when I first read this I thought, “Boy this is sure a picture of egotism.” This is Philippians 4:9, “Those things which you have both learned and received, and heard and seen in me, do.” Now that’s quite a “Watch me.” Now doesn’t that sound like egotism? You take a second look at that and you realize that that’s not egotism, that’s a fundamental, basic requirement if you want people to follow you, and that is to become the kind of a person that you would like them to become.
Now wouldn’t it be a break for your daughter, if she turned out like you? What would any girl want for a model? How could she improve on becoming a lady like her mother? It’s what this world needs, isn’t it? It’s some more people like you. After all, if we can’t say that, then our basic job is to work on that task. Would you buy that?
Then you can put it the same way. Isn’t it a break for your kids that they have you for a dad? I mean what could any child want that would be more satisfying than to have a dad like you, right? Now, if you can’t say that, then the first step in effective parenthood is to identify the areas in your life that keep you from saying that, and we ought to be doing something about it. And then you can look your children in the eye and do whatever you need to do in order to say to them, “Follow me.”
That’s what the Apostle Paul said, “Follow me even as I follow Christ.” Assuming that, let me call your attention to this scripture verse, and it’s in Proverbs 22:6, the task of a parent. “Train up a child in the way that he should go.” You put that another way, what are we saying? Where a child goes and what a child does should be an adult decision not a child’s. Is that right?
When I was going to graduate school right after World War II, that’s not the way they said it, they were saying self-demand. Let your children tip you off as to what they should do. I see this everywhere. I go into a home and I listen to mother say to their children that can’t even talk yet, “Would you like to eat your peas?” A child that can’t talk yet isn’t qualified to make that decision. I’ve heard people say to little children that are so weak on their feet that they’re still tottering, and mothers would ask their little children, “Would you like to go to bed?” Or I’ve heard mothers say to their children, “Would you like to be dressed now?”
We don’t want to frustrate our children, we don’t want to force our children, and so by the time the children are in grade school and you hear folks say, “Don’t you think you ought to study?” “Don’t you think you ought to come in now?” Then they get a little older into their teens, “Don’t you think you’re running around with the wrong crowd?” “Don’t you think that you’re staying out too late?” “Do you really think you ought to buy a car?”
By the time kids get out through the teens, I think it’s quite understandable that a lot of them would conclude that an adult doesn’t know anything. After all, you’ve been asking the children their advice all of these years.
Let me say to you that if you want to give your children a sense of sure footedness, then you ought to accept this task, and that is you decide what’s best for your children, and you are the one who’s got the experience to realistically decide what is best for them.
You don’t expect your children to understand that. I believe that a lot of young people who are seventeen are so sure that they know everything, simply because they don’t know what they don’t know. How could they know? They just simply haven’t lived long enough to know, and you’re going to look a lot smarter when your children are in their twenties than you do now.
I can remember when one of our children was ready for college, and didn’t want to go. Nobody else was going to college and our child didn’t want to go to college either, and we simply said, “You’re going.” This was our son, and he wasn’t very happy about that, and he let us know that he wasn’t very happy about that. My job is not to make my child happy.
I’ve had many parents ask me, “How do you keep your children smiling twenty-four hours a day?” My answer to that question is, “I haven’t got the slightest idea. That’s not my concern.”
If you believe the scriptures, then you will appreciate the fact that joy and peace are fruits of the Spirit of God, they are not my responsibility. That’s not my responsibility to keep my wife happy, that’s the least of my concerns. Did I say something wrong there? Why do I say that? Because the source of my wife’s joy is God, not me. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. The source of my joy is God. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, and so my joy doesn’t depend upon how my children behave, my joy doesn’t depend on how my wife behaves, my joy, or the lack of it, will be revealed by the way my children behave, not caused.
Now I think we need to be careful here. We aren’t training our children to keep mother happy. “Don’t act like that. You upset mother.” Now that’s not the idea. We’re to guide our children to act like that because it’s in their best interests. The job, the primary task of parents, is two nice people sitting down to decide what’s best for your children. There isn’t anybody in the world better qualified to decide what’s best for children than you, and your wife, provided you’ve paid attention to your children.
Do you know something? My wife is the world’s greatest expert on the subject of our three children. There isn’t anybody in this world that knows more about those children than my wife. Now anybody that does their job, and does it right as a parent, and obviously that’s quite a full time job, being a parent, one of the tasks that face us is to know enough about your children and to pay enough attention to them so that you know what they need.
I may be the head of the house, but I want to tell you that the advice about what was best for our children came from my wife. I would be foolish as the group leader of my home to ignore the advice of the world’s greatest expert. What a challenge here for you, Madame, to pay enough attention to your children so that you know what they need, and you and your husband sitting down to plan what’s best for them, and probably it’s true at your house like it was true at our house, that the person best qualified to decide what’s best for those children is a mother that pays attention to the job.
It’s a sad thing when you don’t do your job. And this is the major task of you and your partner, to chart the course and set the limits that are best for your children. This is what I do in my business. When I get home from this trip, I’m going to be having a meeting with some of the key people in the business, and we’re going to sit down together and plan what’s best for that business. We make some changes, we may revise what we’ve been doing up to now. And that’s the way it goes when you come home an you sit down with your partner, and you review the day or you review the week, and you review the roles. And there isn’t any task that will give any more satisfaction than you and your partner sitting down to chart the course for your family. Not two courses,. one.
Not that it’s one way when dad is home, and another way when mother is home. I’ve heard kids say this, “I can get along okay with my dad when he’s home and mom’s gone, and I can get along alright with my mother when she’s home, but when they’re together, that’s when it’s difficult because my mother and father don’t agree.” Agreement and unity is the foundation upon which you’re going to build an effective family life.
To summarize what I’ve been saying, the foundation upon which you’re going to build an effective family life is this: You expect your children to honor you. Now how does that happen? That happens when you and your partner sit down and develop guidelines, limits, and rules that both of you are prepared to carry out, and in your considered judgment, are in the best interests of your children.
Now you aren’t concerned about whether the children like it. The important thing is that the two people in the world best qualified to make that decision are agreed that what you decided is best for your children, and two kindly adults with the best interests of their children in mind.
Once you’ve decided what the plan is going to be, then the two of you work together the rest of your time seeing to it that it’s carried out. Now that’s not very complicated is it? That’s something that any two people who like each other and have the best interests of their children in mind can do.