Monday, June 14, 2010

Fathers, Love Your Children’s Mother


(I think fathers deserve special attention in parenting because their influence upon the children cannot be underestimated in regard to how they treat their mother. I share the following message not as a perfect father but as a man who loves to be a mature dad.)

“What is the most important thing I can do for my children?” asked a father to an elderly man. “Love their mother!” was the response. I am glad for those men who are loving and caring towards their wives but this isn’t the case with many. Let’s be honest and ask—what description comes into the mind of our children when they hear the term ‘father’? What impression do they have about fatherhood? Does the term ‘father’ or ‘daddy’ or ‘papa’ bring a sense of security and care to children because of the way he treats their mother or does that term sound scary and disappointing?

Making the Lives of Children either Better or Worse
A young girl confided to me:

I hated my dad because of his rudeness and anger towards my mom. He criticizes my mom a lot. His behavior left upon me a very bad impression about men. I am still scared of men. I think men are always fretful and explode in anger. My mom used to face all this and I thought we should always bear it. Consequently, I became rebellious against my dad and am even scared at the notion of marriage.

Now compare the above experience with the following words of another young woman, who recollects how she viewed her father’s impact on her life:

It was a wonderful, close relationship. His love and respect for my mother was the greatest gift a man can give his family. Although I grew up during the Crisis, I never doubted that he would take care of me. He was well respected in our community, and I felt it a privilege to be his daughter.[1]

What a marked contrast between the lives of these two young girls? Who made that difference, the first ones worse and the second ones best? Fathers! How can a father make the world of his children either worse or better? The way he treats their mother. Studies reveal that one of the most important ways that men can be good fathers is by treating the mother of their children with affection, respect, and consideration.[2] Make no mistake, a father cannot be a friend to his children when he is hostile to their mother.

Being Gentle with Your Children's Mother
It is natural for men to be harsh and inconsiderate towards the mother of their children. But research has shown that husbands who display anger, show contempt for, or who stonewall their wives (i.e., "the silent treatment") are more likely to have children who are anxious, withdrawn, or antisocial.[3] According to John Gottman’s extensive research, 85 percent of husbands eventually stonewall their wives during conflict.[4] For this reason, I believe, it is written for us, “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them” (Col. 3:19).

Men are known for being strong but their strength exists to protect their wives, not to abuse their authority over them. They ought to have intimate relationship with their wives, not intimidating behavior. They being the head of the house do not mean possessing unquestionable authority and dominion but manifesting responsible and genuine love to their wives. God’s word exhorts, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). Christ loved us so much that He gave His life for us, and that is how husbands are exhorted to love their wives.

Husbands must treat their wives, not as playable toys, but as a valuable treasure. It is written, “You husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together” (1 Pet. 3:7, NLT). The more men are loving and understanding towards their wives the more children will love and respect their father. I have a friend who shared his regret for being a son to his father. He hated him most because his dad often mistreated his mother. Many fathers aren’t aware of this—the anger of a father towards his children’s mother actually provokes children’s anger towards their father. Theodore Hesburg said it right, “The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”[5]

Committed Fathers
Fathers, how do you treat your children’s mother? Do you love her, care for her and value her in your life? What model are you setting for your children about how they should be treating their own spouse? What lessons are they learning from your life about how to handle conflicts in family? Do they see you as a wise man who builds his family on the unshakable foundation of God’s word? Would they love to become a kind of husband you are to your wife? Or would they hate to be like you? So powerful is the influence of a father upon the children that even if they hate to become like him they still end up manifesting some of his characteristics.

It is proven that many young people when they are married often get into conflicts because they grew up in an unloving atmosphere wherein their parents often fought with each other. Fathers who treat the mothers of their children with respect and deal with conflict within the relationship in a mature and appropriate manner are more likely to have boys who understand how they are to treat women and who are less likely to act in an aggressive fashion toward females.[6] Girls with involved, respectful fathers see how they should expect men to treat them and are less likely to become involved in violent or unhealthy relationships.[7]

It was encouraging to read about a husband’s commitment to love his wife in their tenth year of marriage. Once when he had a big fight with his wife, she angrily packed her suitcase to leave him. The husband also started to pack his own bag and when she asked him, “What are you doing?”, his reply was a powerful example of commitment—“If you are leaving, I am going with you.”[8] What a blessing for children to have such a committed father!

Note: Click here to read the next topic: "Mothers, Respect Your Children's Father"

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Notes:

[1] Cited by H. Norman Wright, A Dad-Shaped Hole in My Heart (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2005), 15
[2] Jeffrey Rosenberg and W. Bradford Wilcox, The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families Administration on Children, Youth and Families Children’s Bureau Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, 2006), 19
[3] Gable, S., Crnic, K., & Belsky, J. (1994). Coparenting within the Family System: Influences on Children's Development. Family Relations, 43(4), 380-386.
[4] Cited by Emerson Eggerichs, Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2004), 60
[5] Cited in The Best Things Ever Said about Parenting (Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1996), 165
[6] Jeffrey Rosenberg and W. Bradford Wilcox, The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families Administration on Children, Youth and Families Children’s Bureau Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, 2006), 11-12
[7] Ibid., 12
[8] 10 Things I Want My Son to Know (Secunderabad: OM Headlines, 2002), 165

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