There are times when my husband and I go out for the evening without our children. For some people this is common, for others it never happens. Our children are old enough to be at home by themselves. This is a great opportunity to see if what you have been trying to teach your children is working. How well do they get along?
So, if you are like me at all, then you might leave a list of things that need to be done, or in some cases, not done. It seemed when my brother and I were left alone at home this was when my brother’s imagination went crazy. I just went along for the ride. The times when the carpet became lava and the rocking chair a rocket ship—lots of good memories and only a few broken things. There were times when we had arguments. Of course, only when my brother didn’t realize I was right and I needed to enlighten him. I don’t recall my mother leaving a list for us, but I do remember some verbal instructions. When a list is used, some find it helps to go over the list with the children. This can be successful for some and for others it seems to have no affect at all. Whatever is used, the goal is usually the same. “Don’t argue with…,” “Don’t tear up the…,” “Don’t eat all the food…,” “Listen to your older…,” and the list goes on.
I have often thought of leaving a note that simply stated, “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit, not returning evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing” (I Peter 3:8).
The possible conflicts that might arrive are opportunities we have got to take advantage of. Even though we would like to not have conflict, it is part of our nature. No matter the desire, there will be conflicts. We are to strive not to have conflicts and God has told us how to handle situations and how to avoid them. Yet when things come up, so we need to provide the tools that will allow our children to turn things around and use them for His good.
Prevention is always the best place to begin. This will help them to see what may have caused problems in the past and what can be done to avoid them. “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?” (James 4:1). So often He reminds us to die to self. To live as Christ we must put aside ourselves. Some might think this is a concept too difficult for children to grasp. Yet, if we step outside of our world, from seeing only what we see, then we will gain the perspective that allows us to view others as God sees them.
We must follow up constantly to go over how things went. Not he did this and she did that. But a reminder before the conversation even begins that we are here to help each other get to heaven. It might be good to begin with pointing out what each feels they could have done differently themselves.
So it would seem we should look to God to set the standard for our family. You might begin with what is acceptable in God’s eyes. We need to study this in God’s word and make sure everyone is clear on this subject. Our children, as well as ourselves, need to remember we will stand before God and be held accountable for our actions and our choices. No assumption should be made that everyone is on the same track. It is important to study together as a family for the purpose of unity in the family—in God’s family.
It is often said if the mother is not happy, no one is happy. If children or parents, for that matter, are constantly bickering, an atmosphere of Christ’s love is hard to find. So it would seem peace in the home is vital. Peace in a home with Christ is expected. How do we accomplish this even when the parents are not in the house? To have a peaceful environment is something that we must work toward. God provided a clear pattern for us to follow. Everyone has a role based on God’s plan. The basis of this is built on the characteristics of Christ. To have unity in the truth would create the pattern God has set out for our families.
Why then do we try to justify the arguments our children have with one another? “Oh, well, they are around each other so much, they just get tired of always being together.” “They are so far apart in age.” “Their interests are so different.” “See, he was the first born and she is the youngest, and then there is the middle child syndrome.” It seems there are so many explanations as to why they just can’t really get along. Some might go as far as to say it is just their personality. “They really are sweet inside.”
There have been situations that I have been made aware of where the children cannot be in a room together without extreme parental supervision. Because they were taught “boys will be boys,” and this is an atmosphere where sharing is not even a goal, let alone a standard. Sometimes members of a family speak so harshly to one another they are completely in the dark that there is any other option. It has become a lifestyle. Should we not then take advantage of the inevitable conflicts to teach our children how God wants us to handle things? Do we separate them and teach them to avoid conflict? Do we just simply let them fight it out? Do we let the dominant overcome the weak in our family? Why would these things be tolerated in our homes?
Just as we are not to let the devil get a foothold in our lives, we are to be watchful with our families as well. What if we were to apply James 4:7? “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” To have a clear picture of where we stand would help maintain a godly perspective.
To realize that we are here to work together for the Lord is a comfort. “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). Whenever we see opportunities to teach our children we should jump on it. Yes, we are to make sure that our children are being taught for the salvation of their souls.“Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you” (II Peter 1:12).
Let’s say we have taught our children well. They don’t hit one another and can spend many hours together. How do we teach them to handle conflict? Do we simply say don’t argue? If that is true, what happens if they get married? What have we created?
What happens to the child that is not taught what God expects of them as a Christian? They become a part of a congregation because that is what is expected, and they continue the lifestyle to which they are accustomed. They become bitter toward members, hanging on to anger. Not knowing how to hold their tongue, they justify gossip because they think they are trying to help. Outbursts of anger are a part of their character. Criticizing elderships/leaders of the church is expected of members, isn’t it? They only speak with those members they want to be around. They leave worship feeling empty because it doesn’t really deal with things that they are going through in life.
God has made it clear how to deal with one another. It takes knowledge and then practice. If we do not apply our knowledge of God’s word, then we have failed. As we study the Word, we see God is very clear about unity in His church. Are we not raising our children to be a part of God’s family? Once they have become Christians then their siblings are more to them—as my brother calls me “his sister twice.”
What a blessing we have to offer our children: salvation, an answer to life’s question, “Why am I here; what purpose do I serve?”
It is time that we realize we are to teach our children that they play a role in one another’s path to heaven.
By Julie Oehlert