Especially For Christian Parents
This page is not meant to preach to anyone. If you have faith that these things can help you, then this page can give you some ideas on ways to improve your family relationships. If not, then pick another page.
We have a series of "Spiritual Tools" which we use in our home. We believe strongly in their effectiveness. We use more tools than these, but these are the most important ones that make the biggest difference to us.
Daily prayer scripture reading as a family benefits a family in ways that do not seem in any way connected to the habit, from improving reading skills among the children, to reducing the amount of arguing in the home. We have proven this one time and again... When we have daily scripture and prayer, our home is more peaceful, our relationships are stronger, and our kids learn better!
We started reading scriptures together when our oldest kids were not quite reading, and we had lots of babies. We have had to redevelop the habit and work to keep it going, because every time there is a change in schedule, we have to learn to do it all over again on a different schedule. Usually after about three days though the atmosphere in our home is so charged with anger and blame and irritation that we get back into the habit out of a feeling of self-preservation!
Kevin and I get along better when we have prayers together each morning and night also, but family scriptures seem to make the most difference in harmony in our home. If we cheat and just do prayers for a day, we notice. If we forget for a time, we notice.
When the kids were little, we just read verses to them, and explained what they meant. We never used children's versions, we just read the undiluted scriptures to them and told them the stories. When Sean and Danielle began to read, they each took a verse. Later, with other little ones, I began having them take an active role earlier.
As soon as they could talk, we'd pick the shortest verse, or just a sentence or phrase from a verse, whatever they could handle, and we'd say it, they'd repeat it back, a few words at a time. As they got old enough to read, we would start them on simple words that were repeated a lot, having them actually read the words they recognized, helping them with the rest. They stayed on very short verses until they read with a fluency that allowed them to read longer verses without it being painful for everyone else to listen to!
Every child who has done this has learned to read fairly rapidly. Scriptures use a repetitive language that teaches competency well, so they develop confidence in their ability to read fairly rapidly. Our oldest daughter was not functionally literate in the third grade. We began having her read scriptures aloud with the family about that time. She could read well enough to understand what she was reading within six months. She never connected phonics with reading, and reading was just too hard for her until we began using scriptures for her.
Our youngest son learned about half of his reading skills from scriptures. We put some time into teaching him to read, but it really was not as much as we thought we'd have to. He is homeschooled, and since he had been exposed to scripture reading from a young age, he just picked up most of his reading ability from that. We spent about two days a week for about three months with readers, working on reading skills and phonics with him, and in the second grade he took off on his own. At the age of 8 he picked up a copy of Prelude to Glory – a 2” thick adult historical novel about the Revolutionary War, and finished it within about a month. He has completed the series through book six, and the only reason he has not read books seven and eight is because his older brothers get them first and they are not yet finished!
Reading scriptures as a family has given us the ability to teach our children Christian principles in a very personal way. We not only have the time once a day to do so, but we can relate them to events that happened in the world or in their lives. Lately we have been reading them in Spanish. None of us speak Spanish well enough to understand much, but we find that the longer we do it, the more we understand, and the more we find familiar in the stories.
Keeping the Sabbath helps us shut out the world one day a week, and makes us better people the rest of the week.
We keep our Sundays very low key. Church on Sunday is a way of life. We notice we behave better when we go. If someone misses a Sunday they'll be more difficult to get along with the following week, and they have a harder time resisting temptation. I notice this especially in myself... and so do the kids! If I miss a Sunday, someone will say, “Mom, you need to go to church next Sunday so you won't be grouchy!”
We also have a criteria for the music we listen to on Sunday, often spiritual, but also classical music, or other uplifting music. We watch specific movies only, we have a shelf that we put “Sunday” movies on. Many have a religious theme, but a few other carefully screened ones qualify also. Mostly, we want entertainment which allows us to remember that it is the Sabbath, and to be our best selves.
We find that when we do this, our entire week goes better. When the kids refrain from homework on Sunday, their studies go better. When I refrain from business on Sunday, my business grows more and is more profitable. When Kevin refrains from work on Sunday, he feels more rested and able to work the rest of the week.
We don't use the day to catch up on yard or house work either. We try to do just what is necessary.
The kids play board games (not the ones they fight over!), Kevin usually naps a bit, sometimes he works on genealogy, or writes letters to family. I often write on material that has a spiritual angle to it (family articles, etc), and we play a lot of chess. Much of the time we spend just talking, telling stories, and building memories. When you have the time to do nothing, something amazing comes of it. Some of my kids' favorite memories are of Sunday afternoons, doing nothing, talking and joking, and remembering things that bind us together. Without that “unscheduled” time, we would never have those wonderful moments.
Sundays are a day in our home when things go right. When we take it easy, enjoy the day, and learn a little self discipline for doing things a bit better than we otherwise would.
I know that these two principles have helped our family to be stronger. They are more than just rules, they are tools. They make our family better, and they help us be happier together.
Making Home a Safe Haven
Home should be the one place on earth where we are all welcome, loved, encouraged to be our best, and given a refuge from the trials and stresses of the world. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to keep that world from intruding and bringing the stresses and trials right into our house! It takes active effort to make a home into the safe haven it ought to be.
You cannot rely on society to help you teach your children morals, good relationship skills, or even to obey the law anymore. The easy way is the doctrine that is being taught, and behavior standards are becoming “whatever you feel like doing or can get away with”. So your time in your home needs to be spent not just keeping it welcoming and warm, but also teaching concepts that allow your children to take some of your home out of the house with them every day.
There are specific tools to help you do this. Not just abstract ideas, but actual concrete things you can do:
1. Uplifting music can be a powerful tool to help improve a mood in the home. Spiritual music works best, but Classical music, positive contemporary music, Fun folk songs or ethnic songs, anything that brings joy into the home can be used to help everybody feel more like getting along.
2. If there is a lot of fighting in the home, look at your entertainment and see whether it is affecting the kids. We find that competitive video or computer games, or movies with contention in them will make our kids have a harder time getting along. Sometimes the affect is subtle, or slow to develop, but over a few weeks we'll notice a general decline in behavior. When we change the quality of the entertainment, the pattern gradually improves.
3. If you profess to believe in a certain principle, look at the things you allow into your home, such as music, movies, games, etc, and see if they uphold that principle. We learn from what we are exposed to repeatedly. If a movie shows sex as recreation, then it is teaching your children to view it that way. If a hero in a movie bends the law, even in the name of good, then it is teaching your children that they can break the law as long as they can justify it in their minds. It is not overreacting or reaching to view things this way. We learn what we are exposed to. Make sure the things your kids are learning from what you give them are actually the things you want them to learn! In our home, there is a difference between what we watch once, and what we own. If we keep it, then we are giving the message that it is ok for repeat viewing. If we watch it once and then never again, we are letting them know that it did not measure up, and we always say why. We have actually stopped a movie in the middle and taken it immediately to the trash can when it displayed something offensive.
4. Keep the computers in public rooms in the house. Anyone who allows a computer to go into a child's room, or even an office with a closed door, that has an internet connection, is begging to find porn or dangerous web sites on their History. There are more dangers than just porn for unsupervised children. Chat rooms contain encouragement to every kind of dangerous activity that there is, and if you are not frequently around your child, and taking an interest in what they do, there is a near certainty that they will go where they shouldn't. We don't leave our internet password on the computer either, because teens WILL get up in the middle of the night to access the internet.
If you want to actually raise your children yourself, you have to screen what comes into your home, and you have to teach your children about things they will be exposed to. If you do not do this, then the world will come into your home, and you will feel increasingly like there is no safety there.
There is more of everything now. There is more evil in the world, but there is also more good. So for every item you see that you cannot allow into your home, there is a good alternative to bring in instead. Computers and television bring many challenges to keep it clean. But they also bring resources that allow you to access more good. You just have to insure, as the parent, that they actually are being used for good in your home..