Vol. 1 - No. 11
by Curtis J. Torno, MD
A 15-year study of hundreds of psychologically healthy families was recently conducted by the Timberlawn Psychiatric Foundation of Dallas, Texas, and was reported in the January, 1982 issue of Texas Health Letter. What do you think were the characteristics of these families?
First, these families were biologically intact -- no divorce or separation.
Second, the couples shared power. Each parent had an important role in decision making and was able to talk to each other openly. However, the father had the final say in all matters. The parents were clearly in charge of the family but they were not rigidly authoritarian or heavy handed. There was no question that the ultimate decision and authority was in the parent's hand and this was accepted without rebellion by the children because they were considered in the decision making.
Thirdly, emotions were expressed freely and openly -- even anger, sadness, joy, and love. Other family members were able to respond empathetically and yet hold no grudges nor smoldering conflict. Healthy families do have conflict and tension, however, they were able to deal with all of it quickly and usually effectively. Children and adults in these healthy families were encouraged to express opinions and to develop a clear sense of their own identity.
Fourthly, religious activities were a vital part of most of these families' life and occupied a great deal of their activity. Family members felt very close to each other but at the same time developed separate personalities and specific identities and often, different interests.
Fifth, these fathers had jobs that often entailed a great deal of time, effort, and responsibility, but each had something left over for their families. They enjoyed their relationship with their families.
For most of the mothers, family and home was their central interest and the center of their attention. Yet these mothers had an important friendship network outside the home and derived obvious pleasure from both family and friends.
Sixth, these families were less "child oriented" than parents in less well functioning families. Parents had time for each other and for some activities together without the children.
These children developed more normally -- had a lot of friends, more self confidence, were more disciplined, and did better in school. If you check these characteristics closely you will see that they are essentially those which should characterize Christian families. Let's take each of these findings and see how it fits into the Christ-centered life of a Christian.
First, divorce and separation were not present. Also mothers mostly did not work and even though fathers worked longer hours than usual, they had wives at home. Fathers made time for family and for wife. (1 Timothy 5; Matthew 5:32; Ephesians 5:23-33).
Second, the authority was in the parents and they shared authority. The children were submissive but they were allowed to express emotions and to express their views that were listened to but yet discipline was administered by parents. (Ephesians 6:1-4). Conflicts and tension were handled by expressing them and talking things over much in the same manner of conduct as expressed in. (Matthew 18:15-18; Ephesians 5:1). No smoldering conflict or tension that disrupts families was allowed to remain. No grudges or vengences were allowed. (Romans 12:14).
Parenting is not easy -- it never has been! No one can look at our current world situation in regard to the family and not realize that the American family is in real trouble. Yet even in these troubled times, some parents (Christians and non-Christians) still are rearing well adjusted, useful, and productive children who have high moral standards and values.
That is the goal of all sincere Christians; to rear such children who are also Christians and love God and His word. How is that done? The article just quoted from is one answer but God's word gives even a better answer:
I. Get your priorities right before you ever marry. A. Look for a mate who has love for God and desires to go heaven.
B. Look for a mate who will not compromise Truth for anything and loves Truth.
C. Look for a mate that knows that Love is Agape and not all Eros -- they know caring is necessary.
II. Good parenting is learned behavior, just as Christianity is learned. (Ephesians 6:1-4).
A. Provoke nurture -- rear children in all departments (mentally, physically, and spiritually).
B. Chastening, discipline, cultivation of mind and morals.
C. Be a good example to your children. 75% of what we learn is in what we see. Children see hypocrisy easily.
D. Good communications start young.
1. Show and have genuine affection to your children.
2. Ask and listen. Talk to them but especially listen.
3. Keep control by God's standard, not peer standard.
4. Dislike and disapprove bad behavior but not the child (approve of the garden, pull up the weeds).
5. Stay united -- father and mother must act jointly.
6. Talk as a family and listen to each other and to children.