Raising Families Worldwide—Parenting With Love, Discipline, Example, and Spiritual Values
PARENTS from several countries have sent in reports on their successful rearing of children from babyhood through the teen years. All of them are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and therefore their reports stress the need for attention in the four areas listed in the title above. The excerpts reproduced here reflect only a few different aspects of the family training they followed.
“As the Bible tells us, love is the ‘greatest’ quality. Love in all its precious facets must radiate throughout the home and family. Carol and I have shared this divine quality in our marriage. We are close. We like to be together. I cannot overemphasize my belief that the major key to successful child-rearing is a happily married couple.
“I remember to this day the powerful feelings that welled up in my heart during the days and weeks after our first child was born. There was wonder over the beginning of a new living creature. I remember seeing Carol so happy and contented while nursing baby Rachel. I was happy for her, but I also felt a little resentment, a tinge of jealousy. Carol was bonding with Rachel, but where was I? I felt as if I had been pushed—ever so gently but nevertheless pushed—outside our family center. With Jehovah’s help I was able to express my feelings and concern to Carol, and she showed me much sympathy and support.
“Thereafter I was able to get closer to our new baby by helping with all the baby chores, including some of the disagreeable ones—washing a soiled diaper is a unique experience, to say the least! We’ve had five more children after Rachel. Rebecca is the last one, now eight years old. We’ve conducted personal, individual Bible studies with each one of our children.
“One more thing about the early child-rearing. Carol and I enjoyed talking with our babies from the time they were born. We talked about all manner of things. Sometimes we talked about Jehovah and his beautiful, wondrous works. Sometimes we talked about silly, playful, funny things. Of course, we were trying to teach them something, but more than that we were just having a pleasant, relaxed, innocent time together. I believe such talks contributed a great deal to parent-child bonding. No doubt they helped to create the good communication that we have had in our family.
“Jehovah has taught us the greater value of spiritual things, of giving of ourselves. Carol and I have never had an abundance of material things, but we’ve never really sought them or missed them. If we had spent more of our time slaving for riches, we would not have had enough time to devote to Jehovah and our family. We made the right choice.” (Carol’s comments follow.)
“I think nursing your babies helps greatly in the bonding of babies to their mothers. You spend so much time cuddling and carrying your baby that you can’t help getting close. The mother can never leave the baby’s side for more than two to four hours. Ed and I have always been very strict about not leaving our children with sitters. I always wanted to be able to teach my babies and watch them as they grew up. So during the time that they were little, I did not hold an outside job. I think this helped them realize how important they were to us. The main way to get close to your children is to spend time with them. Nothing takes the place of your being there physically. All the material things will not take the place of you.
“The teen years were difficult only because I had to adjust to the babies’ growing up. It was very hard to take, to realize that they didn’t need me as much and were becoming independent. It is a scary time, and it tests all your work of teaching, disciplining, and molding that you have done. It is really too late to start when they are teenagers. Too late to try then to teach them morals, a love for mankind, and especially a love for Jehovah. These things must be inculcated from birth on.
“You have 12 years to get your work done before those critical teen years. But if you have worked hard to apply Bible principles, it is time to reap joy and peace when they decide they want to serve Jehovah from the heart.”—Edward and Carol Owens.
“Children are ‘an inheritance from Jehovah.’ So says the Bible at Psalm 127:3. Bearing this in mind has helped us as parents to do all we could in caring for this inheritance. One of the primary efforts in our family was to do things together—pray together, study the Bible together, worship together, work together, visit friends together, play together.
“Discipline was needed at times. One time our son, in his early teens, was late getting home. We were worried. He was evasive. We sensed that something was wrong, but we decided to shelve the matter until the next morning. Around midnight we heard a knock on our bedroom door. It was our son, with tears in his eyes.
“‘Father, Mother, I have not been able to sleep for the last four hours, all because I did not listen when you counseled me from the Bible about bad association. After school today some of the kids pressured me into going swimming with them, and one of the boys pulled me under the water. If another boy had not helped me, I would have drowned. They laughed at me and called me a coward. I came straight home, but I stayed outside the house because I felt guilty. I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you when you warned me about bad associations, as shown in the Bible.’—1 Corinthians 15:33.
“He wept and so did we. We were pleased that he had learned a lesson, but we disciplined him to make a deeper impression. Exodus 34:6, 7 shows that Jehovah is merciful and pardons error, but still ‘by no means will he give exemption from punishment.’”—David and Betty Mupfururirwa.
“I am a widow and have to raise my boy by myself. At the same time, I work as a teacher. It is not easy to instruct and discipline children. What is needed is coherent instruction, balanced discipline, and a good example on the part of the parents. It was hard for me to be firm and at the same time sympathetic. I had to develop the art of listening, especially listening with my heart. It is important to communicate, not just talk, but get the child involved, make him respond emotionally. I tried to make him feel a part of the family by getting him involved in the family budget. When the light bill or the water bill arrived, or the price of clothes or shoes went up, we discussed these matters together.
“It is important to commend with sincerity for things well done. As opportunities arose, I would show him the value of following God’s laws and principles. On one occasion, after having counseled him several times, I had to use the literal rod. How difficult it was for me, but, oh, what blessed results! In the adolescent phase we have our ups and downs, but we can see the value of instruction and discipline. He tells me his personal problems and expresses his sentiments.
“I have to stay alert to maintain good communication. So I try not to get too involved in my secular work in order always to have time for my son. When we do have problems, I try to listen very attentively, and with the help of Jehovah, we overcome them. I let him know that I make my share of mistakes. On one occasion I was very angry, and I told him to ‘shut his mouth.’ He told me that to tell someone to ‘shut his mouth’ showed a lack of love. He had a point. That afternoon we had a real long talk.”—Yolanda Moraes.
From Republic of Korea
“I eagerly applied Bible principles in my family life. Especially Deuteronomy 6:6-9 was deep in my heart. So I tried to be with my children as much as I could, to draw close to them, to inculcate the principles of God’s Word in their minds and hearts. I also invited full-time missionaries and Bethel family members to our home to give my children a feel for full-time service.
“The first thing parents should do when children cause problems is to display the fruits of the spirit. It is easy to get upset at the children and to lose one’s temper. We parents, however, must be patient and show exemplary conduct. It is important to respect children and give them the opportunity to explain the situation. If there is no clear evidence of wrongdoing, then trust them and always build them up. When you have to discipline a child, first reason with him, show him what he did wrong, and point out how displeasing his action was to Jehovah and to his parents. Only then discipline. Often my sons would say after they were disciplined: ‘Dad, I don’t understand myself, why I was rebellious. I was so foolish.’ They appreciate parents who care enough to discipline them.
“Parents need to be alert to the start of bad conduct. When my oldest son was in middle school third grade, I heard loud rock music coming from his room. I discovered that he had joined a student discipline team (older, exemplary students who counseled other students), and he had been exposed to worldly influences. I learned that under continued pressure from team members and out of curiosity, he had smoked. We reasoned together on the dangers of smoking, and my son concluded on his own that he should resign from the team, which he did. To fill the vacuum left by dropping objectionable school activities, we arranged for healthy recreation with the family and congregation members.
“Finally, I want to say that the most important thing is for parents to set a good example. I had always told my two boys that I wanted to serve God full-time as a minister preaching the good news. When my second boy finished school, I was able to retire from my job at a silk factory and become a full-time minister. My two boys saw my determination and followed suit. After serving time in prison because of the neutrality issue, both entered full-time service and are continuing to this day.”—Shim Yoo Ki.
“We have raised seven children, five boys and two girls. Now grown, all are very active in preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom. From an early age, the children attended the congregation meetings and went with us in field service. Step-by-step they learned to do the preaching work—ring the doorbell, say hello, give their name, and offer a handbill, tract, or magazine. When still quite young, they gave talks in the Theocratic Ministry School.
“Sometimes serious problems required special attention. Showing love and patience is then important—no shouting or quarreling. Problems were solved by reasoning things out and stressing Jehovah’s views. We trained them in money matters. When older, they worked distributing newspapers, peat harvesting, gardening, and so forth. Visiting their grandparents far away from home made them aware of older people’s problems and sympathetic toward them.
“On our 30th wedding anniversary, we received the following letter:
“‘To Our Beloved Parents:
“‘THANK YOU FOR ALL! The warm love you have lavished on us, the genuine faith you have instilled in us, the wonderful hope you have given us—this cannot be evaluated in words or money. However, we do hope that through this little keepsake, you will understand how much we feel for you, our beloved father and mother. [Signed] Your children.’
“Looking back on all these ‘20-year-projects,’ we feel deep gratitude to Jehovah, our heavenly Father, who has been so merciful toward us.”—Bertil and Britta Östberg.
Miscellaneous Tidbits From Parents
“The nursing mother is Jehovah’s method of bringing baby in close physical contact with mother, but a father can augment it with a rocking chair. I took personal delight in cradling our children in my arms and rocking them to sleep nearly every night.”
“As their father, I was not equipped to nurse our children, but I did get close physical contact by giving them their nightly bath. For me and for them, it was fun time!”
“From time to time, I have taken each one of our children, separately, out to eat with me alone. They love this one-on-one time with Daddy.”
“As the years passed, little by little we entrusted them with more freedom and responsibilities. A squeezed spring in one’s hand must be released slowly to avoid having it fly away unrestrained.”
“Show lots of affection. No child ever died from hugs and kisses—but their feelings can die without them.”
“Be patient, don’t beat them down. Don’t harp at them all the time. Let them develop self-esteem. For every criticism give four praises!”
“Give them your best, to make them their best.”
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Young children like Rebecca need genuine affection
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Taking the time to do things together will contribute to a strong family bond