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I tell this to my son often…watch what I do! The challenge for me as a parent, a father, and a man is that if my son is going to watch what I do, then is it not critical how I act? Defining the role of the family has become an increasingly difficult task in today’s culture.
Let’s state the obvious by just getting it out in the open that everyone of us is someone’s child. Everyone of us also has memories of our childhood. Everyone of us has been influenced by our past. Everyone of us has had a hero or someone they watched and idolized at an early age. Most often, that person was their parent. So parents, remember your youth and recognize that you are your child’s role model. Research states that whether you know it or not, most youth look to their parents and other family members for their examples. Is that not your own experience? So if it is, what do we do with that? What happens to that hero? Have you remained your child’s hero? What is the role of the family?
As a father of a rapidly growing 7 year old, I often think of the example I am setting for my son. And that literally, is what the word means. We see in scripture that Jesus is referred to as the Son of God and ‘son’ means the ‘example of.’ Therefore, Jesus is the ‘Perfect Example of God.’ It is the Perfect Example of God who was incarnate.
The Role of the Family
So, if son means the example of, then we must recognize as parents that children are examples of their parents. Throughout scripture, you see it this way: David was the son of Jesse who was the son of Obed who was the son of Boaz. Literally, you could say that David was the example of Jesse who was the example of Obed who was the example of his father Boaz. In the person of David, we know a little bit about his father, and his father before him.
We as children, are examples of our parents. And this is a key component of the role of the family. Families provide:
- an example
- an identity
- moral, social, and economic support
- influence in a family member’s life that lasts a lifetime
- boundaries providing security and structure in which one can grow and flourish.
Yet according to a study conducted by the University of Missouri:
- Dads spend 8 minutes a day talking to their children
- Working mothers spend 11 minutes
- Stay-at home moms spend less than 30 minutes
So, in raising children, do we look at it from the perspective of a lifetime or from a day in day out experience? The key piece of the family is a deep commitment by the parents to parenting and raising their children. Commitment is not demonstrated by a week’s trip to Disneyland or the beach or the mountains. A deep commitment is shown over time, day after day. Remember these four things:
- Respect is earned
- Make time for fun – deliberately plan to be around each other
- Encourage – learn each other’s assets and strengths
- Communicate love consistently – not just in words but in actions
Flooding provides a great analogy. Generally a river or stream has clear borders. Water needs to be contained. When the water is contained, the countryside, trees, and foliage which are near the banks of the river are beautiful. But when that river no longer remains in the banks to control its flow, there is devastation and chaos as a flood will destroy the surrounding environment.
So, what is the role of the family? The family provides banks and boundaries for its members. Parents establish those “banks” for their children. Without them, children have no “home,” no security, no place to feel safe, no refuge to run to in trouble, no safe harbor in which to grow and develop.
One of our most natural weaknesses is being consistent; in our love, our discipline, our time commitment, our self-control, our application of God’s Word. This is the precise reason we need daily reminders, daily strength, daily encouragement. God says in Lamentations 3:20 that “His grace is new every morning.” Every day is a new day because of God’s grace. The actions of yesterday do not need to control the actions of the future if you take it to the Lord, confess the sin, and ask for His grace to begin anew. You cannot do that that too many times! His grace is infinite!
So in understanding the role of the family, particularly the role of parents who set the tone for the family, here is some simple advice:
- Speak openly and honestly think before you speak!
- Praise the positives!
- Spend time regularly doing things your children enjoy. This doesn’t mean that you have to cater to their every interest but it does mean you should spend the time learning what they are really interested in and developing those skills. Each child has their own unique talents, learn your child’s talents rather than forcing your interests on them.
- Eat meals together and engage in family activities on a regular basis
- For those who drink alcohol, make some of those dinners or social events alcohol free to show your children that you don’t need alcohol to have a good time or to relax.
You are never alone in carrying out the work and calling of a parent. Like minded parents with whom you can become friends can become a help and encouragement as you traverse these years together. God never leaves us or forsakes us when we call on Him and ask for His grace. A healthy and vibrant church community can become a great resource for parents and their children. Use what God has provided for families and parents. Remember, God works through and with families.