Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Raising Children Who Stay

Recently, there was a family party for me. I was more of an observer than I was a participant. All of the greatgrandchildren were whooping it up. Not all of my descendants were present. Heather, Ararat, and their three children were not there; Mallory, her husband, and their two children were in Canada; and Brooke, Daniel, and their four kids were in England.

This was my basic observation: all of the marriages seemed to be perfect marriages. All of the children were obedient (22 were present), and there were no fights among any of the cousins.

Why have I been so blessed? I have done some thinking on the subject. I watched other families and asked them how they did it; I watched others and observed how they didn’t do it. I had to do a lot of changing over the years.

For instance, my first nine years as a Christian were in the Navy. I was a disciplinarian. I did not want my sons to grow up to be sissies. I was hard on them. I woke up and changed and started to be expressively affectionate to them.

It was easier with Heather. While I was still in the Navy, I was visiting a Christian family and waiting for dinner to be served. I asked the little daughter to sit on my lap. She did. However, she did not want to get off. That told me that she was not getting enough affection from her father. She was starved for it, and trying to soak it up from me. I knew that if nothing changed, she would be pregnant by the time she was 16.

It turned out that she was 17 when she got pregnant. At that time, I made a decision that I was not going to let that happen to Heather. Years later, when Heather was a senior in high school, I went up to her room as usual to tuck her in bed and kiss her goodnight. She said, “Dad, I know why you’re doing this. You are afraid I will get my loving somewhere else.” I said, “Right on.”

You may not know this, but I think it is unwise to allow an 18-year-old child to attend college somewhere other than at home. They are not old enough to be autonomous. Yet 18-year-olds who are away from home think that they are autonomous.

People respond to this with the fact that I let my 18-year-old sons join the Navy. Yes, I had been in the Navy. There they were under authority, not autonomous. In addition, I visited Douglas in the Navy in New London and in Norfolk, and I visited Evan in El Centro. When Heather was still single and doing mission and teaching work, I visited her in Egypt, California, Pennsylvania, and Turkey.

They all knew that they were still in the family. When Ararat got interested in Heather, she called us from Istanbul to tell us of his interest. I replied, “Shake him.” She said, “What do mean, shake him?” “Get rid of him. You know how to get rid of guys.” “But Dad, I’m interested in this one.” “Well,” I said, “that’s different. Now I will take charge of the courtship.” There I was with a 31-year-old daughter 10,000 miles away, and I said I was going to take charge. Her reply was, “Ok. I don’t want to do anything stupid.”

I know many Christian families. Some of them have children who are not believers or have gone astray. One of the reasons this happens is that the child realizes he is not loved or respected, so he goes off in order to get love and respect. It doesn’t work. We did not do everything right, but we caught ourselves in time, so we have had no tragedies.

Here are two of the Bible texts we have counted on.

The second commandment: “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Ex. 10:4-6). One thousand generations. Currently, we have four generations, down to our greatgrandchildren.

Deuteronomy 11:18-21: “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.”

I am willing to say more on the subject if you want to discuss any of it. Reply here or email me at jimwilson27@frontier.com. I have also written on how to lead your adult children back to the Lord.

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