Have your children come home and complained of their playmates calling them PKs? It seems that "preachers' kids" is an epithet often hurled at them by those who want to classify them as being different from other children. Just because their dad is a minister they are presumed to be more saintly than any other breed, and sometimes excluded from participation in many normal childhood exploits. If they do participate and get into mischief, there are those who would scold them far more severely than their peers, because as PKs they are supposedly expected to do better.
Children hate being different. It is unfortunate in the case of ministers' children that people tend to form their own stereotyped image of what they should be like. It is true that the behavior of any child does reflect, for better or for worse, on the reputation of his parents. The minister has a serious calling and wide-searching influence. "The minister who allows his children to grow up unruly and disobedient, will find that the influence of his labors in the pulpit is counteracted by the unlovely course of his children" (Gospel Workers, p. 205).
There is nothing unreasonable in this statement. However, it does not declare that the ministers' children ought to be "better" than other children. It merely states that the minister is more vulnerable than other parents if he neglects to train his children correctly.
"The king upon his throne has no higher work than has the mother..., she has in her power the molding of her children's characters, that they may be fitted for the higher, immortal life. An angel could not ask for a higher mission; for in doing this work she is doing service for God" (The Adventist Home, p. 231).
As this most challenging of all tasks faces the minister's wife, she needs divine wisdom in walking the razor's edge of the special problem mentioned above. How can she shield her children from the disadvantages of being more in the public eye than other children? How can she counteract the detrimental effects of people who single them out for special treatment?
There will be church members who fawn over the pastors' children one day, and criticize them severely the next. Even church school teachers, no matter how well meaning, have been known to voice their expectation of superior performance from the pastors' children. This is unhealthy and unfortunate.
With tact and prudence the minister's wife may do much to minimize this harmful influence from outside the home. Her most important duty, however, is to help eliminate it inside the home. It is easy for a minister and his wife to become overly conscious and concerned about their children'sbehavior, especially in a small church and community where the family lives in a goldfish-bowl situation. In this sensitive atmosphere there is real danger that the minister and his wife may transmit religion to their children in a rigid, dogmatic, and critical spirit. Parents who are determined to uphold the standard at all costs will tend to expect too much from their children and harp on little mistakes and normal childish imperfections. By so doing, they create unbearable emotional tensions within the home. The end result is disastrous.
Parents must be emotionally secure and mature so they can accept and love their children for what they are as persons in their own right and not for what they may be able to do to please their parents or bring glory to the famil- name. To teach children they must be good because their father is a minister is to ins till a false set of values and will have the opposite effect from the one desired. Children must learn from parental example that the only reason for being good is for the sake of principle. Parents must love their children enough to put the children's true interests and needs above their own selfish desires to present a "perfect child" to the congregation. They must create a happy, relaxed home atmosphere, full of love and laughter. The home must be free from any anxious concern, and full of faith, trust, and mutual respect. As always, love is the solution. Mature Christian love lived out by the parents will engender love in the hearts of the children. This response of love cannot fail to bring forth in their lives the desired obedience. "Never forget that you are to make the home bright and happy for yo irselves and your children by cherishing the Savior's attributes. If you bring Christ into the home you will know good from evil... You will be able to help your children to be trees of righteousness, beam the fruit of the Spirit" (Ibid., p. 17).
The mother's burden is made heavier because her husband is so often away from home. This ought not to be, and Mrs. White has written much about the minister's responsibility to his own family (Gospel Workers, pp. 204-206). A survey in 1960 revealed that the average Protestant minister spent about 26 hours a week with his family (Pastoral Psychology, September, 1960, p. 12). This included meals, family outings, devotions, watching TV with the children, and helping them with homework. Thirty-three years later, many pastoral fathers spend only a few minutes a day nurturing their children. Modern conveniences have not enabled fathers to spend more family time, only work "faster". With the increasing and overwhelming temptations of our corrupt world today, the children more than ever need the steadying influence of a father's presence, and proof of his personal interest in them.
When interviewed, several ministers' wives who can look back now and believe they reared their children successfully, emphasized how important it was to have their husband spend time with each individual child and to utilize every precious moment of family togetherness. These are the parsonages from which have gone forth young ministers who gladly follow in the footsteps of beloved, respected fathers, as well as a host of doctors, nurses, teachers, and others who have made great contributions in worthwhile fields of human endeavor. For no matter how tempted ministers' children may be at some time in their life to feel that being PK is a handicap, most of them who can look back on homes such as these will admit it was a high privilege.
I quote from the remarks of an outstanding, successful mother among the ministers' wives whom I know. When asked how she accounted for the fact that every one of her seven children has remained faithful to childhood training and is active in the church, she replied: "We just had an average normal Christian home. Sincerity is caught, not taught. Our motto was to do the right thing at the right time, and to remember that a loving heart is the truest wisdom."