QUESTION: I’ve heard the saying for years, “The family that prays together, stays together.” My husband and I have two great children. Our daughter is 6 and our son is 10. We all go to church every Sunday. Sometimes, though, I think what Jesus taught about love doesn’t sink in where my husband is concerned. He was raised in a military family and, in my opinion, is much too strict with our children. I don’t intervene in the moment when he is disciplining the children, but I try to talk to him later and he won’t listen.
Is there something I could say to him that could help him be more sensitive to these little ones’ feelings?
~Love My Kids
Dear Love My Kids,
Before I start, I want to come completely clean … I’m an Air Force brat. Both of my parents were in the military, my brother was in the Navy, and I was in the Army.
I’m curious why you started out your letter with, “The family that prays together, stays together” and how you believe that relates to disciplining children? I would suspect that there might be some other issues at work here, but, for the moment, let’s concentrate on the issue of discipline.
There are lots of questions that I have for both you and your husband. First, does your husband display affection with your children? Do they snuggle together, do silly things, read stories at night and like being around each other? If yes, I don’t think the kids are having an adverse reaction to the discipline. If no, he may be detached and is using discipline as his only way of relating to them. That would indeed be a cause of concern, and I would recommend that he seek some counseling. Households where Mom is the good cop and Dad is the bad cop are setting the kids up for lots of future problems.
From what you’ve written, it seems as though you’re relating discipline to not loving, and I don’t think that’s true. God handed down rules to the ancient Israelites. When our spiritual ancestors strayed from God’s ways, there were some pretty harsh consequences. Jesus wasn’t always easy on his disciples, either. He chewed them out when they fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane right before he was betrayed. People who attend Al Anon or similar meetings will tell you that tough love is very difficult to exercise but it’s sometimes the only way that they can relate to their addicted loved one and remain healthy themselves. Discipline is necessary and, in my opinion, there’s not enough today.
Here’s the bottom line … I recommend getting an objective assessment from several folks to see if they believe your children are overly disciplined. If people don’t share your opinion, then it might be good for you to do some introspective soul-searching. Maybe there’s something in your background that triggers your response to discipline.
On the other hand, if people agree with you, perhaps suggesting other ways for your husband to get the desired behavior might be possible. He frankly might not know any better if his family background is as harsh as you infer. You see this with dog training constantly. People try to yell and intimidate a dog to come on command, exerting their authority, whereas a little reward will yield much better results. Stating an observation to your husband instead of telling him not to do something can sometimes be an entry to a discussion. For example, “Johnny seemed really upset when you brought to his attention that he misbehaved. Maybe he just doesn’t understand what’s expected or why it’s important. I think it would be helpful for the two of you to have a talk when things have calmed down.”
I’m convinced that Mary and Joseph had some disciplinary issues with the young Jesus, otherwise Jesus wouldn’t have been fully human as well as fully divine. That puts you and your husband in good company.
Rev. Fr. Kirby Smith
Dear Love My Kids,
When people from different backgrounds and lifestyles get married, it takes a lot of discussion, prayer, flexibility and work to approach family issues in unity. As it appears you’ve been married for quite a few years, I’m assuming you’ve probably talked about your different approaches. Yet it seems you still don’t agree.
Unity and consistency are critical when raising a family. Not only do children feel more nurtured and secure when parents “track” together, but also respond better to correction. The goal is always to strike a balance between love and discipline to garner your children’s respect and responsiveness.
No parent has it all figured out from the start. Hopefully we learn and improve through the years. A few practical steps you might take would be to take a seminar or class or read a book on child rearing. One great resource is Dr. James Dobson’s book, “Dare to Discipline.” Although the book has been around for decades, it’s timeless. A key quote in his book is …“The parent’s demonstration of loving authority builds respect like no other process” (pg. 35). With united and loving authority as your goal, you and your husband might read the book together, discuss it and try to implement some of it. You also might sit down with your pastor to seek his thoughts and guidance.
One other important step is to take time to pray together when your children need disciplining. The Bible says to “try always to be led along together by the Holy Spirit and so be at peace with one another” (Eph. 4:2-3). With this in mind, you might take a few minutes, pray together and ask for God’s mind and heart for the direction, prior to dealing with your child. If we get our opinions and our upbringing out of the way and get God’s approach, the discipline will be more “fair” and right and your children will be more responsive.
QUESTION: I want to start by saying I’m a 68-year-old widow, retired and am blessed to have an incredible family – two sons, one daughter and six grandchildren. I began having dizzy spells about a month ago and now my doctor wants me to have extensive tests to determine the cause. I’ve said nothing to my children about this.
My question is shall I wait until the tests are completed and then tell them? I don’t want to worry them because I think one person (me) worrying is enough. I attend church regularly and am praying about this and have asked one of my good friends to pray as well.
~ Indecisive Mom
Dear Indecisive Mom,
It sounds as though you have a wonderful support system, both with your family and friends. Having family during challenging times can be a source of confusion for many of us. On the one hand, we don’t want them to worry unnecessarily. Alternatively, the support we glean from them can be encouraging and, often, contributes to our willingness to overcome the obstacles we face. I don’t believe, however, that we are meant to walk through this life alone, particularly during times of struggle. All too often we strive to protect our loved ones from information that would be easier for them to walk through if they had time to process their feelings and responses. There is great value in prayer and in committing our trials and tribulations to the greater wisdom of our Heavenly Father. Philippians 4:6 reminds us to, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”
Your decision to pray about your health with your friends is evidence of your faith. We learn in Ezra 8:23, “So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer,” which offers comfort in knowing that our prayers will be heard. By allowing family to participate in the posture of submitted prayer, you would also be modeling faithfulness and the belief in a greater purpose and destiny. Your family might offer you unexpected strength and may assist you in the decision-making process. Submitting this question to prayer will bring clarity to the situation.
In addition, take time to think about what you would want to know if one someone close to you was experiencing health challenges. Sometimes an opposing perspective brings additional insight.
My prayer for you is that your health will align with His perfect will for you and that whatever decision you make, His peace will surround and comfort you.
Dear Indecisive Mom,
What a blessing that you can describe your family as incredible! And it’s important to have good friends and a supportive church family to be there for you in times of need. That’s the strength of knowing the Lord and being in fellowship with others.
The wise man Solomon reminds us in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 that, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” And the New Testament is full of directives for us in how we are to relate to one another. We are to pray for one another, encourage one another, comfort one another, have compassion for one another, minister to one another, be kind to one another, and serve one another. But the most often repeated instruction is to “love one another!” And the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:15 reminds us that we are to “speak the truth in love to each other.”
I’m sure that when your sons and daughter were growing up you taught them the importance of openness and honesty and the responsibility of supporting one another as a family. These principles are never more important than when you go through the struggles of life. Your children relied on you to help them in difficult times when they were growing up, and now it’s their time to be there for you. There’s no doubt in my mind having read your story that if one of your sons or daughter or even grandkids were facing extensive tests because of a similar physical situation, you would want to know so you could pray and support them during that time. I encourage you to let them know what you are facing and allow them to journey with you in this process of discovering the cause of these dizzy spells. I’m sure they will thank you and will feel confident that you would support them in the same way.