How Can You Help Your Children?
HOW can you assist your children to grow up to be responsible, morally upright individuals? What can you do to prepare them to resist the pressures toward rebellion, violence, drug abuse, immorality and other types of wrongdoing that they meet up with both in school and elsewhere? How can you help your children to gain the maximum benefit from their education in spite of difficulties?
Consider an observation of Dr. Lee Salk and Rita Kramer in the book How to Raise a Human Being: “In order to be capable of learning [in later life], [a child] should already have developed both trust and self-control, the sense that it is worthwhile trying to please others and the ability to keep from acting on every impulse.” So, early training at home is of vital importance for children.
Early Training Important
No one knows more about child rearing than Jehovah God. At Proverbs 22:6 his Word counsels: “Train up a boy according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.” “The way” concerning which young people need instruction is set out in the Bible.
From its pages they can be helped to “know” God. This can have a wholesome effect on them, because it is by learning of God’s excellent qualities and all that he has done for mankind that humans develop love for him and an earnest desire to have his approval. Whether parents provide such wholesome instruction or not, the thinking and habits of their children will take shape. It is an evidence of discernment and loving concern when parents teach their children even from infancy Jehovah’s ways.
It is well known that much of the indifference of young people stems from failure to see any real purpose in life. And who is it that ought to be answering their questions about this? The parents. Surely, some do try; they endeavor to give them good standards by which to live. But when children learn that the majority of people, often their parents too, indulge in dishonesty and immorality, they frequently reject the ideals that they classify as simply belonging to ‘another generation.’ Something more than personal opinion is needed in order to teach one’s children effectively. The Bible fills that need because it is the Word of mankind’s Creator, the Source of life.—2 Tim. 3:16, 17.
Of course, you will not be able to use it to help your children if you personally do not believe in God or in the Bible. Children are not easily fooled. If you tell them to do one thing but you yourself do the opposite, your children will be quick to detect the hypocrisy. So parents have a weighty responsibility. If they wish to protect their children from the self-seeking, materialistic spirit of so many of today’s youth, they must train them in godly principles both by word and by example.
The Role of Discipline
For children to be equipped to cope with the pressures of life, discipline is vital. The Bible says of God: “Whom Jehovah loves he disciplines.” (Heb. 12:6) The Scriptures also state: “The one holding back his rod is hating his son, but the one loving him is he that does look for him with discipline.”—Prov. 13:24.
Is this an outmoded way of looking at things? Should people view discipline at home and at school as unnecessarily harsh? Dr. Norman Henchey of McGill University writes: “The current wisdom holds that discipline is an invasion of freedom, that only by giving freedom can we teach others to be free. . . . But experience and common sense tell us otherwise. . . . Indulgence is not the spring from which we draw self-control.”
Firm, consistent discipline is really an indication to your children that you love them. Youngsters crave discipline and will often misbehave if they do not receive it. Authors Salk and Kramer write:
“Children feel safer and are more productive in a structured environment; this has been demonstrated by research and confirmed by clinical experience. An atmosphere of complete freedom seems to lead to feelings of insecurity and various kinds of provocative ‘testing’ behavior.”
Discipline, lovingly applied, will help your child in many ways. He will feel more secure emotionally. He will not become frustrated in later life when things do not ‘go his way’ at times. And discipline will help your child to develop an early respect for authority. But discipline does not mean simply punishment.
Help Through “Mental-regulating”
The Scriptures, at Ephesians 6:4, show what must accompany discipline: “And you, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” “Mental-regulating” means more than merely training the intellect by imparting facts about God to your children. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament comments on the verb form of the Greek word for mental-regulating:
“[It] describes an effect on the will and disposition, and it presupposes an opposition which has to be overcome. It seeks to correct the mind, to put right what is wrong, to improve the spiritual attitude. . . . It does not mean ‘to punish,’ but through the word . . . to cause the appeal to the moral consciousness to gain a hold over men and bring them to repentance and shame, so that punishment is superfluous.”
So parents must do more than provide information for their children. They must exert strenuous effort to assure that right principles reach down into the hearts of their children, that the youths accept what they are learning as the truth. (Prov. 4:23; Matt. 15:19; Luke 6:45) In this way parents train, not only the minds, but also the “will and disposition” of their offspring in righteousness.
How can parents achieve this—educating their children in such a manner that they really want to obey? They should speak to their children frequently about God and the lofty principles for living that are contained in his Word. (Deut. 6:6, 7) The main responsibility for this rests upon the father. When can this be done?
Mealtimes afford an excellent opportunity for relaxed family conversation. In this way parents can get to know what their children face in school and what their viewpoints are toward the unhealthy attitudes prevalent among youths today. Parents will find that some problems can be cleared up with just a brief discussion. But certain topics may require extended discussion in order to mold the thinking of their children in a right direction. How can parents go about this?
Thousands of parents throughout the earth have found it beneficial to hold a weekly Bible study with the whole family. This helps family members to strengthen their relationship with Jehovah God and with one another. Many parents find it wise, on occasion, to adapt the subject matter of their family Bible study to particular needs of family members.
It may be, for example, that your child’s schoolmates are quite indifferent toward their studies, or toward work in general. If so, you might read together scriptures such as 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Ephesians 4:28 and Colossians 3:23, which encourage hard work. For comparison, you could consider Proverbs 10:4; 21:25 and Pr 24:33, 34, where laziness is condemned by God. Emphasize that what you are reading is God’s Word and that it applies both to the child and to you.
If you want your children to be good workers, you must also do your part by giving them useful things to do at home while they are still young. The book How to Raise a Human Being states:
“It’s a vitally important thing for parents to keep in mind at this stage of a child’s development that he has to learn to do things for himself, even though it may mean more trouble for you at the moment. . . . The clinical evidence suggests that many children who later show great dependency and an unwillingness to do things for themselves have been conditioned by a parent’s constant tendency to do things for them.”
Does your child face a corrupt moral climate in school? The Bible contains much information showing God’s viewpoint about sex. For example, the Word of God directs: “Flee from fornication.” Also, “Let fornication and uncleanness of every sort or greediness [including greediness for sensual pleasure] not even be mentioned among you.” (1 Cor. 6:18; Eph. 5:3) “Fornication” means all sexual relations (including homosexuality) outside of marriage. Instead of encouraging fornication, 1 Corinthians 7:9 counsels unmarried persons who may have developed a strong attraction to someone of the opposite sex: “If they do not have self-control, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to be inflamed with passion.” Read this information together with your children and then discuss how it reflects God’s loving interest in the welfare of his servants. Show them that it protects against unwanted pregnancy, venereal diseases and the kind of emotional conflict that has led many young people to suicide.
You may recognize the value of this approach to the matter of helping your children and yet say: ‘I could never do it. I don’t know the Bible well enough.’ Well, how do Jehovah’s witnesses manage? They are ordinary people, some of them only having studied the Bible in recent years.
They use helpful publications that are prepared by the Watch Tower Society for this purpose. Some of these are written especially for small children. Other material is designed for older youths. The subjects covered include misuse of drugs, spiritism, respect for the person and property of others, the importance of truthfulness, and many other topics. All of it is based on the counsel found in God’s Word and is designed for parents to read and discuss with their children. This type of information helps their children to get a wholesome view of life and, at the same time, they learn to read well and acquire good study habits. If you are interested in providing such help for your children, Jehovah’s witnesses will be glad to assist you, free of charge.
There is something else that children need besides proper instruction, however. What is that?
There are hazards that young people face because of the violent and lawless activity of other students. These difficulties cannot be completely avoided. But it is beneficial to realize that most of the activity that could result in any physical harm to a child takes place outside the classroom. Parents can do much toward safeguarding their children by keeping such contact with delinquent children to a minimum. How?
First of all, by making sure that their home is a place to which the children will want to return after school, instead of loitering in the schoolyard or on the streets. What is the situation in your household? When your children return from school, are you there to greet them and are you willing to spend time with them? Do they feel wanted—or in your way? By the manner in which you handle problems that arise, do your children realize that you appreciate the pressures that they face and really want to help them, or might they conclude that it would be better not to mention any difficulties if they do not want to be bawled out? Do you make it a point to do interesting things together as a family, really enjoying one another’s companionship? Wholesome homelife is a major factor in protecting your children.
Of course, young people like to associate with others of their own age too. Where can you find the kind of association that will truly upbuild your children? Jehovah’s witnesses find this among the youths with whom they become acquainted at their Kingdom Halls. These are young people who are cultivating respect for Jehovah God and his Word. They attend these meetings right along with their parents, freely participate on a voluntary basis and even receive free training in giving short talks on Bible topics to the audience. How does instruction and association of this sort influence their lives?
Not long ago one of Jehovah’s witnesses received this note from her girl’s schoolteacher: “This does not happen often that a teacher can write a note such as this, but your little girl is about the best behaved and well-mannered young lady I’ve ever met here or anywhere.” And concerning the teen-agers and parents among Jehovah’s witnesses, the Albuquerque Tribune said: “The police have no problem with Jehovah’s Witnesses’ teen-agers engaging in brawls, vandalism and thievery. Jehovah’s Witness children obey their parents. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not abdicate their position as parents. They are firmly and lovingly in command of their children. They do not expect the teachers and the police to do their work for them.”
Would you like associates of that sort for yourself and your children? Then, why not find out where there is a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in your vicinity and go to some of the meetings with them. You will be warmly welcomed.
Never before have youngsters been bombarded by so many unhealthy influences. Parents bear the responsibility to help their children to resist these influences. The best way to do so is to heed the advice of God’s Word: “Go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” To do this, parents must make a careful study of the Bible themselves and show by their own conduct that they really believe it. Will you shoulder the responsibility to give that kind of help to your children?—Eph. 6:4.