Heart of the Home - Part 3

One of the areas that needs strengthening in our homes is the parent-child relationship. Home government is lacking. There needs to be proper and healthy authority. Someone has to make final decisions. Proper training is also necessary for children to grow up happy and healthy.
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Today we come to the last and most difficult chapter in the study of happy, compatible Christian homes. The things I have to say today are not easy for some fathers and mothers to accept, but they are still true, biblical principles of parent-children relationships. I want to discuss home government and how God ordained that the affairs of a family should be administered. This is a very delicate area, for if there is anything that is an unknown art in the homes of today, it is sound government.

Starting with the parents, there needs to be a line of command in the home. Long ago it was established that in this sinful world there cannot be any such thing as absolute equality. The whole Communist system is built on the idea that equality ought to work, but it never does. It isn't working in Communist countries, financially or militarily, or in any other way. When the Communist Revolution took place in Russia in 1917, its leaders outlawed all army officers. Officers in their army had to obtain respect and obedience not by having authority or rank, but by everybody's mutual respect; and it didn't work. They had to change that right away.

There is no such thing as absolute equality in the home. It may be an ideal that we'd like to theorize about, but in actual practice it won't work. Before sin entered it was possible, but after sin it became impossible. There must be a line of command. There must be a head of the house, for no two people can have exactly the same authority in any given situation.

Some of you may be unhappy about that statement, but it's true. Even though marriage is a partnership, there still must be someone who is in charge, someone who has the reins, someone who finally makes the last decision. There are some decisions that must be made even when two people can't agree on how to make them. It might be a healthy thing to pigeonhole things on which you can't agree if no decision is necessary. But there are many decisions that must be made now, they can't be put off, even though the partners are not able to see eye to eye. In the last analysis someone has to say, "It will be this way." There must be a head of the house, one who makes the final decision; and God says the ideal way is for the husband to be the head of the house, spiritually as well as otherwise.

Of course, in homes where only the husband or the wife loves the Lord, there are some areas in which God comes first. Then that husband or wife must decide for God, regardless of what the other one says. But on those things that are not a matter of conscience and of duty to God, the husband should be the head of the house.

There ought also to be loyalty. First there should be a chain of command, the father as head of the house, and when he is away, the mother should have the last word. The children and everybody in the home should know that what she says, goes. They ought also to know that when Daddy gets home, Mother's decisions while he was away will still hold one-hundred percent. If there isn't that loyalty between parents, the result is trouble. When Dad is gone, Mother has to decide on punishment for the children. If, when Dad gets home, the children know they can get Dad to veto Mother, the family government is undermined. The children lose their sense of security; they don't know what they can count on. There must be loyalty to a chain of command.

This brings me to the last section, the training and control of children. What a tragedy that in so many homes today children are a liability rather than an asset, a heartache rather than a joy, a burden rather than a help. There is nothing in this world more enjoyable than well-behaved, well-disciplined children. And there is nothing that can bring more joy to parents' hearts than good children. On the other hand, there's nothing that can bring more shame, remorse, heartache and frustration than children who are not behaving as they should; and this situation can be controlled.

The very first necessity is to understand the nature of children. Many have supposed that children are born as cherubim and if we don't interfere, we can rear a generation of angels! But the opposite is true. The Bible teaches that we are born as sinners. That is why we need to be "born again." In fact, the psalmist says it starts before birth, we are conceived in sin.

Here is a statement you may not like, but it is true and in agreement with what God has to say. A juvenile court judge gave this opinion and quotation: "What we call delinquent behavior is as old and universal as man. It is not something to which only an evil or moronic segment of humanity, different from the rest of us, is liable. It must be remembered that no infant is born a finished product. On the contrary, every baby starts life as a little savage; is equipped among other things, with organs and muscles over which he has no control, with an urge for self-preservation, with aggressive drives and emotions like anger, fear and love over which, likewise, he has practically no control. He is completely selfish and self-centered. He wants what he wants when he wants it-his bottle, his mother's attention, his playmate's toy, his uncle's watch. And deny him those wants and he seethes with rage and aggression which would be murderous were he not so helpless.

He is dirty. He has no morals, no knowledge, no skills. What this means, of course, is that all children, not just certain children, are born delinquent and, if permitted to continue in the self-centered world of his infancy, given free rein to his impulsive actions to satisfy his wants, every child would grow up a criminal, a thief, killer, rapist. And in the process of growing up, it is normal for every child to be dirty, to fight, to grab, to steal, to tear things apart, to talk back, to disobey, to evade. Every child has to grow out of delinquent behavior. Many don't like that, but it is really the truth, and if we understand it, then we're on the right road. We have to train children in the way they should go, the Bible says, and when they're old they'll not depart from it. So you begin with a child who is a sinner, who is rebellious, who is delinquent, and he has to be trained if he is going to be any different from that.

There are several principles of training children that I want to mention. First of all is obedience. This is practically a forgotten word. Oh, we use the word, but we don't know what it means. Lots of people think that obedience means behaving only when being watched, or not getting caught in disobedience. But the true meaning of obedience is nothing more or less than total, immediate, and continued compliance with a command.

Many people have forgotten all about that. Let's say a mother is standing on the sidewalk with a child and the child starts to run out in the street. The mother calls, "Come back," but he runs all the faster. She runs after him and finally catches him and drags him back. Then she just holds him there as if nothing had happened, as if he hadn't disobeyed. Or the mother may tell the child to be quiet and he yells more loudly but doesn't receive any punishment for it. Of course, since he's not punished for his disobedience he grows up disobeying, but thinking this is the way to live. The result is that children are actually trained to disobey, while accepting this behavior as proper!

Yes, friends, it's important that children be trained. And they can be trained for obedience so much more easily when they are young than afterward. They can develop patterns of obedience before they are old enough to hold resentment over punishment.

Babies can be trained in church behavior, for instance. They can't understand anything about church or reverence or God, but they can get the idea right away (it really should start in family worship) that there's a different atmosphere when someone is singing and talking and praying. They soon learn that under these circumstances they don't make a fuss. Of course, it takes a little conditioning to bring that realization to them, a little bit of pain, perhaps; but they catch on very quickly and soon they will behave in church and never make a fuss. They may need attention, but they'll find ways of getting attention without crying.

I don't mean that a baby should never cry. Babies need to cry once in a while. But they can learn when not to cry. They can learn that a little "Shhhh" means that we don't cry right now, no matter what. They can learn to be quiet when they're told.

Another duty to teach our children is respect for property. What a pity that children are not taught to take care of property! You've seen a family with small children go to someone's house for dinner, and as soon as they get inside the front door the father and mother start sweeping up all the knickknacks and putting them on top of something so the kids can't reach them. The hostess, of course, is disappointed that all of her lovely decorations are taken away in one fell swoop; and the parents will say, "My children are just too small, and I'm afraid they'll break these things."

Well, why not train them? They can learn that they just don't touch things that are not theirs without permission. It's beautiful to see a little child walk up to something and admire it without grabbing it and seeing how strong it is. Children don't need to be old enough to talk to understand the difference between the fragile and the durable. They can learn that they are not to handle things without permission.

It's too bad when children aren't welcome, but it's understandable. There are many apartments and trailer courts where you can't rent if you have children. Isn't that too bad? If children were trained as they could be and as they ought to be, the signs would say, Only Families with Children. I really believe that, because people love children. There isn't a grandma or grandpa anywhere who doesn't love children, and people of any other age love them, too. Well-behaved children are a joy to be around. But ill-behaved ones are a terror, and most children today are ill-behaved. That's why the signs read, No Children Allowed, Families with Children Need Not Apply, etc. That's too bad, when it could be the other way. I wish I had more time to deal with today's tragic lack of respect for property. The vandalism, the marring of walls, the breaking of even church windows on a wholesale basis is a terrible result of allowing little children to be destructive.

Another very important thing is training a child to be trustworthy. How wonderful it is when you can depend on a child to take care of a task when it's his job. This is a matter of giving him duties around the house, chores that he does regularly without being nagged. It's a pity to nag children. It only makes them unhappy, and you too. By far the simpler way is to have a punishment arranged if they fail to do their assigned task. Perhaps they'll lose some of their allowance, or they can't enjoy some pleasure with the family, or have to go without dessert, or some such thing. If they neglect their duties they have to suffer for it. Soon they find out it's a lot more pleasant to do their work and they'll learn to get satisfaction out of it, too. Yes, children need to be taught to be trustworthy, that they can be counted on to carry out their duties.

The Bible says, "He who spares the rod hates his son." In other words, if you don't spank him when he needs it, you hate him. "But he who loves him is diligent to discipline him." Proverbs 13:24, RSV. According to this old-fashioned maxim, there aren't very many people who love their children! But nothing truer was ever said. If I love my child, how can I allow him to grow up with a personality or traits of character that will make him difficult to love, that will make it hard for him to hold a job, that will keep him from enjoying the friendship of worthy and lovable people? If I allow my child to grow up so that he is obstreperous, cranky, ill-tempered, disobedient and untrustworthy, then I have done him the greatest disservice possible. To indulge a child is to saddle him with a personality and character that will hurt him throughout the rest of his life and deprive him of the greatest joys of living. It is not love to allow children to develop habits of disobedience and destructiveness and bad personality traits. If we love our children we're going to send them out into life equipped to win friends, equipped to succeed, and above all, trained to be faithful to God.

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