Keith Hunt - Mentally Healthy Families - Page Five   Restitution of All Things

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Christian Child-Rearing #5

Mentally Healthy Families

Continuing with Dr.Meier's book on Christian Child-Rearing:

Five Factors Found
in Mentally Healthy Families

     Now that I have told you what not to do, I would like to
pass along to you some positive recommendations on what to do to
develop your children into adults who will be exceptionally happy
and mature, both emotionally and spiritually. First I'll list
five factors consistently found in mentally healthy families;
then I'll discuss each of these five factors briefly.

A.   Love. Parents should have genuine love for each other and
for their children.

B.   Discipline. A concept unpopular before the student activism
of the '60s is now coming back in vogue.

C.   Consistency. Both parents should stick together, using the
same rules and consistently enforcing those rules so that what a
child gets away with on some occasions is not the cause for which
he is capriciously punished at another time.

D.   Example. In healthy families, the parents don't expect the
children to live up to standards they themselves don't keep.
Parents should expect their children to live up to the standards
they themselves observe.

(These five factors are discussed in the following references in
the bibliography: 18, 24, 25, 26, 62, 64, 116, 180, 192, 152,
159, 156, 195, 268, 280, 292. These factors are also discussed in
most of the psychiatry textbooks listed in the bibliography).

E.   A man at the head of the home. The vast majority of
neurotics, both children and adults, grew up in homes where there
was no father or the father was absent or weak, and the mother
was domineering.

A. Love.

     First on the above list of factors consistently found in
mentally healthy families is love. This is not the counterfeit
love of the overprotective mother. In fact, psychological studies
done on smothering, overprotective mothers who never spank their
child show that they have hidden feelings of rejection toward the
child. When they look at certain ink blots, for example, they see
atom bombs exploding - a signal of rejection toward the child.
Awareness of these feelings produces an uncomfortable guilt, so
they try to convince themselves that they love their child by
overprotecting him. The result is an immature, overly dependent
child. It's a defense mechanism to hide their underlying hatred
from themselves and others. As I have mentioned before, they have
such a neurotic need for their children to like them that they
won't spank their children, even when they know the children
really need it; they fear that their children will remain angry
at them for several minutes after the spanking. So they ignore or
complain about their children's disobedience, or threaten to tell
their father on them when lie gets home, thus dividing the
children from their father.
     Psychiatrists aren't the only ones who can tell if a
mother's love for her children is genuine. God showed this in the
Bible nearly three thousand years ago. Solomon said, "If you
refuse to discipline your child [spare the rod, KJ], it proves
you don't love him; for if you love him, you will be prompt to
punish him" (Prov.13:24, LB). Solomon also warned, "Don't fail to
correct your children; Discipline wont hurt them. They won't die
if you use a stick on them. Punishment will keep them out of
hell" (Prov.23:13-14, LB). And further, "The rod and reproof give
wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his
mother" (Prov.29:15, NASV).
     When undisciplined children grow up, they are immature and
inadequate. They break laws, become addicted to drugs, are guilty
of improper sexual conduct, and literally bring their mother to
shame, just as God said they would. Not only this, but they learn
to hate their mothers by the time they are teenagers, and
frequently much sooner. So one of the best ways to show genuine
love for your child is to spank him when he needs it, such as
when he rebels against your authority.
     Another way of showing genuine love for your child is to
give him positive reinforcement. Some children misbehave a lot
because that's the only way they can get the attention of their
parents. Children have to have attention and stimulation. If they
can't get it by good behavior, they'll get it by bad behavior.
Parents who praise their child frequently for his good behavior -
sharing his toys with his siblings, for example - will encourage
him to continue his good behavior. Getting praised for it makes
him feel good and helps him to like himself. Our older boy was
praised early for hugging our daughter, even though half of the
time he was probably squeezing her to get even with her; now he's
one of the "huggingest" boys around. It really makes parenthood
worthwhile when my three children climb up into my lap and
whisper into my ear, "Daddy, I want to tell you a secret. I love
you a whole bunch:" Then 1 give them a big hug, telling them that
I love them a whole bunch too, and we reinforce each other in our
loving behavior.
     Another thing we can do is to consider each child a
significant person, no matter how young that child may be. It's
so easy to ignore our children and treat them as though they are
not important. I have to work on that myself.
     When I get into a deep train of thought (during Monday night
football games, for example, my wife has to practically hit me on
the head with a baseball bat to get my attention), I tune every
thing else out. So I have to make a real effort to answer my wife
or children when they ask me something. What are some other ways
we can show genuine love?
The Apostle Paul tells us,

     Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious,
     never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude.
     Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or
     touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice
     when others do wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but
     rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone you
     will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will
     always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and
     always stand your ground in defending him. - I Cor.13:4-7,
     LB


     In Deuteronomy 6:5, we are commanded to love God with all
our heart, soul, and might. Loving God is a good preparation for
loving our children. Christ tells us, "A new commandment I give
to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that
you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are
My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35,
NASV). The Apostle John tells us, "And this is His commandment,
that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one
another, just as He commanded us" (I John 3:23, NASV). God
promises to reward us for having enough love in our hearts to
live by His principles. Christ tells us, "He who has My
commandments, and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who
loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and
will disclose Myself to him" (John 14:21, NASV). To think that we
can have the God who created this universe love us and share
Himself with us intimately. That's fantastic!
     Another way to show love for our children is to have genuine
love between husbands and wives. A partial cause of most neurotic
mother-child relationships is that the mother is not getting
emotional and sexual satisfaction from her husband. God inspired
the Apostle Paul to instruct us:

     Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the
     church and gave himself up for her; that he might sanctify
     her, having cleansed her by the washing of water, [which is]
     with the word.... So husbands ought also to love their own
     wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves
     himself; for no one ever yet hated his own flesh, but
     nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the
     church, because we are members of His body. For this cause a
     man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to
     his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.. .. Let each
     individual among you also love his own wife even as himself;
     and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.    
     - Eph. 5:25-33, NASV

     Be sure to notice the part of this passage that says, "He
who loves his own wife loves himself" (v.28b). Loving ourselves
in a healthy way is essential for developing intimate love with
our wives. So we need to love God, love ourselves in a scriptural
way, love our wives, love our children, and then reach out to
share our love with others. Too many people start out at the
wrong end of this spectrum, trying to be self-sacrificing
humanitarians while ignoring their children, their wives,
themselves, and God. I'm not saying you should put yourself above
others; I'm merely saying that you can't genuinely love others
until you love yourself in a healthy way. That's why God commands
us to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves (see Mark
12:31). God's Word tells us, "Husbands, love your wives, and do
not be embittered [or hold grudges] against them" (Col.3:19,
NASV). If we carry around pent-up hostility, we will express it
in unconscious ways that will affect the entire family. It's all
right to get angry. Its what we do with our anger that can become
sinful. If a husband and wife tell me they have never had a
disagreement, I tell them that one of them isn't necessary! But
when we get angry at each other, or at our children, we should
talk it out, and then forgive each other. God's Word tells us,
"Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your
wrath" (Eph.4:26). It's not always a sin to be angry, but it is a
sin to go to bed without dealing with that anger.
     And finally, God commands us husbands: "Grant [your wife]
honor as a fellow-heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers
may not be hindered" (I Peter 3:7, NASV). No matter what we have
been told, we are not better than our wives. We are equal in
importance in the eyes of the God who created us for each other.
God has merely given us different responsibilities. We are made
in such a way that our families will be healthiest if the
husbands assume the ultimate leadership in the home. And so love
in the home implies self-worth, intimacy with our mate, intimacy
with our children, and intimacy with God. The kind of love found
in mentally healthy families is love that provides emotional,
social, and physical security. ( Clair Isbister, "The Family:
Past, Present and Future").

B. Discipline.

     I have already shared with you a number of Scripture verses
on discipline in the home. The Bible clearly calls for reproof
and spanking as ideal punishments for young children, and as a
psychiatrist I agree wholeheartedly, even though some
psychiatrists would disagree. Spanking is quick, and then its
over. It's not long and drawn out. It's applying the "board of
education to the seat of knowledge"! It occurs immediately after
the offense, so the young child knows what he is getting punished
for. If you take away a young child's privileges for something he
did wrong, within a few minutes he will have forgotten what he
did wrong; he won't understand what the punishment is all about,
and it will not be effective. God affirms this principle when He
tells us, "Because the sentence against an evil deed is not
executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among
them are given fully to do evil" (Eccles.8:11, NASV). I'll
discuss more about discipline for each age group later on. Let me
just mention here that discipline in the home also refers to a
degree of self-discipline. If you want the disciplining of your
children to be effective, try disciplining yourselves a little
too. In the words of Solomon, "Like a city that is broken into
and without walls, is a man who has no control over his spirit
[no self-control]" (Prov.25:28, NASV).

C. Consistency.

     Consistency is also vitally important. A child must know his
limits in order to feel secure. He can't get away with something,
only to find himself getting punished for the very same thing a
minute or two later. Be consistent. Many researchers were
surprised to find out that emotional illness is not as closely
linked to the severity or leniency of discipline as it is to
parental inconsistency in discipline. The husband may be a little
harsh, and the wife may be a little too lenient, so they use
different standards of discipline and the poor children can't
please anybody. I say husbands and wives must provide a united
front. If you disagree on discipline, don't do your disagreeing
in front of the children. Talk it out privately and arrive at
some compromise, but be consistent as to how you discipline your
children. If you are unable to reach a compromise, God has
established the husband as the leader in the home, so whatever he
says goes. If he is too harsh, the children will live through it.
Consistency is the most important thing any. way. Of course, if
your husband is physically abusive and hits the children over the
head with a chair, call the police first; then talk him into
seeing a Christian psychiatrist or counsellor to deal with his
pent-up hostility. Brutal men are usually very insecure, and try
to be tough to prove their manhood. If they can learn to like
themselves in a healthy way, they will lose their need to prove
their manhood by being brutal. If, on the other hand, your
husband is not being abusive, if you think he is being just a
little unreasonable, and if you can't reach a compromise, do
things his way. If they start to backfire on him, he may decide
to change on his own. Most men are willing to change their minds
occasionally if they think it is their own idea. There is an old
saying that goes, "All women, and a few great men, change their
minds!"
     In his book, "Man in Transition," Gary Collins notes that
children need to feel accepted by us in order to accept
themselves. Dr. Collins states:

     Jesus accepted everyone - even the unlovely - although He
     didn't always accept their behavior. Christian parents and
     church members must do the same. This acceptance by others,
     however, should be consistent. It is hard for a child to
     feel accepted if he gets favorable treatment at one time and
     unfavorable treatment at other times. Even when children are
     being disciplined, parents can show that they accept and
     love the child, in spite of his undesirable behaviors (Gary
     Collins, "Man in Transition," p.66).

     David once asked the question, "Oh LORD, who may abide in
Thy tent? Who may dwell on Thy holy hill?" (Ps.15:1, NASV). David
answered the question by telling us that if we want to abide in
God's tent, that is, to have fellowship with God, we must be the
sort of person who "honors those who fear the LORD," and who
"swears to his own hurt, and does not change" (Ps.15:4, NASV). I
believe David is talking about being consistent even if it hurts
sometimes. Peter instructed us, "To sum up, let all be
harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kind-hearted, and humble in
spirit; not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but
giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very
purpose that you might inherit a blessing" (I Peter 3:8-9, NASV).
So let's be harmonious and consistent with each other and with
our children.

D. Example.

     Our children learn their behavior from us. In the end, they
do what we do much more than what we say they should do. I had an
alcoholic patient one time who was bragging to me about the
discipline he practiced with his children. He told me that lie
made them go to church every Sunday morning, every Sunday night,
and every Wednesday night. He made them read their Bibles every
day. He made them study for at least one hour every night
after school. And he wouldn't let them watch any television,
because there were too many beer commercials. I responded, "This
is fine, but do you go to church with them?" He said he didn't.
Then I asked him if he read his Bible every day, and lie said he
hardly ever read it. Then I asked him if he studied very much,
and he said he didn't. I asked him what he did every night, and
he said he watched television and drank a fifth of whiskey. He
was somewhat offended at me for making him aware of the fact that
he was setting a poor example. His children will probably turn
out the very opposite of what he wants, because he is telling
them one thing and practicing another.
     The Apostle Paul told his converts to follow his example to
do as he did. God said, "O that there were such an heart in them,
that they mould fear me, and keep all my commandments always,
that it might be well with them, and with their children for
ever!" (Deut.5:29). Here God shows His tremendous love for us by
voicing His desire that we live by His principles so that things
will go well for us and for our children, and our children's
children. He is saying that if we live by His principles,
generations after us will follow our example. Do you want your
children to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit? Then practice
"love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, self-control" (Gal.5:22-23, NASV). Do you want your
children to be truthful? Then follow God's advice when He tells
us to speak the truth in love (see Eph. 4:15). Do you want your
children to forgive each other, and to forgive you for mistakes
you have made? Then follow God's advice when He tells you to "be
kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just
as God in Christ also has forgiven you" (Eph. 4:32, NASV).
     I think we should extend our example beyond our own families
into the community in which we live. God warns us quite strongly
that any overseer in a church (pastor, deacon, elder) "must be
one who manages his own household well, keeping his children
under control with all dignity; but if a. man does not know how
to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church
of God?" (I Tim. :4-5, NASV). God's Word is quite blunt here. If
you are not managing your own family well, you are setting a poor
example and have no right to try to manage God's flock as well.
If you do try, in spite of your poor example, you will without a
doubt be acting contrary to the will of God. One of my greatest
accomplishments as a psychiatrist occurred when I convinced an
alcoholic, adulterous, hostile minister to quit the ministry. He
became a deputy sheriff instead. He may be just as unsuited to
this line of work, but at least he's not misguiding God's
precious sheep.

E.   A man at the head of the home.

     As I have mentioned previously, a domineering, smothering
mother and a weak father lie at the root of the vast majority of
mental illnesses in children. Most mentally disturbed adults come
from that type of parental heritage also. Solomon tells about two
kinds of wives: "A worthy wife is her husband's joy and crown;
the other kind tears down everything he has" (Prov.12:4, LB). In
the average American home, a child is with his mother five or six
times as much as he is with his father. That's why I addressed my
rules for producing neurotic children primarily to mothers. They
bear a very heavy responsibility in American society today.
     But let's take a good look at what God has to say about who
should lead the home. God's Word says, "Wives, be subject to your
husbands, as is fitting in the Lord" (Col.3:18, NASV). God's Word
also says, "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ
also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of
the body" (Eph.5:23, NASV). When God first created Adam, God
said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a
helper suitable for him" (Gen.2:18, NASV). Then after creating
Eve, God told her, "Your desire shall be for your husband, and he
shall rule over you" (Gen.3:16, NASV). If any of you are married
to an unsaved husband, here are God's instructions for you:

     In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own
     husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the
     word they may be won without a word by the behavior of their
     wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.
     And let not your adornment be external only-braiding the
     hair, and wearing gold jewelry, and putting on dresses; but
     let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the
     imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is
     precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former
     times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn
     themselves, being submissive to their own husbands. Thus
     Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling hum lord, and you have become
     her children if you do what is right without being
     frightened by any fear. - 1 Peter 8:1-6, NASV

     The world will put increasing pressures on Christian women
to assume equal authority in the home, or even greater authority
than the husbands. But I would urge you, for the sake of your
children as well as for the sake of obeying God's commandments,
"Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world" (Rom.12:2,
LB).

                          ......................

To be continued with "Spiritual Development."

Entered on this Website July 2007

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