Some time ago, I had a discussion with a woman whom I don’t believe was being malicious. She ask me a question, referring to a statement in the “Sandwiches and War” article. She took a quote from the article “Is the proper relationship of the sexes one of domination and subjugation, or one of leadership and support?” and asked thus: “How about mutual respect and support as the ideal? Why frame it as over/under?”
I decided to take her comment and instead of replying in a snarky retort, to answer in a full length article. Hopefully, she will read with an open mind and see the reasoning behind the need for a leadership and support system, rather than a “mutual respect and support” system.
The Need for Leadership
When I was a missionary, serving in Ireland, the church set us out by groups of two. One was given the role as “Senior Companion” and the other was given the “Junior Companion” role. The senior was given the authority to make final decisions (with the junior’s input), but was also given the responsibility for reports and paperwork. During my two years, I was paired with 13 different missionaries, in which I saw many different personalities and leadership styles. One thing I learned is proper leadership is crucial to a mutually productive and enjoyable experience. The overbearing tyrant gets annoying really fast, but so does the mealy leader who does not have an opinion on anything. When you are assigned to be the junior, and the senior does not assume the responsibility as the leader, it too creates contention for responsibilities not carried out, and it enables a lack of direction in planning. In the workplace, anyone who has had those kind of bosses know what I am referring to.
There needs to be a leader who assumes responsibility and will see that things get done and things run smoothly. At the same time, they should not be a tyrant and control or nitpick every detail within the home.
Traits of a Good Leader
“Fatherhood is leadership, the most important kind of leadership. It has always been so; it always will be so. Father, with the assistance and counsel and encouragement of your eternal companion, you preside in the home” (Father, Consider Your Ways, pamphlet, 1973, pp. 4–5).
I have been happily married for over 14 years now, and one thing I have learned is to pick your fights. Know when something is worth disagreeing over. It does not matter that you wanted pizza for dinner, and she decided to make a tuna casserole. You can help out around the house, she may be more familiar with certain things than you are. But at the same time, don’t be the guy who will roll over on everything and come home from one boss to be ruled by another. Both men and women who have to be commanded in all things are not fulfilling their responsibilities.
The Apostle Paul points out that “the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church” (Eph. 5:23). That is the model we are to follow in our role of presiding in the home. We do not find the Savior leading the Church with demeaning or abusive language. We do not find the Savior neglecting His Church to go have a beer with the guys. We do not find the Savior using force or coercion to accomplish His purposes. Nowhere do we find the Savior doing anything but that which edifies, uplifts, comforts, and exalts the Church. Christ is the model we must follow as we take the spiritual lead in our families.
Particularly is this true in your relationship with your wife.
The Apostle Paul continues, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church” (Eph. 5:25). As we love and treat our wives with that Christ-like love, we will grow together as a family.
You should show gratitude for the things she does to keep the house running. Cooking, cleaning, homeschooling, and child rearing all can be tiring. Be fair and equitable with the necessary chores. Be fair to her, but be fair to yourself as well. If she works, help out around the house.
How to Properly Lead
You need to counsel with her regularly on matters. Treat her as an intelligent human being and recognize your wife’s ability to counsel with you as a real partner regarding family plans, family activities, and family budgeting. Don’t be illusive with your time usage or with your spending. My wife and I have been tracking out spending on a nightly basis at which time we discuss things coming up, and expenditures made.
On top of counseling with your wife, maintain a solid frame. Control your emotions, recognize when she is testing you, know how to deal with those situations, and maintain a high status. Be someone she can look up to and respect. Say no when you need to, but be fair. Not every disagreement needs to end up with your victory. If that happens, over time you may build resentment.
Lead your Children
Mothers play an important role as the heart of the home, but this in no way lessens the equally important role fathers should play, as head of the home, in nurturing, training, and loving their children.
As the patriarch in your home, you have a serious responsibility to assume leadership in working with your children. You must help create a home where the Spirit of the Lord can abide. Your place is to give direction to all family life. You should take an active part in establishing family rules and discipline.
Your homes should be havens of peace and joy for your family. Surely no child should fear his own father. A father’s duty is to make his home a place of happiness and joy. He cannot do this when there is bickering, quarreling, contention, or unrighteous behavior. The powerful effect of righteous fathers in setting an example, disciplining and training, nurturing and loving is vital to the spiritual welfare of his children.
With love in my heart for the fathers in Israel, may I suggest ten specific ways that fathers can give spiritual leadership to their children:
- Personally direct family prayers, daily scripture reading, and other family activities. Your personal involvement will show your children how important these activities really are.
- Whenever possible, go to church together as a family. Family worship under your leadership is vital to your children’s spiritual welfare.
- Go on daddy-daughter dates and father-and-sons’ outings with your children. As a family, go on campouts and picnics, to ball games and recitals, to school programs, and so forth. Having Dad there shows that you are interested in their lives.
- Build traditions of family vacations and trips and outings. These memories will never be forgotten by your children.
- Have regular one-on-one visits with your children. Let them talk about what they would like to. Teach them gospel principles. Teach them true values. Tell them you love them. Personal time with your children tells them where Dad puts his priorities.
- Teach your children to work, and show them the value of working toward a worthy goal. Establishing mission funds and education funds for your children shows them what Dad considers to be important.
- Encourage good music and art and literature in your homes. Homes that have a spirit of refinement and beauty will bless the lives of your children forever.
- Have your children see you serve in the Church and/or community. This can become contagious to them, so they, too, will want to serve.
As I became the head in the Engineering department where I work, I have learned that proper leadership is really being the servant. You do what you can to see they can do their job. Sure, you can direct who goes and does what, but you really become the servant. They come to you problems and complaints, you come to them with requests and solutions. Without this arrangement, bickering and confusion abounds.