With 36 years of marriage, 10 children and 6 grandchildren in their quiver, Major Neil and Janice Lewis share their faith-imbued parenting and family management strategies and outcomes with Family and Faith Magazine. The Lewis family has 4 boys and 6 girls ranging from age 34 to 14 years of age. They are: Noel 34 yrs, Priscilla 32 yrs, Kathryn 31 yrs, Christina 29 yrs, Gabrielle 27 yrs, Raphael 24 yrs, Michaela 23 yrs, Elizabeth 19 yrs, Joel 17 yrs, Emmanuel 14 yrs. Family and Faith Magazine couldn’t be more pleased to share their testimony of faith in parenting, marriage and family life at a time when Jamaica and the world urgently need strong positive examples of success on the home front.
Child Birthing Decisions
FFM: Did you make a decision to have so many children?
Major Neil and Jan: We decided that we would live by faith in Jesus, and made a decision to NOT ARTIFICIALLY RESTRICT the number of children we had but allow the Lord to decide how many children we would have.
FFM: Explain how your faith impacted your decisions about having children.
Major Neil and Jan: The song ” Living by Faith in Jesus….” became our operating principle. Initially Jan wanted 3 children because her mother had 3 children; I had wanted 12 children because my father had wanted 12. Although we had 10 children, Jan had 2 miscarriages. Because she hemorrhaged with No. 9 we decided to have any further children by caesarean section, hence No. 10 was a caesar. However, a failure of faith at this time caused us to make a decision to tie off Jan’s tubes. We were later convinced that this was a wrong decision and constituted a breach of our faith in Christ.
FFM: How are your children schooled?
Major Neil and Jan: The first 5 children were schooled at a Christian Preparatory School, with Numbers 6 & 7 attending prep school up to grade 2. Thereafter these and subsequent ones were home-schooled.
FFM: What factors influenced your decision to school your children in that way?
Major Neil and Jan Lewis: Jan was very involved with our children’s education even to the point of jointly with 2 other persons acting as headmistress of the School while the Principal was on a six-month Sabbatical. She participated in bringing the Abeka home-school curriculum to the school. She also acted as Principal of a Prep school sponsored by our Church and our children attended that school during that period
So, all in all the last 5 children were home-schooled. This school developed into Redeemed Preparatory and Reading Centre operating out of our home.
We made conscious decisions to home-school the children up to grade 6 and send them to traditional High Schools for secondary education. These were Ardenne High and St Andrew high School for Girls, Jan’s Alma Mater. No. 10 attends Wolmer’s Boys, my Alma Mater.
FFM: Some of your children are now grown up, how do you now feel about your choices for them? Did it pay off? Are they becoming the people you have trained them to be?
Major Neil and Jan: Excellent without exception for the girls and the older group of 5. Less so for the boys who had difficulty with socialisation and adjusting out of the home-school environment into the public-school environment.
- The first 4 earned full scholarships to the US Military Academies (3 Navy and 1 Air Force)
- The fifth, a girl, is paying her own way through University
- The sixth, a boy, is working to pay his way through Edna Manley School of the performing Arts in pursuit of a degree in piano.
- The seventh, a girl, is on a scholarship from the Government of Brazil, studying Medicine.
- The eighth, a girl, is on a scholarship at Venlo University in the Netherlands studying Microbiology and Statistical research
- The ninth, a boy, is currently applying for suitable scholarships preparing for University, and
- The tenth is in his fourth form year at Wolmer’s Boys School.
FFM: Share 2 effective ways in which you motivate your children.
Major Neil and Jan: We eventually, as we discovered the principle, divided the children’s’ lives into 7-year blocks as follows:
- First 7 yrs motor skills and communication/language skills development ensuring they learned to read very early and were encouraged to maintain a high academic average of 95% in preparatory school
- Second 7 yrs formation/development of supervisory and home management skills; i.e. cooking, cleaning and sibling leadership/discipline. Each one had responsibility for a younger one especially while the family is travelling; or supervising all younger siblings if the parents are out for hours, such as date night.
- WE BRING THEM INTO ADULTHOOD AT THE AGE OF THIRTEEN; First they take a coming of age hike to Blue Mountain Peak (as part of a group), on return from which their status in the family changes as follows;
- Corporal punishment ceases as a disciplinary method
- They can take part in major family decisions and are privy to confidential family issues and discussions.
- They must be prepared to supervise and manage the entire household in the event of absence of the parents over days rather than hours:
- Primarily through the Prep and early High School years, we encouraged them to try different sports and skills such as competence in music,
- Additionally, we told them we would ensure that they got a 1st class Secondary Education but that they had to earn Scholarships for their tertiary education which we regarded as compulsory or they must pay for it themselves.
FFM: Share 2 effective ways in which you discipline your children.
Major Neil and Jan: Up to coming into adulthood corporal punishment is applied according to age; “Spare the Rod, Spoil the child.”
- Mother; one slap at age 1, 2 slaps at age 2 to 3 slaps at age 3
- For severe offences requiring referral to father then this punishment is doubled
- The end result is that especially for the girls, corporal punishment was no longer necessary by age 9.
- Post thirteen years, withdrawal of privileges became the method of choice for disciplining.
FFM: Do you practice different parenting approaches when disciplining and motivating your girls versus your boys?
Major Neil and Jan: We encourage all the children to confide in us as parents even their most intimate secrets, primarily through family prayers and a once monthly Family all night Prayer Meeting, where each person is free to criticise/rebuke anyone else even us as parents with no fear of a negative response. The girls have an easier time doing this. We were deliberate in engendering a spirit of seeking and granting FORGIVENESS between them. The result is that there is no lingering strife and rivalry and they remain loving.
FFM: In general, what are your top 3 lessons you have learned about parenting over the years?
Major Neil and Jan: PRAYING FOR THEM INDIVIDUALLY DAILY.
- This is a responsibility largely fulfilled throughout their early lives by their mother. This made them malleable in our PARENTING hands and enabled the Holy Spirit to reveal when things are going wrong.
- Later we also implemented a Prayer Project System where we prayed and reported progress on an ongoing basis for every prayer need until the answer is granted.
- Now that they are all adults, resident in many different time zones our family Whatsapp group is very helpful as a tool of encouragement, responsive (24 hr.) prayer and counsel for our daily lives.
The larger the number of children the easier the parenting responsibility socially AND educationally AND financially became; the older siblings help raise/teach/pay for the younger ones etc. Having this large number of CHILDREN OURSELVES prepared our household to always include at least one foster child who benefitted from our parenting and family bonding. We found that consequently there is always a reserve of persons on whom to call in times of need.
“Train up a child in the way he should go AND in the END, he will not depart from it” – we encourage them to give their hearts to the Lord Jesus from an early age. The Family Altar is the most critical component in the child-rearing challenge.
FFM: What impact did having many children have on your marriage?
Major Neil and Jan: Up to the fifth child, it was an exciting learning process because each child was so different; At no. 5 the Lord did a paradigm shift which enabled Janice to freely move forward for the next 5 of our children. The large number of children was therefore never a burden or drag on our individual lives or personal ambitions. The Lord had given us a revelation early in our marriage that children must never get in the way of ministry but equally that ministry must never get in the way of family, so wherever family was ministry must be and wherever ministry was family must be, therefore we practised taking them wherever we went. They were always polite and well behaved, this was a skill honed in the discipline of family prayers. They have been a major bonding agent and have never been a burden!! We came into a revelation of the dynastic characteristic and the demographically essential nature of HAVING A QUIVER FULL OF CHILDREN thus fulfilling the Biblical requirement of multiplying and filling the earth.
FFM: Who comes first in your relationship, spouse or children? Why?
Major Neil and Jan: We have always regarded our child-rearing as a fully joint responsibility and have tried to avoid any preferential behaviour however I have found that;
- For Janice her nurturing, mothering heart appeared to me to give the children priority; Jan prefers to say; that for her Jesus is first, followed by her spouse then our children
- For me my Spouse was definitely first and it was difficult adjusting to put Jesus first before her and I believe this was responsible for the failure of faith I mentioned earlier on the birth of our tenth child.
FFM: What advice can you offer to parents struggling to raise respectful, responsible and loving children?
Major Neil and Jan Lewis: ESTABLISH A DISCIPLINED DAILY FAMILY ALTAR through which you train them to behave in church from they are infants.
- We have used the ONE YEAR BIBLE and read through The Bible every year as a family since the birth of our fourth child.
- LOVE THEM, LOVE THEM, and VALUE THEM as A REWARD from the Lord as the Word of God insists.
- Discipline them do not abuse them.
- PRAY, PRAY, PRAY WITHOUT CEASING FOR THEM! God has the Blue-print for EACH CHILD, they are after all His children first!
Responses to questions were graciously provided in writing by Major Neil and Janice Lewis to Family and Faith Magazine. Comment below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org