Last month we began looking at how a father communicates to his children when the Lord directs a change for the family, especially when that change impacts something with which the children are involved. The dad’s gentleness, presentation, and humility are all vital as he shares with his family if he is to win the support of his children and avoid having to make decisions where he is dragging his family along behind him. There is so much power in a family working as a team, serving the Lord, with one heart and mind. I encourage every father to invest what it takes to make sure that is the spirit in his family.
In last month’s Dad’s Corner, we left off in the middle of the information I was sharing about presenting the change to your children. Very critical in your discussion is applicable Scripture. It is important that the children understand the biblical basis of the decision so that they don’t view it as Dad and Mom pushing their personal preferences on all of them. For this particular example, I will list just a few of the many verses that Dad could use with the children to help them see why the Lord has led you to the decision.
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11).
“He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight” (Psalms 101:7).
“But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).
“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16).
“But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:14).
“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Galatians 5:24).
Is that something that each of them wants to do? Seek an answer from each one that they desire to do that as well.
Now you will want to move into the compassionate stage of the discussion. Share with the children how you know the decision might take some adjustment time, but that you are going to help them through the process. You can remind them that Jesus said, “. . . If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Explain how that even though eliminating the beast from your home might seem hard, it would hardly be considered denying oneself. Let them know that you and Mom will be impacted too, but you want with all your hearts to follow the Lord’s direction for your family so you are happy to make any sacrifices that are necessary. Help them to understand that it will be a change for all of you, but you are committed to doing the right thing.
It is helpful to give Mom an opportunity to share her heart with the children in this discussion. Even if all she does is repeat some of what you have said, the children will observe that the two of you are united in the decision and direction. Working as a team is vital when a change is being implemented.
I also would suggest that you take time to allow the children to give you input. Listen to their concerns, fears, excitement, and practical suggestions—whatever is on their hearts. What you think they will object to might actually be something that they have been considering, and they are already planning ways to augment the implementation. You might find a resistant heart, but an arm around the shoulder with loving words of encouragement will go a long ways to soften that resistance.
Finally as we end these discussions, I like to ask each child whether he will follow me. My children have always answered that they would follow. Regularly they say that it is hard for them, but as time progresses, I can’t recall a decision that was difficult for the children that they haven’t greatly affirmed as the months went by.
Perhaps there is a child who continues to resist even after all that you have shared from your heart. Then what? Consider what would happen if your child had a serious illness he needed surgery to correct. You explain to him his condition and the surgery, but he says he doesn’t want the surgery. What would you do? If you loved your child, you would do what was best for him anyway. Isn’t it even more important that we have this same attitude for a child’s spiritual health? Just like the parent helps a child toward physical surgery, you will want to help your child toward spiritual surgery by spending time with him, continuing the communication on the topic, and being very gentle through the changes.
We do what is best for our children whether it is their preference or not. If a child at this point doesn’t want to follow you in following Jesus’ direction, then it is important to know that right upfront. This child will not make a good decision, has been influenced by the world, and is going to need an even greater amount of love and encouragement in the process.
Don’t forget to thank the children for following your lead. You can affirm their desire to please the Lord Jesus Christ and to trust you with this decision. Let them know how much that makes you happy and blesses your heart.
One dad told me that while the family was out, he had a friend come in and take the beast away. When the family came home, the children noticed it was gone and asked Dad about it. He said it was gone and not coming back. He said they were a little disappointed, but soon forgot about it, and life was better from then on. While I’m not suggesting you try this method of implementing a change in the family, I share it with you to illustrate how we can be fearful that what we are planning will be devastating for our family only to have it work out like it did here. The children were a little disappointed, soon forgot about it, and life was better—end of story!
In reality, I have found that times like these when we are setting out on new spiritual frontiers, is exciting for my children. They like the spiritual adventure. Children often become bored with a faith that doesn’t challenge them.
To help reinforce the decision, be on guard for situations that are a positive result of that decision. In our throwing-out-the-beast example, when Dad observes the children doing something constructive with their time, he reminds them that they wouldn’t have been doing that when the TV was in their home. When Dad is having nightly Bible time, he can tell his children how much he loves Bible time and being with his family. Dad will notice a host of positive changes in his family when the beast is removed so he needs to make sure that he shares those with the children.
There is something I feel the need to warn you about, though. When making positive changes that challenge the family, if Dad has compromises in his life, the children will view him as a hypocrite, be discouraged, and react to the changes. In this example of eliminating the TV, if Dad chooses to go over to his parent’s house to watch the “big game,” or is using his computer for late-night TV viewing, the family will feel he has a double standard. Dad will be seen as asking them to give up their entertainment, while not giving up his. We must be leaders that our families are willing to follow.
Paul knew his testimony was a good, consistent example such that he encouraged others to follow him as he followed Christ. “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). That needs to be true of us with our families as well.
Inevitably as we follow the Lord Jesus Christ, there will be areas in our family’s lives that He desires to add or remove in order to draw us closer to Him and use us for His kingdom. These changes will impact our families. We want to consider how we can best present changes to our children in a spirit of love and humility so that they will understand and desire those changes. As we pray and seek the Lord’s guidance, may we be men who invest our lives into the lives of our children.