1, 2. To whom should parents look for help in raising their children?
“SONS are an inheritance from Jehovah,” exclaimed an appreciative parent some 3,000 years ago. (Psalm 127:3) Indeed, the joy of parenthood is a precious reward from God, one that is available to most married people. However, those who have children soon realize that along with the joy, parenthood brings responsibilities.
2 Especially today, rearing children is a formidable task. Nevertheless, many have done it with success, and the inspired psalmist points the way, saying: “Unless Jehovah himself builds the house, it is to no avail that its builders have worked hard on it.” (Psalm 127:1) The more closely you follow Jehovah’s instructions, the better parent you will become. The Bible says: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) Are you willing to listen to Jehovah’s counsel as you embark on your 20-year child-raising project?
ACCEPTING THE BIBLE’S VIEW
3. What responsibility do fathers have in the raising of children?
3 In many homes around the world, men view child training as chiefly woman’s work. True, the Word of God points to the father’s role as principal breadwinner. However, it also says that he has responsibilities in the home. The Bible says: “Prepare your work out of doors, and make it ready for yourself in the field. Afterward you must also build up your household.” (Proverbs 24:27) In God’s view, fathers and mothers are partners in child training.—Proverbs 1:8, 9.
4. Why should we not view male children as superior to female?
4 How do you view your children? Reports say that in Asia “baby girls often receive a poor welcome.” Bias against girls reportedly still exists in Latin America, even among “more enlightened families.” The truth is, though, girls are not second-class children. Jacob, a noted father of ancient times, described all his offspring, including any daughters born up to that time, as “the children with whom God has favored [me].” (Genesis 33:1-5; 37:35) Likewise, Jesus blessed all “the young children” (boys and girls) that were brought to him. (Matthew 19:13-15) We can be sure that he reflected Jehovah’s view.—Deuteronomy 16:14.
5. What considerations should govern a couple’s decision as to the size of their family?
5 Does your community expect a woman to give birth to as many children as possible? Rightfully, how many children a married couple have is their personal decision. What if parents lack the means to feed, clothe, and educate numerous children? Surely, the couple should consider this when deciding on the size of their family. Some couples who cannot support all their children entrust relatives with the responsibility to raise some of them. Is this practice desirable? Not really. And it does not relieve the parents of their obligation toward their children. The Bible says: “If anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith.” (1 Timothy 5:8) Responsible couples try to plan the size of their “household” so that they can ‘provide for those who are their own.’ Can they practice birth control in order to do this? That too is a personal decision, and if married couples do decide on this course, the choice of contraceptive is also a personal matter. “Each one will carry his own load.” (Galatians 6:5) However, birth control that involves any form of abortion goes contrary to Bible principles. Jehovah God is “the source of life.” (Psalm 36:9) Therefore, to snuff out a life after it has been conceived would show gross disrespect for Jehovah and is tantamount to murder.—Exodus 21:22, 23; Psalm 139:16; Jeremiah 1:5.
FILLING YOUR CHILD’S NEEDS
6. When should the training of a child begin?
6 Proverbs 22:6 says: “Train up a boy according to the way for him.” Training children is another major parental duty. When, though, should that training start? Very early. The apostle Paul noted that Timothy had been trained “from infancy.” (2 Timothy 3:15) The Greek word used here can refer to a small baby or even an unborn child. (Luke 1:41, 44; Acts 7:18-20) Hence, Timothy received training from when he was very young—and rightly so. Infancy is the ideal time to begin training a child. Even a young baby has a hunger for knowledge.
7. (a) Why is it important that both parents develop a close relationship with a baby? (b) What relationship existed between Jehovah and his only-begotten Son?
7 “When I first saw my baby,” says one mother, “I fell in love with him.” So do most mothers. That beautiful attachment between mother and baby grows as they spend time together following the birth. Nursing adds to that intimacy. (Compare 1 Thessalonians 2:7.) A mother’s caressing her baby and talking to it are crucial to filling the baby’s emotional needs. (Compare Isaiah 66:12.) But what about the father? He too should form a close connection with his new offspring. Jehovah himself is an example of this. In the book of Proverbs, we learn of Jehovah’s relationship with his only-begotten Son, who is represented as saying: “Jehovah himself produced me as the beginning of his way . . . I came to be the one he was specially fond of day by day.” (Proverbs 8:22, 30; John 1:14) Similarly, a good father cultivates a warm, loving relationship with his child right from the beginning of the child’s life. “Show lots of affection,” says one parent. “No child ever died from hugs and kisses.”
8. What mental stimulation should parents give babies as soon as possible?
8 But babies need more. From the moment of birth, their brains are ready to receive and store information, and parents are a primary source of this. Take language as an example. Researchers say that how well a child learns to talk and to read is “thought to be closely related to the nature of the child’s early interaction with his parents.” Talk and read to your child from babyhood on. Soon he will want to copy you, and before long you will be teaching him to read. Likely, he will be able to read before entering school. That will be especially helpful if you live in a country where teachers are few and classrooms are crowded.
9. What is the most important goal that parents need to remember?
9 The foremost concern of Christian parents is filling their child’s spiritual needs. (See Deuteronomy 8:3.) With what goal? To help their child to develop a Christlike personality, in effect, to put on “the new personality.” (Ephesians 4:24) For this they need to consider proper building materials and proper building methods.
INCULCATE THE TRUTH IN YOUR CHILD
10. What qualities do children need to develop?
10 The quality of a building depends largely on the sort of materials used in the structure. The apostle Paul said that the best construction materials for Christian personalities are “gold, silver, precious stones.” (1 Corinthians 3:10-12) These represent qualities such as faith, wisdom, discernment, loyalty, respect, and loving appreciation for Jehovah and his laws. (Psalm 19:7-11; Proverbs 2:1-6; 3:13, 14) How can parents help their children from earliest childhood to develop these qualities? By following a procedure outlined long ago.
11. How did Israelite parents help their children to develop godly personalities?
11 Shortly before the nation of Israel entered the Promised Land, Jehovah told Israelite parents: “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.” (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7) Yes, parents need to be examples, companions, communicators, and teachers.
12. Why is it vital that parents be good examples?
12 Be an example. First, Jehovah said: “These words . . . must prove to be on your heart.” Then, he added: “You must inculcate them in your son.” So godly qualities must first be in the parent’s heart. The parent must love the truth and live it. Only then can he reach the child’s heart. (Proverbs 20:7) Why? Because children are influenced more by what they see than by what they hear.—Luke 6:40; 1 Corinthians 11:1.
13. In giving attention to their children, how can Christian parents copy Jesus’ example?
13 Be a companion. Jehovah told parents in Israel: ‘Speak with your children when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road.’ This requires spending time with the children no matter how busy the parents are. Jesus evidently felt that children were deserving of his time. During the final days of his ministry, “people began bringing him young children for him to touch these.” What was Jesus’ reaction? “He took the children into his arms and began blessing them.” (Mark 10:13, 16) Imagine, the final hours of Jesus’ life were ticking away. Still, he gave these children his time and attention. What a fine lesson!
14. Why is it beneficial for parents to spend time with their child?
14 Be a communicator. Spending time with your child will help you to communicate with him. The more you communicate, the better you will discern how his personality is developing. Remember, though, communicating is more than talking. “I had to develop the art of listening,” said a mother in Brazil, “listening with my heart.” Her patience bore fruit when her son began to share his feelings with her.
15. What needs to be kept in mind when it comes to recreation?
15 Children need “a time to laugh . . . and a time to skip about,” a time for recreation. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4; Zechariah 8:5) Recreation is very productive when parents and children enjoy it together. It is a sad fact that in many homes recreation means watching television. While some television programs may be entertaining, many destroy good values, and watching television tends to stifle communication in a family. Therefore, why not do something creative with your children? Sing, play games, associate with friends, visit enjoyable places. Such activities encourage communication.
16. What should parents teach their children about Jehovah, and how should they do so?
16 Be a teacher. “You must inculcate [these words] in your son,” said Jehovah. The context tells you what and how to teach. First, “you must love Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your vital force.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) Then, “these words . . . you must inculcate.” Impart instruction aimed at developing whole-souled love for Jehovah and his laws. (Compare Hebrews 8:10.) The word “inculcate” means to teach by repetition. So Jehovah, in effect, tells you that the primary way to help your children develop a godly personality is to talk about him on a consistent basis. This includes having a regular Bible study with them.
17. What may parents need to develop in their child? Why?
17 Most parents know that getting information into a child’s heart is not easy. The apostle Peter urged fellow Christians: “As newborn infants, form a longing for the unadulterated milk belonging to the word.” (1 Peter 2:2) The expression “form a longing” suggests that many do not naturally hunger for spiritual food. Parents may need to find ways to develop that longing in their child.
18. What are some teaching methods of Jesus that parents are encouraged to imitate?
18 Jesus reached hearts by using illustrations. (Mark 13:34; Luke 10:29-37) This teaching method is especially effective with children. Teach Bible principles by using colorful, interesting stories, perhaps those found in the publication My Book of Bible Stories.a Get the children involved. Let them use their creativity in drawing and acting out Bible events. Jesus also used questions. (Matthew 17:24-27) Imitate his method during your family study. Instead of simply stating a law of God, ask questions like, Why did Jehovah give us this law? What will happen if we keep it? What will happen if we do not keep it? Such questions help a child to reason and to see that God’s laws are practical and good.—Deuteronomy 10:13.
19. If parents follow Bible principles in dealing with their children, what great advantages will the children enjoy?
19 By being an example, a companion, a communicator, and a teacher, you can help your child from his earliest years to form a close personal relationship with Jehovah God. This relationship will encourage your child to be happy as a Christian. He will strive to live up to his faith even when faced with peer pressure and temptations. Always help him to appreciate this precious relationship.—Proverbs 27:11.
THE VITAL NEED OF DISCIPLINE
20. What is discipline, and how should it be applied?
20 Discipline is training that corrects the mind and heart. Children need it constantly. Paul counsels fathers to “go on bringing [their children] up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) Parents should discipline in love, just as Jehovah does. (Hebrews 12:4-11) Discipline based on love can be conveyed by reasoning. Hence, we are told to “listen to discipline.” (Proverbs 8:33) How should discipline be given?
21. What principles should parents bear in mind when disciplining their children?
21 Some parents think that disciplining their children involves merely speaking to them in threatening tones, scolding them, or even insulting them. However, on the same subject, Paul cautions: “You, fathers, do not be irritating your children.” (Ephesians 6:4) All Christians are urged to be “gentle toward all . . . instructing with mildness those not favorably disposed.” (2 Timothy 2:24, 25) Christian parents, while recognizing the need for firmness, try to keep these words in mind when disciplining their children. At times, though, reasoning is insufficient, and some kind of punishment may be needed.—Proverbs 22:15.
22. If a child needs to be punished, what must he be helped to understand?
22 Different children require different kinds of discipline. Some are not “corrected by mere words.” For them, the occasional punishment administered for disobedience may be lifesaving. (Proverbs 17:10; 23:13, 14; 29:19) A child, though, should understand why he is being punished. “The rod and reproof are what give wisdom.” (Proverbs 29:15; Job 6:24) Moreover, punishment has boundaries. “I shall have to chastise you to the proper degree,” said Jehovah to his people. (Jeremiah 46:28b) The Bible in no way endorses angry whippings or severe beatings, which bruise and even injure a child.—Proverbs 16:32.
23. What should a child be able to discern when he is punished by his parents?
23 When Jehovah warned his people that he would discipline them, he first said: “Do not be afraid . . . for I am with you.” (Jeremiah 46:28a) Likewise, parental discipline, in whatever appropriate form, should never leave a child feeling rejected. (Colossians 3:21) Rather, the child should sense that discipline is given because the parent is ‘with him,’ on his side.
PROTECT YOUR CHILD FROM HARM
24, 25. What is one ugly threat from which children need protection these days?
24 Many adults look back on their childhood as a happy time. They recall a warm feeling of safety, a certainty that their parents would look after them no matter what. Parents want their children to feel that way, but in today’s degenerate world, it is harder than it used to be to keep children safe.
25 One ugly threat that has grown in recent years is sexual molestation of children. In Malaysia, reports of child molestation quadrupled over a period of ten years. In Germany some 300,000 children are sexually abused each year, while in a South American country, according to one study, the estimated annual number is a staggering 9,000,000! Tragically, the majority of these children are molested in their own home by people they know and trust. But children should have a strong defense in their parents. How can parents be protectors?
26. What are some ways that children can be kept safe, and how can knowledge protect a child?
26 Since experience shows that children who know little about sex are especially vulnerable to child molesters, a major preventive step is to educate the child, even when he is still young. Knowledge can provide protection “from the bad way, from the man speaking perverse things.” (Proverbs 2:10-12) What knowledge? Knowledge of Bible principles, of what is morally right and wrong. Knowledge too that some grown-ups do bad things and that a young person does not have to obey when people suggest inappropriate acts. (Compare Daniel 1:4, 8; 3:16-18.) Do not limit such instruction to a onetime talk. Most young children need to have a lesson repeated before they remember it well. As children grow a little older, a father would lovingly respect his daughter’s right to privacy, and a mother her son’s—thus reinforcing a child’s sense of what is proper. And, of course, one of the best safeguards against abuse is close supervision by you as parents.
SEEK DIVINE GUIDANCE
27, 28. Who is the parents’ greatest Source of help when they face the challenge of raising a child?
27 Truly, the training of a child from infancy is a challenge, but believing parents do not have to face the challenge alone. Back in the days of the Judges, when a man named Manoah learned that he was going to be a father, he asked Jehovah for guidance on raising his child. Jehovah answered his prayers.—Judges 13:8, 12, 24.
28 In a similar way today, as believing parents raise their children, they can also speak to Jehovah in prayer. Being a parent is hard work, but there are great rewards. A Christian couple in Hawaii says: “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.” (Proverbs 23:15, 16) When your child makes that decision, you too will be moved to exclaim: “Sons [and daughters] are an inheritance from Jehovah.”
a Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.