Patrick loved to scare the beejeevies out of the younger siblings. He would just hide around a corner, wait until they came unsuspectingly near, and then he would jump out yelling and screaming, arms waving, tongue flapping. If he could intensify the effect with a costume of some kind, he liked that even better. What fun! For Patrick. But we saw our little ones becoming scared in our own home. So I had to stop Patrick and explain to him that we wanted home to be a safe, secure place --for everyone--all the time. To his credit, he understood and still remembers that conversation.
We value one another for one foundational reason: We are each made in the image of God. Each of us, adult or child, is made in God’s image. This is why we value our children. This is why we value the unborn, the aged, and the infirm. This incredible value of being in the likeness of God should define our interactions with our children.
Following are some ways that we tried to reflect the value of the individual in our home.
We insisted on supporting one another in recitals, sports events, and programs. We would all go, watch, listen, and later discuss our favorite parts of each event.
Children have to be trained. When it comes to manners, good habits, and awareness of others, they just don’t come pre-programmed. Our human default system tends to be self-centered, not “other-centered.” We took time to explain how to treat adults, how to treat one another, how to get along, how to work things out (more on this next week).
The book of Proverbs became a key training manual for our family. We read ten verses together most nights before bedtime. We asked each person to pick the one they liked the best. Often we would find verses that spoke to events of that day. Then we could talk about them and apply them to our relationships. This helped us as parents just as much as it did the kids. The light would come on for Patricia and me as we would read with the children this wisdom from Proverbs. Here is an example:
He who isolates himself seeks his own desire. (Prov. 18:1)
A child left to himself is a shame to his mother. (Prov. 29:15)
So we insisted that the kids could not shut themselves in their rooms without a good reason. Home was a place to be open, not a place to hide.
We did not send them to their rooms for punishment. Since humans have a default system that is a self-centered perspective, anything that crossed their wills would probably be interpreted negatively. They needed a higher interpretation given by someone older and wiser--namely, their parents. Then we insisted on walking out the higher perspective.
Yes, we imposed our God-honoring values on our children.
To balance our intentional openness to one another, we tried to demonstrate a respect for privacy. We insisted that closed doors could only be opened from the inside after someone knocked. This applied to all of us on both sides of the door. (There were exceptions).
Each child had his day to lead us at the table. He/she would choose a scripture for us all to say or a song for us to sing, and then he/she would say the blessing over the meal.
Patricia would do something special with them on their birthdate each month.
We made a place for their friends in our home and in our activities.
We tried to find a way to celebrate their successes. (Ice cream was a key).
We listened. (Patricia is better at this than I am).
We helped with school work. (Still do).
We got them engaged in wholesome activities outside the home. (We arbitrarily chose eight years old as a time to begin this).
Here is the key: We realized that actions speak louder than words. We attempted to communicate to our children by our deeds as well as by our words that they were important. Words without deeds are flattering but deceptive. Actions tell the truth.
Are your children valuable? Act on it.