Taking Time to Be a Good Parent
IT IS fine for conscientious parents to be concerned about providing their children with the material needs of life—food, shelter and clothing. That is proper and necessary.
But even more important is the need for parents to take time to fill the emotional, mental and spiritual needs of their children.—Matt. 4:4.
Children need the love and affection that parents can give. This includes affectionate hugs and kisses, showing in a physical way that they are loved. In fact, without this, infants may become emotionally disturbed, even mentally unbalanced. That is why it has been found advantageous even in orphanages to have nurses, or other women, come in periodically to hold the children and display affection toward them. Yes, Jehovah created children with that need, and provided adults with the ability to give it.
As the children grow older, the need to spend time with them does not diminish. Particularly in their early teens, as pressures mount, youngsters are often beset by problems, doubts, questions. The public school is not equipped to handle all of these. And God’s Word shows that it is not the school’s primary responsibility. It is the responsibility of parents to guide children. This can be done only by communicating with them.
Talking Over Their Problems
Much of the ‘communication gap’ between parents and children today is the fault of parents. Many of them have to a large extent abandoned their responsibility of spending time with their children. They do not take the time to listen to their problems and questions and to provide firm but kindly counsel. Some wait until the child is ten or fifteen years old before beginning this vital communication. That is too late. It must begin in infancy.
This communication should involve a two-way discussion. Parents cannot really get to know their children’s needs unless they listen to them. This is not accomplished by just dictating to them all the time as to what they must do and not do. Such dictation might make them go elsewhere for frank discussions.
In this regard, God’s Word notes: “You, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah.” (Eph. 6:4) By constantly telling children what to do without encouraging them to express themselves, without reasoning with them, they may become less and less willing to communicate—hence the ‘gap.’
Even when a youngster has done something wrong and needs correction or punishment, it is often beneficial for the parent to reason with the child, to show him what he has done wrong, why it is wrong, what the consequences of the action are, and why another course is superior—all from God’s viewpoint. That takes time, but it is a good investment in the future of the child.
Parental Unity Vital
In regard to giving counsel, discipline or even punishment, a united stand on the part of both parents is vital.
It is shattering to children for them to see their parents arguing or airing differences openly, especially when the difficulties involve the children. It is calamitous for the father to say one thing to his children, and then have the mother say another. This divides the children’s emotions, and often their loyalties.
Airing differences in front of the children should be avoided like the plague. It is a poison that can kill your family’s unity and happiness. True, there will be differences of opinion between husband and wife on various things. But these should be settled IN PRIVATE, away from the children.
The fact that the husband is to be “head of his wife” does not mean that his views on how matters are to be handled are the only ones that are of any consequence. (Eph. 5:23) It is a wise and loving husband who listens when his wife makes suggestions and gives serious consideration to what she says.
As for the wife, she “should have deep respect for her husband.” (Eph. 5:22, 33) God has appointed the man as the head of the family and equipped him for it. Hence, the wife should not attempt to usurp or undercut her husband’s position as head by disputing with him in front of the children. No, she should honor his position. She is not to be a competitor, but a helper, for in creating woman for man God said: “I am going to make a helper for him, as a complement of him.”—Gen. 2:18.
Reaching Final Decisions
However, after private discussion on a particular matter, what if there is still a difference of opinion between husband and wife on how to deal with their children? What then?
Then the course of action that is most successful, the one that really works for the best, the one that God’s Word gives, is this: “As the congregation is in subjection to the Christ, so let wives also be to their husbands in everything.”—Eph. 5:24.
This means that it is the husband’s right and responsibility to make the final decision. Even though the wife may not agree, she should abide by it and support it once he makes his decision. Of course, this is provided that the husband is not asking her to do something that breaks God’s laws. If he did that, then she would have to “obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 5:29.
There is a captain on every ship. Jehovah has appointed man in that capacity for the family. Oh, yes, he will make mistakes; but so will she. But the greatest mistake for both would be not to follow this God-ordained procedure and thus remain divided.
Parental unity will have a very wholesome effect on the children. It will increase their love and respect for their parents, for parental authority and for Jehovah’s arrangements. And even if it does not, even if the children allow themselves to be more influenced by outside pressures and turn away from the counsel of their parents after they are old enough to leave home, then parents can be comforted in the knowledge that they did the best they could. Remember, as the Bible shows, Esau did not turn out as well as Jacob, even though both Esau and Jacob were twins and had the same upbringing, being sons of the God-fearing Isaac and Rebecca.
Time is also required to provide practical training for the children. They should all make some contribution to the family’s welfare, by taking care of things such as cleaning, mowing the lawn, setting the table, cooking, washing the dishes, and so forth. Of course, in the case of small children, their capacity is limited, and they will make mistakes. But do not let these mistakes deter you from beginning this training early.
It is tragic to see how many young men and women are unprepared for their respective roles in life. Some brides have never cooked a meal before marriage!
Good parents will begin assigning children tasks while they are very young, planning together the progressive training of their offspring. The mother can give the young girl little things to do in preparing meals or helping to set the table. Gradually, over the years, this can be expanded until the girl has learned how to prepare the entire meal. How grateful both she and her future husband will be for that training!
The loving father will spend time training his son to shoulder the responsibilities of a man. Teach him to do things around the house at an early age. Let him handle a paintbrush, hammer or other tools. Help him to learn things he will be concerned with later, such as driving a car, money matters, even such things as insurance and tax returns. Guide him into a practical trade for use in later life. Help him to understand the woman’s different makeup and needs, matters that he needs to appreciate if someday he is to enjoy marital happiness.—1 Pet. 3:7.
Also, teach young ones proper respect for others, as God’s Word counsels: “Do not severely criticize an older man. To the contrary, entreat him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters with all chasteness.”—1 Tim. 5:1, 2.
The Knowledge of God
Without a doubt, the greatest gift you can bestow upon your children as a good parent is the right knowledge of God. That, too, requires time. How important is it? The Bible answers: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) No gift you could give could ever equal that—everlasting life. But you put your children on the road to eternal life by teaching them God’s purposes and requirements.
How soon should you start teaching your children about God? The apostle Paul noted of Timothy: “From infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation.”—2 Tim. 3:15.
When we say to teach children about God, we do not mean shifting this responsibility onto someone else. We mean sitting down in your own home with Bible-study aids, such as Jehovah’s witnesses use in their homes, and teaching the child yourself, as his parent. This should be done long before they ever go to school.
But are not preschool children too young to be taught such serious things? Not at all! Indeed, recent research proves what has always been true, that children who do best usually are those the parents took the time to teach before the school years.
Children learn a complicated language by the time they are three or four years old. So they can surely learn about God! That is why Jehovah’s witnesses instruct their infant children in God’s ways. And as they grow older it is a big help to teach them how to read and write. By the time the children begin school, they will have progressed nicely both in the knowledge of God and in reading and writing, which will be helpful to them throughout life.
That such early training gets results is borne out by many experiences of parents. For instance, one of Jehovah’s witnesses writes of his experience when visiting another family of Witnesses who had a girl three years of age and a boy only eighteen months of age. He says:
“One evening after returning home from the congregation meetings [of Jehovah’s witnesses] I was talking to the boy and asked him if he would like to play with a lion. He immediately knew what I was talking about and said in a tone that I could hardly understand: ‘I get my book.’ He brought out the book From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained and turned to the picture of lions on page 17.
“I asked him about other animals and he turned to pages 40, 41, showing the animals entering the ark. I asked him if he knew who Adam was, and he turned to the picture on page 21 and pointed to him. He was also able to identify Eve and the serpent on pages 28, 29.
“I also talked to the girl, and she was able to tell the story of many of the pictures in the Paradise book. These children are not any smarter than other children, but it certainly shows that a child does not have to reach school age to understand God’s Word.”
Only by spending time teaching children God’s Word can you really determine if they are beginning to understand and appreciate God’s purposes. If you have taken the time to build such appreciation in their hearts from infancy, then you may reap the rich reward of seeing them develop into mature, God-fearing young men and women. As Proverbs 22:6 shows: “Train up a boy [or girl] according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.” How satisfying it is to raise children who are a credit to their parents and to Jehovah!—Prov. 23:24, 25.
Yes, it is a big job to be a good parent. But it is well worth the time and effort. Not only is homelife made more genuinely happy, but the children are put on the road to eternal life in God’s new order. And the parents can stand before God with a clear conscience, knowing they have conscientiously carried out their parental responsibilities.
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Do you take time to be with your child?
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Taking time to be a good parent includes teaching your children God’s Word