Parenting and spousal relationships tips

Parenting and spousal relationships tips

Todd EllisonApr 7, '24

These thoughts hang on the acronym, AFTER.

We live in, and for, the hereafter.  Such a fascinating word, that!  We live in today, but we live for tomorrow, too.  The eternal world that lies somewhere ahead of us isn’t called the afterlife for nothing.  Our actions and attitudes in our families dictate, to a large extent, our everlasting trajectory.  That’s the impetus for these suggestions regarding marriage and child-raising.

A stands for attitude.  Actions are the Hebraic litmus test, but attitudes are what drive it, because attitudes are the product of the heart.  Our loved ones are most affected by our attitudes.  Basically, are we trusting in our own personal adequacy for each day, or are we coming to the Father poor in spirit, counting on his provision of grace, strength and wisdom?  Our attitudes are most vividly revealed when things don’t go our way.  To pull us out of such slumps, the best attitude-adjustment tool is to meditate on a relevant scripture.

F stands for faithful consistency.  Each of us and each of our children face a constant challenge to be faithful in all the arduous disciplines of life.  Our challenge in child-raising is to be faithful in shaping character.  Unfortunately, the toughest part of that is that our children learn most from our personal example.  Necessarily, this involves getting the sin out of our lives (and saying “I’m sorry” a lot!).

The faithfulness includes dousing our day with all sorts of prayer for our loved ones.  Monica, the mother of Saint Augustine, fervently prayed for the salvation of her wayward son and his dad.  She begged for that, she agonized for it for many years, and both sets of prayers were answered.  His father was on his deathbed when he repented and turned to the Lord for salvation.  Augustine changed course shortly six months before his mom’s death in the year 387 at age 55.

T stands for trust in God.  Our loved ones are His, too.  And First Corinthians 7:14 indicates that they are made holy because of godly parents.  We affirm our trust in Him by confiding in Him and often telling Him we love Him.

E stands for enjoying.  Let’s enjoy our spouses and our children for who they are—for the distinctive person the Father deigned each of them to be.  It is not our job to make our husband, our wife, or our child after our own image.  They are not us; each of them is a distinctive other, and we do well to appreciate that otherness.

And finally, R stands for re-do’s, re-births, re-plays, re-creation, and a whole host of wonderful words that begin with those two letters r and e.  From birth to death, our lives are a process of re-working, spiritually, relationally, physically, and in every aspect of what it means to be alive.  Some of this re-working can feel painful, and maybe even dreadful!  The monthly re-appearance of the New Moon is a regular reminder to us that the heavenly Father has designed each of us for a lifetime of new beginnings.

Role-playing proper behaviors is a helpful child training technique, and even is a good one for us ourselves to do (preferably, by our own initiation and not drawing attention to what we’re doing) when we’ve messed up.  Re-run that behavior, the way we know we should have done it the first time.  Have your children re-enter the room, exhibiting that improved behavior.  And do it ourselves when needed.

To review: character-shaping will occur best if we are doing the five key things already mentioned: soaking on Bible passages, repenting when we go wrong, praying fervently, often telling God we love Him, and actively appreciating the unique individuals in our lives.

After taking corrective actions in these respects, by His grace we can look forward to seeing the fulfilments of statements like the one in Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (ESV)  and this one from Ecclesiastes 4:9: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.”

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