Rearing Children in the New World Society
“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, NW.
1. Wherein do men and Jehovah disagree?
JEHOVAH says it is not in man that walks to direct his steps. Men say man can direct his steps. So they refuse divine direction, accept human direction, walk into one mess after another, and prove God true. Jehovah says there is a way that seems right to a man, but the end is the way of death. Men have long taken the way that seemed right to them, and it has led to war, famine, sickness and death. The way that seems right to man seems wrong to God. The way man walks is not the way God directs.—Prov. 14:12; Jer. 10:23.
2. Into what folly do modern men plunge concerning child training?
2 If the way that seems right to a man ends in death, how can the way that seems right to a child end elsewhere? If it is not in man that walks to direct his steps, how can it be in the child that toddles to direct its steps? Yet modern man, who directs his steps from mess to mess and whose way winds up in the ditch of destruction, says the modern child should direct its own steps, should choose its own way. This method is called “self-regulation,” and one of its more fanatic advocates writes: “Obviously self-regulation must not be accompanied by parental frowns or angry words. The baby must be approved of all the way and all the time. . . . The child’s chief aim in life is to be loved, and every spank, every moral lecture, every frown means to the child that he is not loved. . . . To impose fear on a child is the unpardonable sin, and I hasten to say that fear does not necessarily mean spanking or storming, for the most mealy-mouthed mother can instill fear in her children by a disapproving look.” They argue that discipline inhibits the child, frustrates it, stunts its personality.
3, 4. What shocking delinquency marks our day?
3 Well, here are some personalities that should have been stunted. A 15-year-old boy stabs to death a 10-year-old girl. Why? He answers, “I suddenly felt an overpowering impulse to kill.” A 16-year-old killed a man with a hammer. His reason, “I felt a sudden desire to kill someone—it didn’t matter who.” Another 16-year-old shot and killed three sisters and their brother, explaining, “I kinda wondered what it would feel like to kill somebody.” A 15-year-old boy told police he knifed to death his best friend at a revival tent meeting because, “He hit me with a songbook.” A 16-year-old boy killed his friend for tickling his feet while he slept. Because his mother would not let him use the family car to go to a basketball game, a teen-ager took a shotgun, killed his mother, his 11-year-old brother, his 6-year-old sister, took the car, and went to the game. Two brothers with a rifle downed a man from a distance, then as they advanced toward the injured man took turns firing shots into his body, with a final one at point-blank range going into his brain. Still another teen-ager went on a wild week end of murder. His victims screamed. He cannot stand screaming. He shrugged off five killings as “too bad.”
4 Last July the front-page headlines of a New York newspaper read: “Girl Gang War with Knives Nipped in Bud.” The report said: “A girl gang fight with ice picks, switchblade knives and butcher knives was averted, although battle lines had already formed, when cops responded to a call.” The battle had been agreed upon as a result of a quarrel over boys. Gang wars between teen-agers are unbelievable, but they are true. Rival gangs meet by appointment, battle with guns, knives, clubs and even home-made gasoline explosives known as “Molotov cocktails.” In one case rival gangs fought, a boy was lashed to the front bumper of a car, the driverless car sent down a hill, the crash at the bottom killed him. Again, two teen-age gangs met, a fight started, five shots rang out, five kids fell down, three wounded and two dead.
5. In view of the fruit produced by modern methods, to what conclusion do some arrive?
5 Men can harness the atom, but they cannot harness their children. Child psychologists oppose it, favoring progressive methods shorn of restraints. But with child psychologists to direct, why does delinquency increase? If the theories of training they have planted are so good, why are the fruits harvested so bad? We have only nibbled at the record of juvenile delinquency, but that small taste told us the fruit is rotten. Recently a leading New York newspaper ran a series on teen-age crime and gang wars, and, after noting the rise of progressive methods of child training that all but discard discipline, said: “Many of those fighting teen-age crime are convinced this lack of discipline is to blame for many children refusing to accept normal standards of behavior.” J. Edgar Hoover has investigated the causes of juvenile delinquency and claims ninety per cent of it is traceable to lack of parental discipline. A Brooklyn court judge contributes this caustic comment: “I think we need the woodshed for some young folks. But that is not considered fashionable now. Now we are told you must not strike a child; you may be stunting a genius.”
6. What should replace the modern methods?
6 But is there springing up around us a bumper crop of unstunted geniuses? Rather are we not reaping a record harvest of juvenile delinquents? Good trees produce fine fruit, not rotten harvests. Maybe the theories planted by child psychologists are not good trees, but rotten. Rotten trees should be chopped down. Modern methods should be uprooted and in their place should be planted proper parental discipline. Not parental discipline in ways that seem right to men, since it is in neither parent nor child to direct steps or choose right ways unassisted. Look to Jehovah God! He will direct both parent and child in right ways. He directs the parent through His Word; he directs the child through its divinely instructed parent. So trust in Jehovah, lean not on self. Acknowledge him in this matter, and he will direct your path.—Prov. 3:5, 6; Matt. 7:16-20.
7. What obligation falls upon the parent, and how can he meet it?
7 To parents Jehovah says: “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, NW) The parents were obligated to instruct, the children to listen and learn. No limitations as to time or place were put on this instruction. Whenever appropriate, wherever convenient, whatever suitable situation presented itself, instruction should be given. But in addition the parents should set aside specific times for home study with their children. It might be a discussion of the text at breakfast, or a study during the day or evening in one of the Society’s bound books, or of a Bible chapter, or of a secondary article in The Watchtower, or one of the themes in “Make Sure of All Things”, or a review of points presented at a congregational meeting.
8. What should and what should not be done relative to children and meetings?
8 The children certainly should attend these meetings and sit quietly. Note that the attendance of children is a divine command: “Call the people together, the men and the women and the little ones and your temporary resident who is within your gates, in order that they may listen and in order that they may learn, as they must fear Jehovah your God and take care to carry out all the words of this law.” (Deut. 31:12, NW) The little ones were not to be segregated from parents, not to be shunted off into some Sunday school to have special instruction, but were to remain in the one congregation “in order that they may listen and in order that they may learn.” And to what were they to listen? To the Law specially written and simplified for consumption by children? No, they gave ear to such complicated things as Leviticus! They listened and learned, and when they failed to understand they questioned their parents later. Today little ones are not to be sidetracked into a soundproof room to romp, nor is it wise to supply them with trinkets to toy with and drop during meetings. Remember Jehovah’s purpose for ordering their presence is “in order that they may listen and in order that they may learn.” If little ones in Israel could listen to Leviticus and learn, youngsters today can listen to much lighter material and learn. This way may not seem right to men, but it is right to God.
IMPORTANCE OF PARENTAL EXAMPLE
9. How did Jesus show the imitative trait in children?
9 Instruction by speaking and reading can accomplish much, but instruction by example accomplishes more. Parents are examples to their children, whether they want to be or not. Children are specially susceptible to examples, having a natural tendency to imitate. Jesus showed this when he said: “With whom shall I compare this generation? It is like young children sitting in the marketplaces who cry out to their playmates, saying: ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance; we wailed, but you did not beat yourselves in grief.’” (Matt. 11:16, 17, NW) Jesus’ generation was unco-operative and impossible to satisfy, like the playmates that would not respond with dancing when other children played the flute or with grief when their fellows wailed. But the point is that the children in their games were imitating adults. Adults held weddings accompanied by music and dancing; they also conducted funerals with much wailing and grief. In their games the children were imitating these adult activities.
10. Of what should parents be sure, and what may they expect?
10 Be sure your activities as parents are worthy of imitation. Do you regularly study at home the Bible and Bible helps? Do you attend area book studies, congregational Watchtower studies and service meetings and ministry school sessions? Do you sit quietly and listen, and offer comments when the opportunity is presented? Do you engage in field service regularly, taking your children along? Do they observe you in door-to-door work, back-call work and home Bible study work, hearing you make effective presentations? If they do, do not be surprised to see them playing door-to-door service with their playmates or conducting a study with a doll or giving a student talk to an imaginary audience. Some parents have even encouraged their children in such games, with good results.
11. What is the first requirement for parents to train children for life in the new world?
11 Anyway, in view of this imitative trait in children, to train your children to live in the new world the first requirement is to train yourself to live in it. You act the way you want your children to act, be the way you want your children to be. They will tend to imitate you. Not only is this true relative to theocratic activities, but it is specially true with respect to personal conduct. If your moral standard is high, if your principles are good, if you are kind and courteous and considerate to all, then your children will gravitate in those directions. If you are quiet, respectful, honest, merciful, faithful and loving, those qualities will tend to rub off on your children.
12. With what searching questions can parents examine themselves?
12 It is of little value to tell your child what you did when you were a boy or girl its age. It did not see you then; it sees you now. It is not so much what you did then, as what you do now; not what you did as a child, but what you do as an adult. Do you have two sets of principles, one to preach and the other to practice, one for yourself and the other for your child? Of course, adults may do things children should not, yet the basic principles that govern are usually the same. Do you whisper during meetings, yet scold your child when it causes disturbance? Do you wander around during sessions at large assemblies, yet discipline your child if it does the same at the local congregation? After telling your child not to talk about others, do you gossip? Do you tell it not to lie, then lie yourself? Do you break your promises to it, but expect it to keep its promises to you? Do you demand more of it than you do of yourself?
13. What may result if parents are inconsistent in word and deed?
13 Never forget that your actions speak louder than your tongue, that your example says more than your words. Sometimes if you practice your principles you do not even have to preach them. Some things may seem trivial, but if they violate a principle you are trying to instill in your child they do harm. The child may think you are inconsistent and unreliable, and feel it too can ignore principles. Your training and precepts must be consistent or the child will not know where it stands with you, will not be sure that when you say a thing you will do it, that when you promise you will perform, that when you threaten you will fulfill. If you say but do not do, you will be like the hypocritical Pharisees of whom Jesus said: “They say but do not perform.” (Matt. 23:3, NW) What they said was all right; what they did was all wrong. A child spots insincerity and hypocrisy and dislikes it; but he will also copy it for selfish advantage. So, parents, if you do not want little Pharisees do not be big Pharisees.
14. Why are parents largely responsible for the present juvenile delinquency?
14 Parental example has been blamed for much of the present juvenile delinquency, justly so. A prominent New York city judge cited two factors as responsible for delinquency: (1) men in high places that hobnob with and protect criminals, and (2) lack of parental guidance. A youth forum discussing the problem of delinquency “emphasized the failure of parents in the home and the breakdown in the moral code in a large segment of the population.” One educator said that the “difference between the morals taught to children by their elders and the actual life these elders live . . . is contributing to the increase of delinquency in America.” Adults write fiction, draw comics, make movies, sponsor television, compose music, publish ads, and in these and many other things they flood the mind with sex and immorality, thievery and murder, violence and war. These are the rotten fruits of the fallen flesh that are jammed into youthful minds, whereas the Bible says the minds of both young and old are to dwell on the good fruits of the spirit of Jehovah. It is Jehovah’s law that our innermost thoughts eventually find expression in word and deed. (Gal. 5:22-24; Phil. 4:8; Matt. 12:34, 35) If wrong thinking is not crowded out by right thinking, evil will eventually come to the surface and sink us in sin.
TRAINING DURING THE FORMATIVE YEARS
15. What anxious concern do God-fearing parents feel, but what advantage do they have?
15 This old world is sunk! It has sunk itself. It sows filth, it reaps filth. It mocks God, but not with impunity. (Gal. 6:7, 8) Yet it is amid these sullied seas of delinquent humanity that we must navigate a course of morality and integrity, and one of the most anxious concerns of faithful parents is that their children will not sink in these seas when they venture from the home port. Well, it is certainly true that, as Paul said, “Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Cor. 15:33, NW) However, parents that are in the truth when their children are born have a blessed advantage. They have a head start on worldly associations. They have exclusive association with the child the first few months, and are its chief association for the first few years, before it starts to school. If the parental association is good it will entrench useful habits before bad associations make their assaults. When evil forces finally get at the child for attack he can repel their advance. Remember, wisdom is a defense and preserves the life of him who has it.—Eccl. 7:12.
16. What false reasoning causes some to lose this advantage, and how does the Bible prove this reasoning false?
16 Yet a frequent parental blunder is to throw away the precious advantage by deferring theocratic training till years later. They send the youngster out into worldly associations without the defense of divine wisdom, thinking the small child’s mind incapable of grasping basic truths and principles. They seem oblivious of the fact that the infant mind can learn a complicated language in a short time. That is a feat that taxes an adult mind. Since the infant is going to learn a language, why not let it be the pure language? Why not put in its vocabulary words that will give praise to Jehovah? (Zeph. 3:9; Ps. 148:12, 13) Why not let theocratic teaching get first entry into the mind, rather than defer it for years while inferior information is absorbed? Timothy’s mother and grandmother made no mistake by teaching him while he was an infant, did they? And they used the Scriptures, not a simplified child’s book. They were not over his head, for he came to know the Scriptures. Paul approvingly mentioned Timothy’s babyhood training years later: “From infancy you have known the holy writings which are able to make you wise for salvation.” (2 Tim. 3:15, NW) Some say small children get nothing out of attending meetings, but Jehovah says take them “in order that they may listen and in order that they may learn.” How can they remember their Creator in the days of their youth if they never hear about their Creator in the days of their youth?—Eccl. 12:1.
17. Why is it advisable to start theocratic training early in life?
17 By the impact and impression of his Word upon us Jehovah molds us as clay vessels of mercy or of wrath. (Rom. 9:20-24) The fresher clay is the easier it is to mold. The longer it sets the harder it gets. It is easier for us to be molded into conformity with Jehovah’s Word if that Word is brought to bear upon us while we are young instead of waiting till we are old and more set in our ways. The young are more pliable, and the younger the better. Jesus used a child as an example of humility, saying his followers must become as such. (Matt. 18:1-4) A babe is unstable and needs direction, as shown by Isaiah’s referring to the time “before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.” (Isa. 7:16; Eph. 4:14) The tender years are the formative years, and forming will take place, for good or for bad. Parents must make the forming for good, based on right principles, or other influences will make it for bad, and by the time tardy parents think theocratic training should start they may find a hardened stand against it.—Prov. 19:18, RS.
18. What findings confirm the wisdom of giving training in infancy?
18 A newspaper editorial lamenting that the junior crime wave is becoming a tidal wave states: “Experts now agree that if we would prevent delinquency we must reach children in the pre-school years.” In one of the most comprehensive studies of juvenile delinquency ever made, taking ten years, the major finding was that it is primarily the home life that determines whether the child will become delinquent or not. The survey found that if the family life was wholesome the chances of the child’s becoming delinquent were only 3 in 100, whereas if parent-child relations were bad the chances of the child’s going wrong were 98 out of 100. So while there may be scattered exceptions, the general rule of Proverbs 22:6 holds true: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
19. What experience may comfort parents who worry about the effect of bad worldly associations on the children?
19 Here is an actual experience that may comfort parents who worry about their children’s being spoiled by bad worldly associations when they get beyond the protection of the family circle. A witness was conducting a Bible study with a woman in Brooklyn. Her 4-year-old son listened in. The father objected. He said let the boy wait till he is 21 to make a decision about religion. A few days later a schoolteacher came to the woman’s door and asked whether she was one of Jehovah’s witnesses. No, only studying with them, the woman said. Then the teacher told of seeing the little boy attacked by a group of children, of how she stopped the assault and learned the reason for it. The children wanted this little boy to acknowledge as God a statue in the neighborhood; it was not a religious statue but their religious training made the children think it was God. The 4-year-old boy refused to recognize it as God, told them it could not see, could not hear, could not speak, could not move, could not be God, and he would not call it God! For this he was mobbed. When the boy’s father heard about this he was amazed that his son had absorbed so much by sitting in on the Bible study and was so impressed by his son’s courage in standing firm against the juvenile mob that he changed and said his son could continue sharing in the study.—Jer. 10:5; Hab. 2:18, 19.