It is a place of smiles and warmth, of sharing and laughter, of joy. It is an incubator of happy memories.
Whether or not your family fits this description depends largely on you,the father. The personality of your family and the climate of your home life is fundamentally a reflection of your presence, your temperament, your approach, your leadership.
Yes, raising children—training human beings from birth to adulthood in how to be good human beings— is serious business. Fatherhood requires strength, discipline, virtue, courage and firmness.
But most of all, it requires love.
Gerald Flurry has said that a parent’s interaction with his children should be 85 percent love, 10 percent instruction (in love) and 5 percent correction (in love). Yes, you must have the courage to administer fatherly instruction and correction in a society that rejects both. But you must also multiply that amount of time you spend several times over in cherishing, loving and giving fatherly warmth to your children.
God the Father is the ultimate Father. And God is love (1 John 4:8). He created human fatherhood to reflect this love onto children.
Jesus Christ declared God the Father (John 1:18). We fathers can and should follow His example and passionately declare the Father to our own children. Your righteous example as a father will help your children relate to God their Father.
What are you teaching your sons and daughters about their heavenly Father? How is your behavior shaping their attitudes toward Him? Does your home life reflect a family living under the leadership of a loving father?
A Positive Personality
Love is an essential part of any human being’s life. An unloved baby who receives no affection, even if mechanically cared for, will not develop into a healthy adult. He or she will suffer psychological, physical and spiritual scars. A child learns to love by being loved. Spiritually it is the same: “We love him [God], because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). John 3:16 explains, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son ….”
Work to bring that love into your family all you can. If you want your children to be loving, balanced and vibrant, set a positive personal example. It starts with you.
In 2 Corinthians 1:24, the Apostle Paul explains this about the job of a minister: “Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy ….” This is a wonderful goal for the father in a family as well. Helping your children build and preserve joy is a key responsibility. And in a world where young people are under attack from so many sources, fulfilling it has never been more difficult—and never more needed.
Study again 1 Corinthians 13. This is a chapter we should etch into our minds and our memories. It is packed with fantastic practical points for your family life.
Consider what God is teaching us in the first three verses. What makes a family successful? It may have a lot of activity; it may develop children’s talents; it may perform charitable acts; it may seem impressive on the outside in various ways. But does it have godlylove? That is what makes a family!
Your duty is to lead, protect, provide for, correct and educate your children. Each of these jobs is critical—yet fulfilling all of them could still amount to nothing if they are not saturated with daily doses of positive, loving time and attention!
God’s love is not jealous, boastful or arrogant, rude, selfish, irritable or resentful. It is patient and kind, optimistic and hopeful, and it rejoices at goodness. This love needs to flow into and out of our lives through our actions.
A family thrives when a father is positive and optimistic. It exudes the right kind of energy when he is uplifting, happy, attentive to everyone’s abilities and strengths, and generally enjoyable to be around.
God wants us to develop our personalities so they are a force for good in our families. “Your personality is a power,” Herbert W. Armstrong wrote, “if you develop and train it so as to charm, influence, persuade others rightly, to bring pleasure and encouragement and sunshine and inspiration to others, and to lead them as they ought to be led. … [A] charming, captivating and persuasive personality is one of the greatest forces for good with which an all-wise God endowed you” (Good News, November 1951).
Show by your example how to have joy and happiness. In general, your expression, voice and body language should radiate joy, peace, love and happiness. Happiness and joy are infectious, especially when they emanate from a position of authority. Use good humor. Be personable, warm and friendly. Smile genuinely, smile big, and smile often.
Mr. Armstrong described God’s way of life as the abundant life, the simple yet cheerful life, filling people with inner happiness. “Now here is what this kind of life will mean,” he wrote. “It means that you will be radiant. It means that God’s Spirit in you will radiate cheerfulness and smiles, friendliness toward others, love, sincerity, calm courage, goodwill and interest in others, instead of being so self-conscious, with so much over-interest in your own self” (Good News, May 1986).
It can be easy to see our children’s flaws and weaknesses and overlook growth and accomplishment. Your job as a father does require that you pay attention to areas where your children need instruction and correction. But you must also look for areas where they need encouragement, compliments and praise. If your family environment is one of negativity, what will your children learn about God’s Family?
Don’t tear your children down. Beware the danger of constant, hard criticism and of arguing and belittling. Too much yelling, crying and frustration in a home invites evil influences. “[Y]e fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Yes, a father must raise his children with discipline, instruction and guidelines. But God specifically warns: Fathers, do not be so harsh as to alienate, anger, discourage and frustrate your children.
Talk positively about each other, both inside and outside of family settings. Don’t hesitate to give sincere praise, commendation, smiles and embraces. The smallest gesture can be a big deal when it comes from Dad. It tells a child, I’m thinking about you. Sincere and warranted positive reinforcement can be highly motivating to a child, inspiring him or her to greater heights of achievement.
Ask for God’s guidance and blessing in getting the balance right in your child rearing. Rely on Him and His Word to guide you (Proverbs 3:5-6).
If you have multiple children, be equal in your attention; have no favorites.
“Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:2-4). Ensure this is happening in your home: that everyone is looking after each other, and everyone feels wanted and appreciated.
Tell your children you love them. God the Father was “well pleased” with His Son and made sure to tell Him (Matthew 3:17).
Every week there are 10,080 minutes. Do an inventory of how many of those minutes you spend in quality communication with your family. What is the communication like in your home? Do your children hear bickering and arguing? Or almost total silence? Or maybe just the continuous noise of the television?
Your home can be a place of arguing and conflict, or one of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control—the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). It can be a place where you provoke your children to wrath (Ephesians 6:4), or where you provoke your family to love and to good works (Hebrews 10:24). It can be a place where time passes in solitude and neglect, or where the days are filled with activity and growth as you turn your heart to your children and your children turn their hearts to you (Malachi 4:5-6).
Communication is vital to a happy home. Family should be an environment where children will come and talk to you when something is on their mind—a concern, an achievement, a simple observation. Take time to listen. Communication must go both ways: A father needs to talk, but he also needs to listen with genuine interest to what every family member has to say.
Meals are crucial opportunities for communication. Do not underestimate them. Do everything you can to consistently sit down to breakfast and dinner together as a family. Use this time to develop your conversational skills and those of each family member. Plan topics to discuss as necessary. Lead the conversation in a way that brings each family member in. The benefits of making this a priority will far exceed your expectations.
We need to communicate often and without fear. Seek out your sons’ and daughters’ thoughts and feelings. Learn about their friends, their grades, their projects, their aptitudes, their struggles, their emotions, their fears, their aspirations. If your son is dismissive about a problem happening in study hall, probe a bit. If your daughter persistently wants to buy inappropriate clothing, get more involved. Make no apology for being involved in your children’s lives! Even if your children try to push you away, your love for them must win out. They will forget the friend, the skirt, the club or whatever negative influence seems so important at the moment. But they will not forget that their father loved them.
The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) teaches powerful lessons in fatherhood. The father in this parable loved his son even after he made foolish and sinful decisions. When the son traveled home in repentance, his father’s heart was filled with love, joy and gladness (verse 20), not bitterness and shame. He ran to meet his boy and expressed affection and emotion, embracing and kissing him. Before his son even said a word, he was filled with compassion and forgiveness. This godly father thought the best of his child. Like God the Father, he yearned to embrace his son into his bosom.
Notice too how the father responded to his faithful son when he reacted to his brother’s return with jealousy. He was attentive to the needs of his family. Though the faithful son probably had stepped outside or had said little, his father knew him well, knew something was wrong, lovingly reasoned with him and gave him some needed perspective, and praised his faithfulness.
This father experienced two different attitude problems in his two sons, and responded to each in a masculine, compassionate, loving manner.
Time at Home
The primary way you will create joy in your home is by spending time there. Nothing can take the place of your presence.
The problem is, in today’s world, your workplace is probably not in or near your home. You don’t work with your son in the barn or teach your daughter to feed the chickens as fathers did in the past. During the workweek, for hours a day you are separated from your wife and children by miles of pavement. Sometimes work, errands or other responsibilities take away additional hours even in the evenings.
This makes your hours at home crucial. Each hour spent away from your children makes the hour you spend with your children even more important.
During the workday, your attention is consumed by your work. But do not forget the family. Strive to get in touch with your wife (perhaps even your children) during the day if possible. You may be absent, but your influence can be present.
When you get home, you may be mentally and or physically tired. Don’t allow this to hinder you. These are precious hours. A miniature workday is just beginning: a family workday.
Connect with your children; spend time with them; lead them. Learn what they have been up to, what their attitudes and thoughts are. Share your experiences and thoughts. Discuss progress on goals for each child and for the family as a whole. God commands you to teach His law and statutes to your children and to make them a talking point in the home. You only have a short time in the morning and evening to accomplish this and to build up your children and your home.
After dinner, you may be tempted to finally check your e-mail or flip on the tv. Instead, spend these crucial hours and minutes with your wife and children. Compared with their need for your influence and interaction, the e-mail is not urgent and the show is worthless. Even time spent together looking at a screen is usually squandered. It rarely builds up the family. If you do choose to have a family movie night, make sure it is worth the precious minutes and hours it eats up.
Perhaps you want or need to work on a project around the house. If possible, bring your child along. Involve him or her, even if it is only to ineffectually tap a wrench against a fixture or to watch you from the porch as you mow the lawn. Where safety allows, the more involvement, the better. Bringing your daughter with you to repair the shed door will probably take you more time to finish the job, but the ultimate effect on her will be worth it.
Do Things Together
Do you have happy memories from your childhood? You might remember picnicking at a lake, visiting your cousins, winning a game, learning to ride a horse, or taking that vacation to Yellowstone. For children, these fond recollections are memories of family, friends and fun. What children do not realize is that these occasions usually only came about because of a father’s intentional decision and effort to make them happen. Your father had to take off of work early to bring you to the state fair. He had to spend several weeks’ worth of pay to bring your family to visit your cousins in the mountains. He had to ignore his back pain to attend your recital.
Your father enjoyed these experiences along with you, but he also had to invest planning and resources to make them possible. If he hadn’t focused on your interests instead of his own, or on your development instead of his daily grind, these happy occasions never would have happened.
Now you are the father. It’s your turn to create opportunities for joyful moments for your family. Take time out to do things together. Plan time to be together, and plan time in both quality and quantity—because these things don’t just happen. You must give thought to it to make them happen.
Having a weekly routine can help. Consider a Sabbath morning walk with the family, or a regular, scheduled family game night. Involve the whole family in day-to-day tasks such as keeping up the yard, raking leaves, maintaining the home, washing the cars, preparing for the weekly and annual sabbaths, planning family goals. Design your own family ventures. Families grow close when they are involved in projects.
Plan joyous occasions and activities. Take the family to a ball game. Save up for a trip to the coast. Special opportunities do not have to be expensive or even outside of the house—there is plenty you can do right at home. Go to the extra effort of having other families over for dinner. Bring the extended family together for Thanksgiving. Get involved in group activities together through your congregation, school activities or events you organize with other individuals or families: picnics, swimming, family sports, hiking, fishing. Be aware, though, that often at a group activity, your family members can be separated and doing things apart from one another. Be sure that if this happens, you’re not using it as a substitute for private family time where you can really be together.
A father should rarely let a day go by without seeing and being with his family at least for a while. And planned activities with the whole family should be regular—generally weekly at least. Often this will be a challenge. But make it a priority, and it will be one of the most gratifying experiences of your life. It will truly make yours a family of joy and love!
Let God Build Your Family
A family will only be happy if there is spiritual well-being. If there is spiritual disease, the whole family suffers.
Look for the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit in your family. God’s Spirit needs to flow. Christ said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (John 15:1-2). In verse 11, Christ said, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”
Do you really want a happy family? True joy only comes through the flow of the Spirit in us. Build with God’s Spirit, and use it to bring your marriage and family together.
Every family experiences tough times on occasion. Problems pull weak families apart—but they draw strong families together! If we understand God’s Word, we will recognize a trial as something that God allows for our good, to teach us and to develop our character. Every happy home needs security, especially in times of trial. When you face a challenge or test, be determined to use it as an opportunity to unify, especially in prayer. It will draw your family closer both physically and spiritually.
Christ, Paul, Peter and John all had joy and hope even during the toughest trials. More importantly, each had a great desire to share the source of their joy and hope. Even in deep trial, these men were determined to provoke happiness and joy in others.
God wants your family to be as happy as His Family! He wants you to have full joy in the abundant life right now.
“Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep. Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate” (Psalm 127:1-5).
Our children are God’s gift to us, but He must be the one building our house. Unless God is deeply involved, it will come to nothing. Let God build your family!
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren [family] to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1). This is what God has to say about a unified home, filled with His love: “It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore” (verses 2-3).
You can dwell together in that kind of unity by leading your wife and children to God the Father. This will fill your home with love, and lead to life forevermore!