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Building Healthy Families
While there are many healthy families, there are also many families that are dysfunctional. There is a significant breakdown in the institution of the family. Children are alienated from their parents. There is rampant abuse in the home – neglect, physical, emotional, verbal and sexual. The statistics on divorce are high even in the church. If we look at the context of North America, there are a number of high-profile ministers who have been divorced – what does that say about marriage as a basic Christian covenant? In the home, we also see improper methods of discipline that are too harsh or too lax. This results in children who are either fearful or unruly and rebellious. We also see that fathers are absent from many of our homes.
Building healthy families involves maintaining the first principle of the family – a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). When a man marries a new family unit is formed. Dependence with the previous family must be broken and past family relationships must be redefined. The extended family has its place, but it should not interfere with the new family unit. Conflicts and in-law problems can seriously affect a marriage. Husbands must remember that their wife is not their mother.
Building healthy families involves having family devotions (Genesis 35:2-4). Husbands and wives need to pray and study the scriptures together: ideally every day. It can be helpful to set aside a fixed time each day to ensure that the devotions become a seasoned habit. The husband should start in this area.
Fathers must strive to lead their children (as they grow in understanding and maturity) to faith in Jesus Christ. With children, you can set aside one day a week for devotions. You can use a child-friendly devotional and you can even have the children lead in devotionals if they are mature enough to do so. You should also regularly encourage your children to pray and read the Word outside of family devotions. It is my belief that fathers should make sure their children go to church while they are at their parents’ house.
Building healthy families involves administering proper discipline. Discipline is more than punishment. It has to do with the formation of a person’s character, behavior and attitudes (Proverbs 22:6). As fathers, we need to model the qualities we want our children to have. We need to teach them the principles of life. Teach them how to manage money, how to be sexually pure, to be more confident, to be leaders and other important things.
We need to engage our children in character building activities such as scouts, girl guides, Sunday school and youth group. Fathers, as leaders in the home, must take the initiative in this area. Discipline should not be left to mothers alone. Discipline, where there is punishment, must be fair, decisive, consistent and firm. Do not effectively discipline your children lead to spoiled, rebellious children who are a liability to society.
Building healthy families involves quality family time. The challenge is that individuals in families can be so busy that there is little or no time together. This is exacerbated by media such as the Internet, television, cell phones, and video games. Families should have one day a week where the whole family can get together. That becomes your family day or night where no one has planned any other activity.
In addition, families can plan events – picnics, spending a night in a hotel, a trip and any other event that brings the family together. Husbands and wives should have date nights. Leave the children with a family member and just go out and have a good time: keep the marriage alive. Fathers can take each child individually so that they feel especially loved.
Building healthy families involves the husband loving his family. The husband is commanded to love his wife as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25). This type of love is an unconditional commitment to your spouse. The traditional wedding vows say: “To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death do us part”. It is a very serious commitment. Loving your wife requires being faithful in thought, speech and action. Also, love does not require submission. Submission flows more easily when a husband loves his wife.
There are many ways that a husband can show his love to his wife. He could pray for his wife and pray for love. Love is a fruit of the Spirit. If a husband is lacking in this area, he can ask God and he will provide in abundance. A husband can also show love by listening and talking to his wife. When he listens, he needs to give his wife his undivided attention. A husband needs to spend quality time with his wife. He also expresses love by helping around the house and helping with the children. The husband should compliment his wife for how she looks and for the things she does; he should show appreciation and not take his wife for granted. Another way to show love is to keep your wife without the expectation of sex.
The husband must love his wife (Song of Songs 1:9-11). There are many ways this can be done. You can surprise him with gifts. He can take her for a walk along the beach while holding hands. He can kiss you goodbye every time he leaves the house. I hope this will not be sacrilegious (tongue in cheek), but he can put his hand around his wife in church. You can write a poem by yourself. If you lack inspiration, take a look at the Song of Solomon. Another way of romancing his wife is to compliment his wife publicly. Another little tip, the husband can look into the eyes of his wife and say “I love you”, those three little words that mean so much to every wife.
A father must love his children. We need to affirm and encourage our children. We have to be supportive of their various activities. For example, if they are involved in sports, we should be there to cheer them on. We need to catch our children doing well. It is easy to see and find faults in our children, especially when they are older. However, in some cases, they want to please us, so praise them when they do something well. That will motivate them to do better. As the old saying goes, “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”
We need to know the love language of our children. Gary Chapman identifies five love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, touch and acts of service. Each person has a primary love language – a way in which they feel special and loved. We have to be available for our children; we can’t afford to be so busy that we don’t have time for them. We also need to be ready to listen without judging.
Building healthy families involves the man providing leadership in the home. Scripture teaches that the husband is the head of the house (Ephesians 5:23). This is a divine order, immutable until Christ returns; this is not sexist, it is biblical. Leadership in the home implies that the husband must ensure that the right decisions for the family are made. This included decisions in the area of finances, education of children, movement, change of churches, and in other areas. These decisions must involve the wife (and in some cases, the children); the husband/father is a leader, not a dictator.
Another implication is that the husband must ensure that the purpose of the family is realized. What is it that God has specifically called his family to do? Some families are specially called to the pastoral ministry for example. The husband’s guidance should facilitate the development/growth of his family – spiritual, emotional, mental and physical. This means that the husband must be growing. In addition, the husband must implement a system to solve problems and resolve the conflict. Problems are inevitable in the best of families. Leading also implies that the husband must hear from God and be led by the Holy Spirit.
Building healthy families involves properly managing conflict. Conflicts are inevitable – every family, regardless of how good the relationship is, experiences conflict. In the face of conflict it is necessary to pray for the conflict. The Holy Spirit will give you the necessary grace and compassion. The Holy Spirit will also give you a right perspective. Be willing to listen to your husband or another family member; talk about things. Proverbs 15:1 says that a gentle answer turns away wrath; in other words, it is better to speak softly and respond in a kind way than to respond in a harsh and angry way. Be willing to see the problem from the other person’s point of view. Your perspective may be wrong. In some cases, it may be necessary to get godly counsel from a trusted friend. And, of course, you need to apologize when you are at fault.
Building healthy families requires being emotionally healthy (Galatians 5:22, 23). Self-understanding is required. We must understand the way in which past experiences have shaped us. In some cases, we may have developed dysfunctional ways of relating to people. We also need to understand our personality type – strengths and weaknesses. For example, some people have a choleric personality. This personality is great at leading and taking the initiative. Its downside includes anger and impatience.
Marriage should be a relationship between two whole people. Many people go into marriage expecting the other person to make them happy. They expect that person to meet all their emotional needs. If you have low self-esteem before marriage, marriage is not likely to change. The problems we have before marriage will always be problems we have during marriage, which inevitably can lead to marital difficulties. Also, even in marriage, it is good to always have interests and friends outside, since your spouse may not meet every need you have. To wait is to put an unnecessary burden on your husband.
There are endless more tips, but I hope these tips will help us as men to build a healthy family. Healthy families make for a healthy society. We have a God-given responsibility to be the best husbands and fathers we can be.
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