There is a 5-fold relationship partnership that runs in every home, and each component of the partnership creates a responsibility that is binding, and must be fulfilled in order to enable the family engine to fire on all cylinders, for maximum fruitfulness. You cannot separate the various parts in the name of independence, without any conscious efforts to create optimum interdependence. If you fail to fortify the ropes of the five major relational connection cords in the home, or completely abandon its creation for any reasons, you will end up having a fragmented and dysfunctional home, unsuccessful marriage, or poor relationships in your family life that will adversely affect each member of your household.
I recognize these five cardinal family relationships as the following:
1) Husband’s relationship to his wife
This is the beginning of all good relationships in every home. This is where good leadership, order, organization, and good parenting also begin. We cannot establish good order, mental preparedness for duty, and exemplary lifestyle in the home if the husband (father) does not commit himself to lead his wife and children with passion and wisdom, and perform his required role in the marriage and in the home.
Without a good relationship between the husband and his wife, it becomes very difficult to train and impart good values to their children, if they don’t see the essential husband-wife fruitful marital validations operating between Daddy and Mommy, such as: effective communication, delightful conversation, sincere love, good romance (special attitude towards a lover), show of affection, respect, verbal appreciation, gentle treatment, wise and humble handling of difficult issues, proper resolution of conflicts, establishing of trust, character building, effective communication, and mutual care for genuine needs.
When a husband is at loggerheads with wife for any reasons, and the father is the offender (who might also be cheating on his wife in different ways), the children can sense, observe, synthesize all the facts, and draw some conclusions. This toxic sour mixture will feed their minds with wrong impressions about marriage, and could plant indelible scars of disappointment on the walls of their tender hearts which will later transform into crystals of resentment towards their father down the road. The devastating effects can plague generations in their pedigrees down the line. The same thing can happen if the mother is the offender, or the instigator of any conflict and disunity between Dad and Mom.
A warm, affectionate, and loving mutual relationship between the father and mother is what will enable them to plan and engage in effective joint parenting for their children, and care for the needs of in-laws, other relatives, and friends.
2) Father’s relationship to his children
The father who is the Leader of the family and Head of his wife, must bond with the children and teach them how to connect properly with their Mother and to other people for mutual fellowship, mutual sharing, and mutual growth.
The father must teach the children how to love and respect their mother, as one of his primary roles. No father can easily and meaningfully bond to his children if he neglects or ignores his wife. You may try to win the favor of the children with gifts and other pleasurable and selfish moves, but in the end you will never win their hearts, especially when they grow and learn to know the truth. The man must practically demonstrate and lead his wife and children in domestic activities to build a clean, good, enjoyable, godly, and happy home where genuine needs are met, directed by a good and godly father.
The father (husband of the children’s mother) must show the children that he deeply loves and respects his wife, and unequivocally portray that his wife comes first before everyone else — his deep commitment to her, and sacrificial respectful love for his wife, should teach the children that no one can divide their father and mother, and even they (the children) cannot come between him and his wife.
3) Mother’s relationship to her children
No mother should allow her problems, annoying habits of the husband, in-law and friend interferences, financial constraints, sexual and romantic un-fulfilment, lack of affection, abuses, rejection feelings, lack of verbal appreciation for her beauty and efforts or sacrifices, or any form of hardship etc., to negatively influence and weaken her kind and loving relationship with her children. She must fully depend on God’s grace and power to resist all temptations to abandon or neglect her children. The mother should be inspired to emulate the example of Mary (the Mother of Jesus) who followed her Son all the way to the Cross.
The mother must continue to enhance and deepen her motherly bond that she began to acquire from her pregnancy and through the birth to the infant stages of the children. She must demonstrate the passion to diligently support the parental activities, provision of necessities, and leadership efforts of her husband, for the children to see that she appreciates their father.
The wife should not simply relate to the children in her own natural feminine ways without making the children know and understand the role and good impact of her husband on all of them. She must let the children recognize and respect the authority and all the good efforts of their father on their behalf, despite any weaknesses of her husband. No matter what happens, and under all circumstances, the mother must be faithful to the father of her children, in order for them to be motivated, derive encouragement, and be able to copy and practice the shining example of their resilient and lovingly sacrificial mother in their own future relationships and marriages.
4) Children’s relationship to each other
All the children belonging to the household (including adopted children and step-children), must be taught to relate properly to one another. Each child must learn how to relate personally to each of the siblings, and also help to cultivate the collective relationship that unites all of them. The principles of communicating, sharing, assisting, loving, forgiving, waiting for, tolerating, and telling the truth to one another, must be constantly emphasized to all the children.
The extent and rates of development of such sibling relationships will depend heavily on important factors such as the understanding of the importance of family relationships, individual temperament of each child, innate character traits, inborn talents and gifts, mind development, rate of grasping important concepts, personal preferences, achievements, acceptance and appreciation of each person and his or her efforts plus physical looks, environmental exposure, and acquired social skills.
The children’s ability, motivation, and desire to relate very well to each other, will also be immensely buttressed on how their father and mother treat each other, the extent to which the parents create the best environment for freedom, how they speak to and scold or treat each child, effective communication with the children, love, kindness, openness, transparency, respect for each other and for personal views, tolerance, patience, correction of faults among the family members in a loving manner, how they accuse or defend each other, creation of supportive structures and the extent of support offered to each other, messages that are carried by each person to outsiders, interference in the children’s training and personal affairs by relatives and friends, kinds of friendships each child creates for himself or herself, gender differences, level of encouragement for each individual to keep trying after failures, fear of God, development of a pure and godly lifestyle, consistent teaching of clear guidelines for success, establishing of wise rules for good and courteous behavior, observation of family values, firmness in maintaining principles for successful family life, and waiting for each one in the family to catch up for them to create a united army of a strong family.
5) Children’s relationship to parents
Finally, both parents must be able to jointly relate to all the children as a united entity, and relate to each child in a loving and mutual manner. The parents must endeavor to be on the same page for all vital issues, in order not to confuse any of the children with conflicting messages.
It is gross misconception and even a deception to think that since children are “subordinate little minds”, they can be easily ordered, programmed, or instructed to obey parents and relate automatically to them in a cordial and respectful manner, no matter the situation at home or in the family. We therefore make no plans or put in any extra effort to help our children to build any meaningful and productive relationship with us for their maximum growth and maturity. We often think that if the children obey all of our orders, it implies that we have achieved all of the great relationships we need to have with them. Parents become shocked after several years when their adult children relate poorly to them, and sometimes do not even care for their needs, or painfully ignore them altogether.
We need to engage in proactive parenting and teach our children important values and principles in accordance with their age as they grow up.
In our home, my wife and I found some specific joint family activities as ideal ingredients and catalysts to facilitate the creation and formation of family bonds, unity, and family friendships. Chief among them are: family devotions, family prayer meetings in the home, going to church together in one church, engaging in some recreational activities together, watching television or a good movie together, sharing music, sitting and eating together at the dinner table, the entire family engaging in spontaneous conversation, doing physical exercises together, doing backyard gardening together, and sometimes ministering together.
I, the husband, as God’s appointed Head of my wife and home, devised a kind or “Monthly Family Meeting”, where we discussed some of the vital domestic activities for the home such as washing, cleaning, meals, school, work, church etc. I strategically always made Mommy (my wife) the Chair of such meeting (by delegation), in order to include myself among the children with my share of responsibilities in the home. I also made my wife to lead our Family Meetings since I considered her as the Domestic Manager when it comes to our real home organization (such as is found for the Virtuous or Ideal Woman in Proverbs 31:10-31), and also for us to be able to put some of the major issues on our agenda into perspective. It also empowered my wife to have the full cooperation of everyone, especially in my absence, since I travelled from time to time for evangelistic and academic activities outside the home.
As a father or mother, you do not have to do what I decide to do to keep a strong and productive marriage and family life. But I encourage you to prayerfully and wisely examine the kind of family that God and society have been entrusted with, and strategically devise ways and means of running and uniting your home and family in the best way as possible in the light of all your circumstances and available resources.
Be loving, patient, purposeful, godly, courageous, and considerate in all of your dealings.
When the parents have formed strong bonds with the children, then the father and mother could jointly relate cordially, lovingly, respectfully, and nicely, to all the children equally. This consequently becomes the foundation for the children to build a good relationship with their parents, and which will enable the entire family to plan and meet their individual and collective needs.
A father or mother will naturally desire some qualities and become more irresistibly driven towards a particular child,and will have the propensity to show more love and express more affection to that child. Each parent or guardian must, however, try to create a nice and fair balance with the distribution of his or her love, affection, and gifts in the family. Dad or Mom must consciously watch all words, actions, and attitudes that would create any conditions for any child to become “a special pet”, and think that he or she can always lean more towards one parent, and open up more to Dad or Mom who “loves him or her more”.
When the child feels that he or she is “a special favorite” of one parent, then the child can yield to the temptation of taking liberties to misbehave, disobey, or show disrespect to the other parent. This situation could cause resentment and conflicts, especially when it comes to performing duties and domestic chores, provision of needs, responding to special requests of the children, and enforcing discipline. That also becomes one major source of low morale, unhappiness, quarrels, and divisions in the home and family.
In cases where other children are brought into the marriage, we need to know that it will take wisdom, genuine love, transparency, dying to oneself and killing all selfish desires, prayer, scriptural application, practical teaching, consistent patient guidance, much tolerance, investment of quality time, and sacrificial love, to help all the biological children of both parents to heartily accept and assimilate adopted and step-children in all aspects of the home and family affairs. It is even tougher and more challenging if circumstances caused some or all of the blended children and different characters to come together under one roof as grown children, teenagers, or young adults.
It is not only the children who will be struggling to completely love and accept each other, but the father and mother will have to face headlong and deal honestly and thoroughly with their own formidable challenges of fully accepting all the step-children that the other mate brought from a previous marriage or relationship. The details of each child must be completely discussed for mutual strategies of bonding and joint parenting to be formulated and greed on before they finally marry and live together.
The husband and wife must engage in good regular mutual conversation and dialogue with the children, know their minds on issues, and seek to encourage each child to participate in the household discussions that apply to the entire family, and those that apply specifically to the children. They must agree on the best and most loving, godly, effective, and responsible disciplinary measures for the training of the children.
The parents should strategize and add all other important and necessary ingredients that will strengthen the marriage bond, and help the children to know their parents very well, and be able to productively impact their relatives and neighbors, and be able to also inherit the father and mother properly and take good care of the legacies that they leave behind after death.
Both father and mother should discuss and seek to meet all the physical, mental, spiritual, social, domestic, academic, financial, material, and other types of needs for each one in the family. As all members of the household grow older, and the children gain more grounds of independence, the needs of each person in the family also evolve accordingly. It is therefore important to make periodic assessment of their methods, strategies, supplies, activities, principles, and goals for all the five types of relationships in the home, and make any necessary adjustments, modifications, enrichment, and improvements.
By Dr. Samuel Kisseadoo, Professor of Biology in Virginia. Ordained Licensed Minister, International Evangelist, and Author. Relationships Marriage & Family Counselor. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website for resources: www.fruitfulministriesint.com.