The Bible’s View
Parents—The Child’s First Teachers
CHILDREN start learning immediately after birth. Baby’s first lesson should be on love. It learns to love by being loved, by being exposed to examples of love, by receiving love first. This is in line with the principle stated at 1 John 4:19: “We love, because he [God] first loved us.” If the baby does not receive love, it becomes insecure. If its cries for attention are ignored, it may become ill. If it is emotionally deprived over a period of time, it may be stunted emotionally for the rest of its life. Such a child may be psychologically unable to make deep attachments and commitments to others later on in life.
Early learning is not limited to emotions. The intellectual potential of a child in the first three years of its life are much greater than most persons realize. Learning one language is difficult for adults, but the babe reared in a family where two languages are spoken learns both at the same time. The richer the learning environment is for the small child the faster he learns; he soaks up information like a sponge.
This means that the time for parents to start teaching their child is immediately after its birth. The first three years are most vital. It is a mistake for parents to think that the time for its learning to begin is in kindergarten. That may be too late. Burton White, a psychologist and director of preschool projects, says that he “is convinced that a child’s experiences during the first three years of life have a direct influence on how competent he will be later on. If a child develops poorly during these years, he is unlikely to make up the lost ground when he enters school.” White says that the parents who are the most effective in educating their children are “generally firm and effective disciplinarians, while also showing great affection for their children, and they are responsive to overtures from their children, whether for help, comfort or shared enthusiasm.”
One of the great weaknesses of high-school graduates, and some college graduates, is reading. “Reading Shouldn’t Wait for School,” one article is headlined. Its opening paragraph reads: “How well a child does in school depends, in large measure, on how well he can read. And how well he can read depends, in larger measure than is usually acknowledged, on how skillfully his family has encouraged him to read.” Some of the suggestions of the article are: Read to your child as he is cuddled in a warm relationship, starting no later than his first birthday, and do it daily. Keep picture books handy for his use. Make bedtime reading a habit—it relaxes him, helps him to unwind and ends his day in comforting closeness with his parent. As he learns the alphabet and words and can read simple sentences himself, provide suitable material for him. But you continue reading more advanced material, beyond his reading skill but within his ability to comprehend.
The Bible indicates that Timothy had such early instruction: “From infancy you have known the holy writings.” (2 Tim. 3:15; 1:5) Parents today have a valuable aid to give such instruction to their children, namely, My Book of Bible Stories.a After your children learn to read, encourage them to read to learn.
Teaching children is not to be confined to books. The Bible shows that parents should instruct their children throughout the day, whenever opportunity presents itself. “These words that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart; and you must inculcate them in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deut. 6:6, 7) With all this teaching, it is important that there be discipline and respect for authority. “What son is he that a father does not discipline?” (Heb. 12:7) Then when the child goes to school he will have proper respect for the school authorities and be disciplined to study.
One parent wrote of the course he followed in cooperation with the school where his children attended:
“At least twice a year we attended functions in which the principal and the teachers explained the curriculum and the approach to teaching. This was followed by an opportunity to meet our children’s teachers and to discuss how our own children were doing. From the start we explained to our children that we viewed the authority of the teachers as an extension of our own and that they should be obeyed, unless, of course, there was any compromise of Bible principles involved.
“With regard to reading, authorities agree that school isn’t enough to make a good reader, due to class size and other factors. Our children are good readers today because of our home program. During grammar school we got up 20 minutes earlier and had Bible reading daily.
“It was more difficult in junior high and high school. The schools were larger, there were no dress codes and there was a fear on the part of students of being called a ‘square’ if their grades were too good. We still met with their teachers and did what we could. We tried to be reasonable with our boys, for there is a danger if the child stands out too much from the rest in dress and hairstyle. Peer pressure is intense.
“The schools where our boys went were good, especially the grammar school. Part of the failure of the public schools is lack of support and involvement by parents on the individual and daily level. It may be difficult for parents to do this, but there is no substitute for it and it would seem that almost any system would be doomed to failure without parental support.”
Christian parents are also concerned about drugs and sexual immorality in the schools. The best protection they can give their child is to inculcate in them moral principles based on God’s Word, the Bible. What course will bring the blessing of our heavenly Father? (Eph. 3:14-16) What does your family stand for? What is expected of children who belong to your family? Do you live up to these standards yourself, setting the right examples? Do your children understand that to belong to this family certain standards are to be met, certain conduct is acceptable and certain actions are not? (Eph. 6:1-4; Col. 3:18-21) Children want the security of belonging. Let them feel your approval and love, and your pleasure when they do well. And, above all, keep the lines of communication open, by your love and your fairness and your willingness to listen.
a Please see page 32.