Building Healthy Families

While there are some healthy families, there are also many families that are dysfunctional. There is significant breakdown in the institution of the family. Children are alienated from their parents. There is rampant abuse in homes – neglect, physical, emotional, verbal and sexual. Statistics on divorce are high even within the church. If we look at the North American context, there are a number of high profile ministers who have been divorced – what does that say about marriage as a basic Christian covenant? In the home, we also see improper methods of discipline that are either too harsh or too lax. This results in children who are either fearful or are undisciplined and rebellious. We also see that fathers are absent from many of our homes.

Building healthy families involves keeping the first principle of family – a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). When a man gets married a new family unit is formed. Dependencies with previous family must be broken and past family relationships must be redefined. The extended family has its place, but it must not interfere with the new family unit. In-laws conflicts and problems can seriously impact a marriage. Husbands need to remember that their wife is not their mother.

Building healthy families involves having family devotions (Genesis 35:2-4). Husbands and wives need to pray and study the Scriptures together: ideally every day. It may be helpful to set aside a fixed time each day to ensure that devotions become a seasoned habit. The husband must initiate in this area.

Fathers should endeavor to lead their children (as they grow in understanding and maturity) to faith in Jesus Christ. With the children, you can set apart one day a week for devotions. You can use a child friendly devotional and you can even have the children lead in devotions if they are sufficiently mature to do so. You should also regularly encourage your children to pray and read the Word outside of family devotions. It is my conviction that fathers should ensure that their children go to church while they are in their parents’ house.

Building healthy families involves administering proper discipline. Discipline is more than punishment. It has to do with the shaping of a person’s character, behavior and attitudes (Proverbs 22:6). As fathers we need to model the qualities we want our children to have. We need to teach them life principles. Teach them how to manage money, how to remain sexually pure, to be more confident, to be leaders and other important things.

We need to get our children involved in character building activities such as scouts, girl guides, Sunday school, and youth group. Fathers, as leaders in the home, must take the initiative in this area. Discipline must not be left to the mothers alone. Discipline, where it is punishment, needs to be fair, decisive, consistent and firm. Not effectively disciplining your children will lead to spoilt, rebellious children that are a liability to society.

Building healthy families involves having quality family time. The challenge is that individuals in families can get so busy that there is little or no together time. This is made worse by media such as internet, television, cell phone and video games. Families should set aside a day in the week where the entire family can come together. That becomes your family day or night where no one plans any other activity.

Additionally, families can plan events – picnics, spending a night at a hotel, a trip and any other event that pulls the family together. Husbands and wives should have date nights. Leave the children with a family member and just go out and have a good time: keep those marriage flames burning. Fathers can take out each child individually so that they feel specially loved.

Building healthy families involves the husband loving his family. The husband is commanded to love his wife as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25). This kind of love is unconditional commitment to your spouse. Traditional marriage vows say, “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.” That is a very serious commitment. Loving your wife requires you to be faithful in thought, speech and action. Further, love does not demand submission. Submission more readily flows when a husband loves his wife.

There are various ways that a husband can demonstrate love to his wife. He could pray for his wife and pray for love. Love is a fruit of the Spirit. If a husband is lacking in this area, he can ask God and He will abundantly supply. A husband can also demonstrate love by listening to and talking to his wife. When he listens, he needs to give his wife his undivided attention. A husband needs to spend quality time with his wife. He also expresses love by helping around the house and helping with the children. The husband should compliment his wife for how she looks and for the things that she does; he should show appreciation and not take his wife for granted. Another way of showing love is to hold his wife without the expectation of sex.

The husband must romance his wife (Song of Songs 1:9-11). There are several ways that this can be done. He can surprise her with gifts. He can take her for a walk along the beach while holding hands. He can give her a goodbye kiss whenever he or she leaves the house. Hopefully this will not be sacrilegious (tongue in cheek), but he can put his hand around his wife at church. He can write her a self-penned poem. If you lack inspiration just take a look at the Song of Solomon. Another way of romancing his wife is complimenting his wife publicly. Another little tip, the husband can look into his wife’s eyes and say “I love you,” those three little words that mean so much to every wife.

A father must love his children. We need to affirm and encourage our children. We should be supportive of their various activities. For example, if they are involved in sports, we should be there cheering them on. We need to catch our children doing good. It’s easy to see and find the faults in our children especially as they get older. However, in some instances, they do want to please us so commend them when they do something right. That will motivate them to do better. As the old adage goes, “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

We need to know our children’s love language. Gary Chapman identifies five love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, touch and acts of service. Every person has a primary love language – a way in which they feel special and loved. We must be available to our children; we cannot afford to be so busy that we don’t have time for them. We also need to be ready to listen without judging.

Building healthy families involves the man providing leadership in the home. Scripture teaches that the husband is the head of the home (Ephesians 5:23). This is a divine, unchanging order until Christ returns; this is not sexist, it is biblical. Leading in the home implies that the husband must ensure that the right decisions for the family are made. This would include decisions in the areas of finances, children’s education, moving, changing churches, and in other areas. These decisions must involve the wife (and in some cases, the children); the husband/father is a leader not a dictator.

Another implication is that the husband must ensure that the purpose of the family is being realized. What is it that God has specifically called his family to accomplish? Some families are specially called to pastoral ministry for example. The leading of the husband must facilitate the development/growth of his family – spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. This means that the husband must be growing. Additionally, the husband must implement a system to solve problems and resolve conflict. Problems are inevitable in the best of families. Leading also implies that the husband must hear from God and be led by the Holy Spirit.

Building healthy families involves the proper handling of conflict. Conflicts are inevitable – every family, regardless of how good the relationship, experiences conflict. In dealing with conflict it is necessary to pray about the conflict. The Holy Spirit will give you the grace and compassion needed. The Holy Spirit will also give you a right perspective. Be willing to listen to your spouse or other family member; talk things through. Proverbs 15:1 says that a soft answer turns away wrath; in other words, it is best to speak softly and respond in a gentle way than respond in a harsh and angry way. Be willing to see the problem from the other person’s point of view. Your perspective may be wrong. In some instances, it may be necessary to get godly advice from a trusted friend. And of course, you need to apologize when you are at fault.

Building healthy families requires you to be emotionally healthy (Galatians 5:22, 23). Self-understanding is needed. We have to understand the way in which past experiences have shaped us. In some instances, we may have developed dysfunctional ways of relating to people. We also need to understand our personality type – strengths and weaknesses. For example, some people have a choleric personality. This personality is great for leading and taking initiative. Its downside includes anger and impatience.

Marriage should be a relationship between two whole people. Many people go into marriage expecting the other person to make them happy. They expect that person to meet their every emotional need. If you have low self-esteem before marriage, getting married is not likely to change that. The problems that we have before marriage will still be problems we have during marriage, which may inevitably lead to marital difficulties. Also, even in marriage, it is good to still have outside interests and friends since your spouse cannot meet every need that you have. To expect that is to place an unnecessary burden on your spouse.