The Formative Years—When Your Best Is Needed the Most
CHILDREN are said to be “an inheritance from Jehovah.” They are said to be “like slips of olive trees all around your table.” (Psalm 127:3; 128:3) Parents are instructed to “go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.”—Ephesians 6:4.
If you are going to shape olive trees for fine fruit bearing, the time to do it is while they are ‘like slips around your table.’ As the young twig is shaped, so grows the tree. If you are going to train your children to be conformed to God’s ways, the best time to do it is from their infancy. “Train up a boy according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.” (Proverbs 22:6; 2 Timothy 3:15) In infancy the brain is soaking up information at high speed, faster than it ever will again. It’s your opportune time to do your best for your children.
Masaru Ibuka, founder of the Sony Corporation, wrote a book entitled Kindergarten Is Too Late! On its cover appeared these words: “Your child’s potential for learning is greatest during the first two or three years of life. So, don’t wait . . . Kindergarten Is Too Late!”
In a foreword Glenn Doman, director of The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, says the following: “Mr. Ibuka’s marvelous and gentle book makes no earth-shaking pronouncements of any sort. He simply proposes that tiny children have within them the capacity to learn virtually anything while they are tiny. He proposes that what they learn without any conscious effort at two, three, or four years of age can be learned only with great effort, or may not be learned at all, in later life. He proposes that what adults learn painfully children learn joyfully. He proposes that what adults learn at a snail’s pace, tiny children learn almost speedily. He proposes that adults sometimes avoid learning, while tiny children would rather learn than eat.”
The reason Ibuka gives for saying that kindergarten is too late is that by then the child’s best years for learning have passed. But there is another reason. In these days the moral breakdown has reached kindergarten, and before the child gets there, parents need to inculcate into the child a strong moral code to protect him from contamination.
This need is shown by the report by parents of a six-year-old boy who had just entered kindergarten. “During the first week in kindergarten, our son was sexually accosted by another boy in the 15 minutes he rides the school bus. This went on for several days. It was not merely child’s play or playing doctor but was abnormal, explicit behavior.
“Many of the children in our son’s class attend R-rated movies with their parents. Perhaps the parents consider it safer to take them than leave them in the questionable care of a baby-sitter. Some of the children watch R- and X-rated movies either through the cable or on movies their parents keep at home.
“The value of inculcating moral principles into our son during his formative years, from infancy onward, was impressed on us by a shocking occurrence in our own home. Along with some adult guests, a four-year-old girl was present. She and our son, who had been carefully instructed that sex was only for married adults, were in his playroom. She wanted to play date and explained that he should lie down. When he innocently did so, she lay on top of him. He became frightened and exclaimed: ‘That’s only for married people!’ As he broke loose and ran out of the playroom, she cried out: ‘Don’t tell anyone!’”—Compare Genesis 39:12.
Following are some of the things that are happening both in the inner cities and in the suburbs—things your young children should be insulated against from infancy onward.
Two seven-year-old boys were charged with the rape of a six-year-old girl in a public school restroom. Three boys, ages six, seven, and nine, sexually assaulted a six-year-old girl. An eight-year-old boy sodomized a kindergartner. An 11-year-old boy was charged with the rape of a 2-year-old girl. Some therapists contend that often such offenders were victims of sexual abuse when very young.
This was confirmed in the case of one young boy. When he was an infant, his 20-year-old aunt practiced oral sex on him. From 18 months of age to 30 months, he underwent this sexual abuse. Two or three years later he was molesting young girls. When he started school, he continued this activity and was expelled in the first grade and again in the second grade.
The Need for Early Training
Parental failure to give proper training during the formative years paves the way for delinquency, which may open the way to far more serious crimes: vandalism, burglary, and murder. Following are a few samples of such things.
Three six-year-olds ransacked a playmate’s home, vandalizing practically every room in it. A nine-year-old vandal was charged with criminal damage, plus burglaries, threatening another child with a knife, and setting a girl’s hair on fire. Two 11-year-old boys shoved a nine-millimeter pistol into a 10-year-old’s mouth and stole his watch. A ten-year-old boy shot and killed a seven-year-old girl over a video game. Another ten-year-old shot his playmate and hid the body under the house. A five-year-old pushed a toddler to his death from a fifth-floor stairwell. A 13-year-old joined two youths in kidnapping a 7-year-old to extract money from his family, but even before calling the family to demand the ransom, they buried the boy alive.
Then, at the end of the line, there is the horror of teenage gangs, armed with guns, prowling the streets, waging gun battles, with bullets flying, killing not only one another but innocent children and adults caught in the cross fire. They are terrorizing many neighborhoods in big cities—in Los Angeles county alone, “there are 100,000-plus members of over 800 identifiable gangs.” (Seventeen, August 1991) Many are from broken homes. The gang becomes their family. Many end up in jail. Many end up dead. These excerpts from three letters written from jail are typical.
First: ‘I’m in camp for attempted robbery. It was four of us. Then the cops came. Two of my homeboys [gang family] ran one way, me and my other homie ran another way, but not faster than the German shepherds that caught us. When I get out, I hope someday I’ll be somebody special. Going to school and getting good grades was always too hard for me. But, buddy, you ain’t never seen nothin harder than doin time in jail!’
Second: ‘When I first came from Mexico, I was only eight years old. When I turned 12, I was in a gang. When I turned 15, I was really into it. I used to do a lot of drive-bys [shooting people from a car]. I had my gun by my side always. When I was 16 years old, I got shot and nearly passed away. And I thank the Lord that he didn’t want me yet because I wasn’t ready to go with him. Right now I have bullet holes in my legs. So my advice is not to go gang bang!!! or you will be all alone and crippled in jail like me!’
Third: ‘I’ve been a known gangbanger since I was 11. I’ve been stabbed four times, shot three times, and locked up and beaten up so many times that it’s hard to keep count. The only thing left for me is to die, but I’ve been ready for that every day since I turned 13, and I’m 16 now. I’m doing eight months now and in a couple of years I’ll be dead, but you can avoid the whole thing by not starting gangbanging.’
Seize the Opportune Time
Now, all of this is not to say that failure to train children during the formative years will necessarily result in these terrible crimes. But the failure to do so can lead to disruptive conduct, which can escalate into delinquency, and if it runs on unchecked, delinquency could erupt into criminal conduct, jail, and death.
And the checking of any such trends in your children is far more easily done in the preteens rather than waiting until they are in their teens. In fact, prekindergarten is the time to start, when you have them more or less to yourself during the formative years, before outside influences compete for their attention. If you have not been close to them in their infancy, they may not let you get close to them in their teens. You may discover that their peers have replaced you. So the counsel to parents is, Do not neglect your children during these formative years when doing your best for them will yield its finest fruitage, to your blessing and theirs.—Compare Matthew 7:16-20.