I let my kids watch a few Bible cartoons the other day and one was about the Prodigal Son story. (You can find it in Luke 15:11-32)
Once the prodigal comes back home and the party begins, the older brother is a bit upset about what is happening. Most of the time, what I have heard about this brother focuses on how bad his attitude was, how he is not a good act to follow, etc. And, of course, I can see their point – he does seem to have a bad attitude in the face of a loving father, in the face of a large inheritance.
But, as I went about my chores and listened to what the video was retelling, it dawned on me that maybe the older brother was not so bad after all. I put myself in his shoes as a faithful child, wanting only to impress and obey my beloved father.
Is it possible that this party was one of the only demonstrations of of outward praise this father ever put forth?
In all the time the younger brother was gone, did the father ever tell his oldest son that he was glad that boy stayed and was faithful?
Of course, this is pure speculation on my part. I wondered, though, if there was something that father could have done to prevent the anger and bitterness he was seeking in his son. Could a little recognition have gone a long way in this family?
It really spoke to me that there is a way to prevent our children from turning into the Prodigal Son’s Brother.
Praise your children. Tell them they are doing a good job. Find a reason to celebrate them, who they are, what they have accomplished regularly.
I think this is especially hard when we are going through a certain trial with other of our children, like the prodigal’s family was going through with him. They certainly were worried about their son – they certainly lost sleep every single night that he was gone – they certainly looked down that road everyday to see if he was coming home.
But, did they neglect the older son in their trial? If you happen to be having a hard time with one of your children, make sure to pay positive attention to your other children. Of course, there is a fine line here between just making sure their need for positive attention from their parents is fulfilled and comparing them to the *naughty* child and puffing them up. As parents, we can do a lot of damage with many types of emotional manipulation, so be careful.
Just don’t forget about the good times – make sure to recognize and celebrate the good in all of your children!