One of the most valuable gifts parents can give their children is a home filled with love and peace.
When my wife and I raised our two children, we often deliberated over questions such as: Are we giving them the best education? Should we enroll them in more extra-curricular activities? Are they eating the right food?
But in the long run, I suspect one of the best gifts we had to offer was a peaceful home environment. It allowed them to feel safe, discover themselves, sort out tough challenges in a supportive atmosphere and know how it feels to be loved.
It can be tempting in this age of instant self-gratification to reach for a quick material fix when the children aren't happy. Perhaps buy them another toy, drug them or yell. But there is a spiritual solution that works much better.
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Children respond to love. They open their hearts and minds in the presence of kindness and charity. The more parents can create an atmosphere of peace and affection in their home, the easier it is for children to open up and be their natural happy selves.
For instance, a concerned mother was telling me one day that her young ones had everything they needed, and more, but were unhappy. I asked her if their home was filled with love. She said her marital relations were combative and strained.
To improve the situation, we agreed to pray together for more love in her marriage. We acknowledged together that she and her husband had a God-given ability to be more understanding, patient and forgiving toward one another, and they could find common ground to work out their problems. As we prayed, she found peace in her heart that her marriage could improve.
She reported back later that she was getting along much better with her husband --and to her delighted surprise, the children were much happier too. And a moral lesson was learned.
Children respond to love felt in their home. And parents play a large role in establishing that love.
Paul wrote in the book of Romans, "Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone" (Romans 12:18, NLT). This rule applies to building a happy home.
If family is important to you, it's a healthy ritual to stop any busy routine and prayerfully remember that God has endowed you and your family members with the capacity to forgive, be kind and generous, thoughtful and caring. To remember that home is an opportunity to practice these qualities with people you care about and let their unifying effect be felt.
Home can be one of the happiest places on earth for its young ones if the elders are committed to upholding standards that promote love and peace.
A peaceful home doesn't always come easy, but it's worth the effort and the reward. There is little else more important. It's a precious gift beyond measure to give one's children.
-- Evan Mehlenbacher is a practitioner and teacher of Christian Science in Richland and a member of First Church of Christ, Scientist in Pasco. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.