When Childhood Is Cherished
A GOOD childhood depends largely on good parenting. But what does good parenting involve? You have likely heard advice on the subject. Commit time to your children. Listen to them. Give them sound guidance. Empathize with them, sharing their joys and sorrows. Be a true friend to them without relinquishing your authority as a parent. Of course, such oft-repeated principles will help parents to do their job well. But there is something more basic and more important that must come first.
Millions of parents around the world have found that following Bible principles is the key to good parenting. Why? Because the wise Author of the Bible, Jehovah God, is the one who originated the family arrangement. (Genesis 1:27, 28; 2:18-24; Ephesians 3:15) Naturally, then, his inspired Word is the best place to look for guidance on child rearing. How, though, can a book as old as the Bible shed light on the modern tendency to rush children through childhood? Let us consider some Scriptural principles that apply.
“According to the Pace of the Children”
Jacob, the son of Isaac, was the father of more than a dozen children. The Bible records his wise words regarding a family journey: “The children are delicate . . . Let my lord [Esau, Jacob’s elder brother], please, pass on ahead of his servant, but may I myself continue the journey at my leisure . . . according to the pace of the children.”—Genesis 33:13, 14.
Jacob knew that his children were not little adults. They were “delicate”—smaller, frailer, and needier than grown people. Instead of forcing his children to travel at his pace, he slowed his pace to match theirs. In this respect he mirrored the wisdom that God shows toward his human children. Our Father knows our limitations. He does not expect more of us than is reasonable.—Psalm 103:13, 14.
Even some animal creations reflect such wisdom, for God has made them “instinctively wise.” (Proverbs 30:24) For instance, naturalists have observed that an entire herd of elephants will match its pace to that of a baby elephant in their midst, moving slowly until the little one is able to keep up.
Some segments of modern society have lost sight of godly wisdom. But you do not have to follow suit. Keep in mind that your child is “delicate”—unable to shoulder adult burdens and responsibilities. If, for example, you are a single parent with some difficult personal problem and feel tempted to confide in your child, resist the urge. Instead, seek out a mature adult friend who can help you to sort matters out—preferably one who will help you to apply the Bible’s wise counsel.—Proverbs 17:17.
In a similar vein, do not let the pace of your child’s life become so harried, so scheduled, so regimented, that all the youthful fun is squeezed out of life. Set a pace that is right for your child, not one that slavishly matches the pace of today’s world. The Bible wisely counsels: “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold.”—Romans 12:2, Phillips.
“For Everything There Is an Appointed Time”
Another wise Bible principle states: “For everything there is an appointed time, even a time for every affair under the heavens.” Of course, there is a time for work. Children have much work to do—including schoolwork, chores at home, and spiritual activities. However, the same Bible passage says that there is also “a time to laugh” and “a time to skip about.”—Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4.
Children have a special need to play, to laugh, to vent their youthful energy in a relatively carefree manner. If their every waking moment is scheduled with school, after-school activities, and other serious responsibilities, then their need for play may go unmet. That, in turn, may cause them to become exasperated, even downhearted.—Colossians 3:21.
Consider how to apply the same Bible principle in still other ways. For instance, since there is a time for everything, does that not suggest that childhood is the time to be a child? You will likely answer yes, but your children may not always agree. Very often, little boys and girls want to do what they see adults doing. For example, young girls may be tempted to dress and groom themselves as if they were women. The early onset of puberty may increase the pressure they feel to appear older.
Wise parents see the danger in such a tendency. Some advertisements and entertainment in this degraded world present children as sexually aware and precocious. Makeup, jewelry, and provocative clothing styles are increasingly common among little ones. But why make children more tempting to perverted people who seek to exploit them sexually? By helping children to dress in a way that is appropriate for their age, parents apply another Bible principle: “The shrewd one that has seen the calamity has concealed himself.”—Proverbs 27:12.
Another example: Allowing sports to become a child’s top priority can lead to an unbalanced life, one in which there is no longer an appointed time for everything. The Bible wisely admonishes: “Bodily training is beneficial for a little; but godly devotion is beneficial for all things, as it holds promise of the life now and that which is to come.”—1 Timothy 4:8.
Do not let your children buy into the “winning is everything” mentality. Many parents drain all the fun out of sports and games by driving their children to be supercompetitive, to win at all costs. Some children thus feel driven to cheat or even injure other players in order to win. Surely winning is never worth such a cost!
Learning that there is a time for everything is often difficult for children. It is not easy for them to wait patiently when they want something. To make matters worse, human society seems bent on a quest for instant gratification. The entertainment media often convey the message, “Get what you want and get it now!”
Do not give in to such influences by pampering and spoiling your children. “The ability to delay gratification is an important aspect of emotional intelligence,” says the book The Child and the Machine. “Self-discipline and social harmony provide a potent antidote to the increasing violence that is occurring among children both in and out of school.” The Bible contains this helpful principle: “If one is pampering one’s servant from youth on, in his later life he will even become a thankless one.” (Proverbs 29:21) Although the verse pertains directly to the handling of young servants, many parents have found that the same principle greatly benefits their children.
Among the needs of children, acquiring what the Bible calls “the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah” ranks very high. (Ephesians 6:4) Loving discipline helps children to develop such qualities as self-control and patience. These traits will help them find happiness and fulfillment throughout life.
When All Threats to Childhood Will End
You may wonder, though, ‘Did the wise, loving God who inspired these helpful principles really intend for our world to be the way it is? Did he mean for children to grow up in a world that is often more dangerous than nurturing?’ You may be comforted to learn that Jehovah God and his Son, Christ Jesus, have tender love for mankind, including children of all ages. They will soon rid the earth of all the wicked.—Psalm 37:10, 11.
Would you like a preview of that peaceful, happy time? Just picture this scene, as described beautifully in the Bible: “The wolf will actually reside for a while with the male lamb, and with the kid the leopard itself will lie down, and the calf and the maned young lion and the well-fed animal all together; and a mere little boy will be leader over them.” (Isaiah 11:6) In a world that so often cruelly destroys childhood or ruthlessly speeds it up, how comforting to know that God promises such a bright future for mankind on the earth! Clearly, the Creator intends that childhood should be neither lost nor rushed—only blessed and cherished.
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Instead of burdening your child with personal problems, confide in another adult
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Children have a need to play