My children are obedient, intelligent, and hard-working. But somewhere I’ve failed and it’s becoming obvious. My children hate each other. There is never a kind word spoken between them, they hate to work together, fight with an intense dislike, and seem consumed with looking out for themselves alone. My son dominates to the point of being a bully and tyrant, and my daughter uses rejection and solitude. My one-time easy going, happy baby is following in their footsteps. We have clear boundaries of ownership and rights, but the children NEVER play together or share. They don’t even speak to each other. Why? I am always cheerful. I train. My life is centered around meeting their emotional and physical needs, training them to obey, etc... I honor and obey my husband, just as the Bible teaches. My husband works away from home, but he’s a good man, and treats the children well. I can tell he doesn’t really like them, and I don’t blame him - what’s to like? What have I done wrong? How can I make my family love each other?
John 13:35 “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
What follows might seem condemning to someone who has made every effort to be a good person, and it is evident that you have. Just swallow hard, say under your breath, “I don’t care, I want Jesus,” and let me tell you about the sweetest thing in all of life.
Many people read To Train Up a Child and assume that it is Mike Pearl’s secret to raising good kids. They are wrong. My Dad’s training principles are the reason we are well trained; just like your children are well trained. But training is not the reason we are good. Training is not the reason we love each other. The secret to Mike Pearl’s real success as a parent is found in his Roman’s series, and other audio Bible teachings. Mike Pearl managed to convey to us (his children) his true love, his hope and joy, his faith and understanding of Jesus Christ. It was not training that birthed my spirit into new life and new living—it was knowing Jesus Christ.
It is clear to me that you are good people; that you train, and live circumspectly. There is but one last step to take before you will find yourself on the road to success as a parent. Religion may look like that final step; but it couldn’t be further from it.
Those who do not know God recognize those who do by their love for each other. A head covering, a Bible under the arm, habitual politeness, and a whole string of kids mean nothing but “we are religious.” Those things are not bad; but they are not signs of knowing Jesus. Love is.
Children who walk hand in hand, laughing and interacting with each other with absolute enjoyment are a testimony to the Lost that God is in the house. A husband and wife engaged in enthusiastic, open-faced conversation will provoke longing and curiosity in those who do not know God. A whole-hearted smile at an absolute stranger will cause that stranger to wish he knew you, and hope you will talk to him a little longer.
Your children are perceptive. Their spirits know the difference between knowing about God, and really knowing God. You say they hate each other. Why? He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love.
How do you teach love? I’m sure there are some readers that truly do know Jesus Christ in a very personal way, but because of past circumstances and old habits, must learn the new way and practice the motions their hearts are willing to learn. I will list some practical ideas, but before you try them PLEASE listen to the free Roman’s audio download on the www.nogreaterjoy.org site. A clear picture of the person of Jesus will infuse life in the following suggestions.
1) There is an understanding in our home that being a good human being is about meeting other people’s needs. Every action is done to benefit someone else. The house is cleaned so Mama won’t have to work as hard. The back yard is cleaned so Daddy will be glad. Schoolwork projects are done to be folded up and mailed to various grandmothers as a gift. Conversations at the park are to cheer up sad people and show them that God loves them. Playing together is for the other person’s enjoyment. Joe is sent outside to play with Rysha and “be gentle” so she won’t get hurt. Rysha is sent out to play with Joe and “be tough” so she will be fun for Joe to play with. Both of them play with Hannah so she will “learn how to be a kid.” They go to Granny and Grandad’s house to “be thankful, obedient, and happy” so they will be a joy and pride to their grandparents. And amazingly, this world-view is taken to heart with enthusiasm.
Our own goodness is not the focus. The children do not think about whether or not they are being good. Their focus is on being successful at benefitting another human being. Joe helped Rysha put her sandles on; he’s a good brother. Rysha helped Mom set the table; she’s a good helper. Goodness (Godlikeness) is recognized as active love toward another. Just performing duties correctly is not a form of goodness. Only selfless acts of love define the quality of a human being.
2) Serving. If I had a child that was unloving, I would organize every activity in that child’s life to be about serving for several days, until the child performed the “duties of love” successfully. If he rudely dominated conversation, then for several days the game would be to allow/encourage his sister to converse better. If the sister was petulant and manipulative about it, she would have to do something for her brother (bring him a graham cracker, or...) All activities of the day would include serving each other. Sister would serve brother lunch, and vice versa. Brother would make sister’s bed; sister would take off brother’s shoes... etc... For as long as it took, I would tangle their worlds up until automatically serving the other would come without thought. And you should play the game with Daddy. Serve him in an exaggerated way with the children watching. And rather than serving them, make sure they serve each other. When you brag about your kids, brag about what they did for each other, or for you, not what they accomplished alone.
3) Positive attention comes when they are being peaceable and kind, not the opposite. When Joe is talking too much or making too much noise, my communication with him is brief, but not unkind. I simply say, “go outside and water the garden.” The command is not negotiable. I may go out and call him back in 10 minutes later. When he comes back in, he’s more careful to maintain the peace. When Rysha is whiney, I say, “Go get me some...” If she is happy when she comes back, I talk to her a minute and smile at her. If she’s still whining, I give her a light spanking and send her on another errand. The errand serves to take her attention off of herself. Most of the time the errand is sufficient. Giving the selfish child a selfless errand is the opposite reward his flesh was looking for. Isolation and even a spanking does not work on selfishness quite as well, because the focus has not changed. I have found that my children return from their errands with a pleased sense of self-worth and thankfulness. They are not old enough to understand what just happened to their little souls, but their spirits feel the relief of having their flesh denied.
4) Thankfulness. I believe it is important for your children to see your gratefulness to God. They should hear praise and thanksgiving coming out of your mouth continually throughout the day. Thanking God for the weather, the scenery, the groceries, the children, the husband, the neighbors, etc... They need to hear you thanking their father for the work he does, the income he brings home, and his presence in the living room every evening. They need to feel like they are blessed. They will know it by your thankfulness.
And if you don’t know Jesus; find Him. Call out for God’s wonderful salvation. I guarantee, you will find Him sufficient.
John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another
Romans 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
1John 3:11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another
1John 3:23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
1John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
1John 4:12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
John 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Romans 12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
Galatians 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
— Rebekah Joy Anast