In becoming Orthodox, we graduated into the church calendar. During Advent and Lent, in the Lexicon there are scriptural readings from the Old and New Testaments. At the dinner table during Advent and Lent we would do those readings together every night. If I was on the road, I would ask someone else to do it. That way the family was on the spiritual diet that the Church prescribes during those two seasons. When I was home, I would read and comment on the passage. We would talk about how the passage related to our lives and how it related to Lent or Advent.

Then the rest of the year, I would give the blessing for the food, and often the conversation at the dinner table would focus on Christ. If the kids had questions, I would open the Scriptures with them. So we found the rhythm of the church year brought a good balance.

3. Love Your Spouse

Thirdly-and I can't stress this enough-we do our kids a favor when we love our spouses. Psychologists tell us that even more important than a child feeling love from parents is for that child to know mom and dad love each other. Kids know instinctively that if love in marriage breaks down, there's not much left over for them.

The beautiful passage that describes this love is in Ephesians 5. It's the passage that we read as the epistle at our Orthodox weddings. "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church"
(v. 25). That means, gentlemen, that we love her enough to die for her. We martyr ourselves to each other; that's what the wedding crowns are about. I love my wife more than life itself. The crowns also speak of royalty. In my homily at the marriage of our younger son, I said, "Peter, treat her like a queen! Kristina, treat him like a king!" That arrangement works out really well.

And I don't think we ever get over courting. Marilyn and I still go out on dates, and we've been married forty-five years! Sometimes you just need to take a break, go out together, talk and listen and stay in love. Before I got married, I had a friend who had a great relationship with his wife. I asked, "What's your secret?" His advice: "Find out what she likes to do and do it." Marilyn likes to shop. In our early years we couldn't afford anything, so we'd go out window shopping after the stores closed.

Now, if I've got a day free, I ask her, "What do you want to do, honey?"

She usually answers, "Let's go shopping."

So I'll put on a sport shirt, drive downtown, hold her hand as we look in the windows, and buy the grandkids a gift. Grow in your love and keep up the courtship.

4. Never Discipline Out of Anger

There are times when things go wrong, even badly wrong. I would love to tell you that none of our six kids ever missed a beat. Or that mom and dad were infallible. I don't know of a family where that happens. I will say that on a sliding scale, three of our children were relatively easy to raise, three were more challenging. When some of them got stubborn in their teenage years, I would say to Marilyn, "Remember what we were like at that age? They're no different than we were." I was difficult as a teenager, and some of that showed up in our kids.

St. John said, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth" (3 John 4). The opposite of that is also true. There is no greater heartache than when our children do not walk in truth. We've had a few big bumps in our family. There were nights my wife and I were both in tears as we tried to sleep. We would say, "Lord, is there light at the end of this tunnel?"

One of the verses I memorized out of the Old Testament early in my own parenthood was Proverbs 22:6: "Train up a child in the way he should go, / And when he is old he will not depart from it." Let me assure you, that promise from God is true. There were days I wondered whether our family would stand before the Lord fully intact. Thank God for repentance, forgiveness, restoration, and grace.

Immediately after St. Paul's exhortation on marriage in Ephesians 5, he continues with parent-child relationships. "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. `Honor your father and your mother,' which is the first commandment with promise: `that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth'" (Ephesians 6:1-3). This is another dependable promise. If a child obeys his parents, he'll live a longer life. So we train them up to be obedient.

It is helpful now and then to sit down with our children and remind them why it's so important to obey mom and dad. Because if children do not learn to obey their parents, they will not learn to obey God. And the consequences of that are dire, both in this life and the next. So one reason we obey mom and dad is that in turn we learn to follow the Lord.

The next verse gives the other side of the coin: "Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). I don't know where I got this idea (few things I do are original), but when I had to correct our girls, I would hold their hand. In my early days as a dad, I would sit them in a chair and then sit across from them. But one day I said to myself, "This doesn't say what I want to say." So I would sit with them on the couch, hold their hand, look them in the eye, and tell them what I wanted them to do.

Two of my daughters have come to me independently as adults and thanked me for holding their hands when I corrected them. They both had friends whose dads embarrassed their daughters, disciplining in a way that was probably too strong. I encourage fathers to guard against a discipline or correction that engenders wrath in your children. After the correction, give them a hug and let them know you love them.There are times when a father may need to refrain from discipline on the spot because he is angry. Remember that line from "The Incredible Hulk"? "You won't like me when I'm angry." If that's true for a cartoon character, how much more is it true for a real-life dad?

5. Help Your Children Discern God's Will

Let's look again at Proverbs 22:6: "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." The phrase, "in the way he should go," is not speaking of the way you want him to go. Rather, it's the way God wants him to go. In other words, taking into account that child's gifts, his emotional makeup, his personality, his intellect, his calling, you help him discern the path God has for him.

I'm really pleased that Peter Jon is a seminarian and that Wendy's husband is an Orthodox deacon. But I'm no more pleased with them than I am with Greg, who is a marketing guy, or with Terri, who is a mom of five, or with Ginger and Heidi, who both work outside the home to help their husbands provide for their sons.

To repeat, our job as parents is to try to discern with our children what God wants them to do, and then train them in that way. Whether their calling is in business or law or retailing or service to the Church, I want them to be the best they can be, for the glory of God. And by the way, all of us are in the ministry of Christ by virtue of our baptism. We are ordained as His servants-lay or clergy. Therefore, whatever we do, our goal is to do it for the glory of God.

These, then, are the steps we have tried to take with our children. Thank God, these measures have produced good fruit. At our stage in life, it is wonderful with just the two of us at home to think back over the years and to thank the Lord for children, spouses, and grandchildren who are faithful. There is nothing like it.

That doesn't mean there will never be any more problems. I'm naïve, but not naïve enough to believe that. There may be bumps yet to come in our lives. But as we confess at our weddings, "The prayers of parents establish the foundations of houses." These years are not kickback time, but they are a time of thanksgiving.

May God grant you the joy in raising your family in Christ that we have known in raising ours.

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