Good Marriages Key for Secure Children
Many Christian families homeschool because they want to give their children the greatest opportunity to grow up with a strong faith in the Lord. The Bible makes it clear that parents are responsible for teaching their children about the Lord: Ephesians 6:4 says that fathers (of course, this also applies to mothers) are not to provoke their children to wrath, but are to bring them up in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord. Most parents understand the second part, but what about not frustrating and provoking our children to wrath? That’s what I want to focus on here.
J. Michael Smith, president of Home School Legal Defense Association.
CHILD REARING IS
Biblical teaching and our personal observations reveal certain essential principles for giving our children the best possible opportunity to reach adulthood with a firm foundation for their lives.
Christian counselor Lou Priolo has written several books on child rearing and has done extensive counseling with families, especially those who have rebellious children. He concludes there are a number of things that parents do that frustrate children to the point of anger and can even lead to rebellion. In his book The Heart of Anger, he mentions over 20 things parents do that are not in our children’s best interest. He says, however, that the leading cause of rebellion is lack of marital harmony.
An important principle of child rearing is modeling what we teach. We do this in several ways through our marriages. But if we’re not careful, as busy homeschooling parents, we can get caught up in lots of activities that are good for our children but fail to focus on the most important thing upon which our families depend—our marriages.
How does disharmony in our marriage impact our children?
Disharmony and bitterness between husband and wife not only bring division between the two, but also trouble and defile* many close to Mom and Dad. According to Priolo, unresolved problems between husband and wife can cause hurt feelings in children that grow into bitterness, since the child is unable to forgive and move on. This bitterness in turn creates anger, leading to insubordination and finally rebellion. It is truly heartbreaking to see this process occur in families that have invested so much time in their children’s lives through homeschooling.
So, the bottom line is that homeschooling parents cannot be satisfied with an unhealthy marriage or just sticking it out for the sake of the children. The goal for marriage is to develop a one-flesh relationship. If we allow other priorities to distract us from this goal, the tension in our relationship can spill over into our children’s lives.
For example, when our children overhear our arguments and disagreements, this creates insecurity that can result in dysfunction. Even if we make up later, children often don’t know about the argument being resolved unless we purposely tell them. It is a good idea to frequently reassure our children that Mom and Dad do love each other; that, although we have disagreements, these disagreements do not affect our love for one another; and that we promise our children we will never leave them.
What practical things can we do to help achieve a one-flesh relationship? Recently, my pastor gave some tips that I would like to share.
1. Worship God by loving our spouse. Husbands, we are to love our spouse as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. This is an act of worship and obedience to God: we’re declaring to God that He is worthy to be honored by reverencing His word. Now, this kind of love is not easy to give and it is not based upon emotion, but requires a conscious decision to put our spouse first. This kind of love is unconditional and not dependent upon whether our spouse returns love, affection, and attention. This kind of love requires death to self as the picture of Christ’s love for us. It requires God’s grace and cannot be done in the flesh.
2. Resolve conflicts. We simply cannot allow our bitterness to continue against each other, negatively impacting our marriage relationship and all those closest to us.
3. Make time for each other. It is critically important for homeschooling couples, especially husbands, to realize how much we need to be able to spend one-on-one time together, not just family time with the children. Homeschooling itself can be very stressful and our wives often feel the full responsibility for how our children will turn out. They need time alone with us to encourage them and to recharge their batteries. Many homeschooling parents have purposely established a regular “date night” to ensure time alone. Children must understand that Mom and Dad’s time and marriage come first.
4. Set the tone for family communication by the way we communicate with each other. There are two components of communication: the way and the substance of what we communicate. Both are important. How we communicate with each other will impact how our children will communicate with one another and with their future spouses.
5. Finally, if we continue to have problems in our marriage and are having trouble resolving them together, get help. Just make sure that the counselor has a good reputation with people you respect and is committed to biblical counseling.
Remember: Actions speak louder than words. If we want to inspire our children to live godly lives, we must model God's love in how we relate to our spouses.
* “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:15 (NIV)