There Are Two Sides to Family Relationships

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Scene 1: A father expresses his final wishes in his will. Unfortunately, the oldest son, the executor, had little desire to honor it, causing trouble in the family. His thinking? Their father is no longer around to witness any of this. He is in command.

Scene 2: A mother has been cut off by her married son because she likes to express her opinion on all matters. Her thinking? She is a vocal person and should be allowed to speak her mind. She does not really care about the effects of her opinion.

How many families have been broken because of upsetting statements and nonsensical arguments? Too many to count, that the Bible even includes how we need to treat each other as a family unit. Writing to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul said, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and your mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (6:1-4). This same passage was also brought to the Colossians by Paul, highlighting the fact that wherever families are, there will be an ongoing battle between parents and children.

Very often, we only see one side of the coin—and it’s dependent on what role we are playing in the family relationship. If you are the parent, you always think you have the most important role in the family and your children better show you respect. It doesn’t matter what you say or do that may be contrary and divisive. What matters is your authority is encompassing no matter the age of your children.

If you are the child—an adult one, too—you are also looking for respect. You are all grown, an independent individual—perhaps even with a family of your own—and you need to live your own life without being told how to. You don’t need your parents to interfere with every move you make, nor do you want your dad or your mom throwing in their two cents’ worth.

Parents’ Responsibility

Parents do have the explicit responsibility of raising a child from birth to teens. And this is not just about providing the basic physical needs of food, clothing, and shelter. It also includes caring for the emotional and spiritual well-being of the child. God provided parenting as a special stewardship, so it’s most important to honor this role. As parents, we should desire to “train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). The idea of nurturing discipline is for our sons and daughters to listen and be attentive to our instructions (Proverbs 4:1) and to remember our teachings (Proverbs 3:1) not just today, but for always. 

As parents, we need to understand that child-rearing patterns will also change along with child development. As Scripture says, “For everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:13-14). We need to help our children dig deeper into their faith, allowing them the opportunity to fully understand, embrace, and live out their own personal relationships with Christ; not just mimic our modeled faith.

Children’s Responsibility

A child is also instructed to value parental discipline. Several times in Proverbs 4, we read of the result of listening and remembering parents’ instructions: you will “live” (v.4) and “the years of your life may be many” (v.10). These instructions are meant to set up boundaries to prevent a child from going down the wrong path and to avoid evil. How many times have we heard of a child, even at a young middle-school age, start wandering away to walk the wide road of darkness? There are many who have experienced juvenile detention, been put in foster homes, or have died because of disobedience.

Family relationships are indeed complex. Sometimes they are hard to navigate because of some difficult characters within the family unit. A dominating parent may force his or her opinion on the children without a care about the effect of such. The black sheep or prodigal child may increase the stress level of everyone; sometimes, even causing a physical illness such as a heart attack. Some may claim authenticity with words such as “This is who I am!” or “I don’t care how you feel because this is how I feel!” that even the empathy “welcome mat” is worn out and needs to be thrown away. There may not be any respectful conversation left to have, where everyone is hoping to keep conflict at bay by learning how to behave and focus on healthy communication.

Navigating Family Relationships God’s Way

A family with a strong spiritual well-being will have more success because of the desire to have a positive outlook on life, recognizing that the parent-child relationship is also transforming. The parents of these adult children lean on accepting the “letting go and letting God” phase, but parental support is available when needed. In the same way, adult children can fully embark on their independent lives knowing that parental encouragement is, likewise, available.

Balancing family roles will be easier if we remember to “honor our father and mother” and “do not provoke our children to anger.” We don’t need to be heavy-handed in our discipline nor use intimidation to solicit a certain response or behavior. We know that nothing good will come out of bullying, only resistance and rebellion. In the same way, there is no need to be disrespectful and impatient towards parents, especially as they age. It is good to show appreciation and affection for them, explaining in a positive manner how responsibilities and decision-making for adult children are now an important facet of one’s own life.

Family relationships are important. As we constantly upgrade and freshen up our homes, we need to make changes in how we handle our relationships, giving each other the chance to change and become the persons God designed us to be. It is best to avoid stress in our relationships and frustrating each other by deliberately saying or doing things that are triggering and annoying. Let’s stay away from insults and degrading comments that hurt all of us.

It’s time for us to value our families! Let’s set aside family drama and share the love of God with one another instead.

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Thomas Barwick

Luisa Collopy is an author, speaker and a women’s Bible study teacher. She also produces Mula sa Puso (From the Heart) in Tagalog (her heart language), released on FEBC Philippines stations. Luisa loves spending time with her family over meals and karaoke!



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