How to Be a Man Your Children Will Want to Be Like
by Peter Caruso
A marriage lasting fifty years is pretty rare these days. Being married for fifty years to one’s best friend is rarer still. Can your marriage last that long? Can it be that strong? Can twenty-first century marriages survive the assaults of long commutes, both husband and wife holding down a job – maybe two, schedules crammed with soccer practice and swimming lessons, the temptation of pornography in the home office, and memories of hurts and betrayal?
Can you look forward to watching your children and grandchildren grow up to become godly men and women, filled with love for the Lord, walking with godly character, and making an eternal difference in the lives of those they touch?
This year my wife and I celebrate fifty years together. We can’t take the credit for what God has done in our family. But we see our three grown children, eight grandchildren, and now six great grandchildren – each one with hearts intent on serving God.
I want to share with you some how-tos for making your marriage the best possible. Not only your marriage, but how to lay the groundwork in your children’s lives that will carry into their marriages and beyond to future generations.
How to Leave a Legacy Worthy of Honor
Understand God’s view of your marriage vows. It’s necessary to communicate in words and action before your wife and children that “there will be no divorce in this family.” This provides a great sense of security to our wife and children. The marriage covenant is a lovely picture, lived out by two mortals, of that covenant which God has made with man. It is a beautiful thing when two individuals, each in a covenant relationship with God, choose to make a covenant in marriage. So when we marry, we are making a legal, binding agreement before God and man to forsake all others and commit our lives to walk together as one. We are choosing to turn away from any involvement with another and to keep ourselves for one another only. This is not only at the physical level, but includes any entanglement of emotions with another. By choosing to do this, we go against the norms of today’s society. Yet in doing so, we lay a foundation for a life-long marriage – with no backdoor. A marriage for keeps.
Set goals for your family. A number of years ago a group of couples met together weekly. We spent several sessions talking about what we wanted for our families. We examined the Scriptures, we brainstormed, and we debated. Finally we decided to each spend the next week individually listing our goals for our family. When we came together again we assembled the following set of goals for a Christian family.
- To develop complete unity between husband and wife in thought, attitude, and purpose.
- To develop in the household an atmosphere of God’s presence which would influence all who enter.
- To develop within the children a reverence for God, His Word, His church, and His service which would enable us to live for Him when independent of the home’s direct influence.
- To develop relationships by which each member of the family could have all physical, emotional and mental needs met.
- To fully develop each family member’s potential in life by mutually honoring and nurturing one another’s unique role and ministry.
- To develop freedom from all types of bondage to earthly values, including being in debt.
You might set similar but different goals for your family. Knowing what you’re aiming for is a huge part of success.
Be the kind of leader your wife and children can follow. Being the head of the home means being an administrator. Not a spectator, not a dictator, but one who oversees the whole. Headship is a function, not a status that makes us superior. A leader needs to set a good example, in his character and his actions.
Represent Christ to your family. In chapter five of the book of Ephesians, Paul teaches the role of the man by comparing him to Christ and His love for the church. The highest praise I have ever received was when my wife described my love for her as “the kind of unconditional love, acceptance and care that Jesus has for the church.” I know she sees me through love-tinted glasses – I’m not really perfect. But I find that a mighty good description of what Paul is referring to in that chapter. I encourage every husband to read that scripture daily until it becomes a part of his being.
Seek a godly mentor and make yourself accountable to him. It’s so easy for us men to think we can handle life on our own without the input of another. If we’ve never experienced this kind of open and growing relationship, we can be resistant to mentoring. There’s a natural reluctance to putting ourself in the position of learner, especially for a man. If we have a personal problem we tend to withdraw into ourself, preferring to attempt to solve our own problem or to suffer alone. Or we’ll set our mind on something else, like conquering a mountain or repairing an engine, or perhaps we’ll prefer to go to sleep, hoping the problem will fix itself. We don’t want to bother someone with our personal needs nor to bring another into our efforts toward personal growth. It isn’t natural or comfortable for us to seek help to become a better person, brother, father, or husband.
Yet each one of us needs someone to help us to see our blinds spots, to walk with us through the struggles of overcoming weaknesses, one who believes in us and cares for us enough to hold us accountable and to cheer us onward. We never outgrow our need for accountability.
First, establish authority; there’s plenty of time to become your child’s friend. Every parent wants to be loved – and liked – by our children. But if our desire to be liked by our child is stronger than our desire for him or her to become a responsible, caring adult, in the end we’ll lose the child’s respect and probably their friendship as well. We’re admonished in Proverbs 19:18 to “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.”
Consciously and intentionally teach your family God’s ways and principles. Perhaps this is one of the hardest things to follow through on. Our careers, our hobbies, and our busyness get in the way of being pro-active in training our family. Yet it doesn’t have to take hours a day. God told Moses in Deuteronomy 11:19, “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Perhaps the best time for most families is the family dinner hour. Even if your family can only share a meal together a few times a week, you can guide the conversations to include things you want them to learn. You can prepare for a time of teaching afterwards that includes specific lessons about God, character development, and other matters you feel important.
Have fun with your family. No matter how we provide for them, regardless of how we relate to others, no matter how spiritual we are, our family needs to have a husband and father that they can enjoy being with. When they need comfort or counsel, when they are frightened or filled with self-doubt, there must be a foundation of love, trust and familiarity that lays the groundwork for them to come to us with their need.
Respect their differences. No matter how many children we have, each differs from the others. Yes, there should be household rules. But the sensitive child should be handled differently from the self-confident, extroverted, over-achiever. Study your children. Learn their temperaments. Identify their love language. Encourage their natural abilities. And honor each one for the person they are now and who they will become.
Become a good communicator – this includes listening. Few men are natural communicators. Oh sure, we can make a presentation, or write a proposal. And we can give orders or respond to a question. But sharing our true selves with our wife and children takes humility and transparency. Learning how to convey what we mean in a loving and respectful way, while at the same time making the other person feel loved and their opinion valued. This takes effort. You can do it. The first step is to recognize the need to communicate. The second is noticing how you communicate. What are your tone of voice and your body language communicating? And perhaps most important is paying attention to what the other person needs from the communication.
Teach them to stand alone. The pressures on children and young people today are far more plentiful and much stronger than for previous generations. It would be unusual today for anyone to reach adulthood without having been offered drugs, exposed to pornography, or invited to participate in other immoral or illegal behavior. We can teach our children that both God and their parents have expectations of them. They must learn to make choices. If they make the wrong choice, there will be negative consequences – in the natural realm and within their spirits. If they make the right choice, they will please us and God, and they will be at peace within themselves. The younger a child learns to stand alone over small issues, the easier he or she will find it to stand alone when faced with big temptations.
Look for ways too affirm your wife and children. We are told in Mark 8:35, “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” If this applies to anyone, it should be to a father and his family. Could there be a better way to love than to affirm our wife and our children? In doing so we can find fulfillment and meaning in our own lives. We can always be looking for ways to affirm them, to point out their positive efforts, and to observe the ways we see them growing in godly character and Christ-likeness. We don’t need to wait until their birthday or graduation. We can use everyday happenings to let them know we see their efforts, we see their spiritual or academic growth and we are proud of them.