Parents, Do You Train Your Children?
“Train up a boy according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.”—Prov. 22:6
1. (a) When should parents consider the future of their child, and how thorough a training program should they prepare for? (b) What goal should parents firmly fix in the child’s mind, and what assurance do parents have if they follow out Jehovah’s injunction at Proverbs 22:6?
PARENTS, before ever your child is born, stop and reflect upon his future, the goals that you will set before him and on how he may reach those goals with your help. Begin at this point to formulate a series of instructions as thorough and complete as you possibly can devise. Be ready to teach your child how he must conduct himself in every step of life. When he begins to understand—yes, in early childhood—explain the future before him. Show him his duties and responsibilities. Give him instruction and direction on how to perform the duties, escape the dangers and secure the blessings, which all lie before him. Fix firmly the goal of everlasting life in the child’s mind by daily inculcation; then by example slowly lead him step by step in the way of life that you have outlined before him, until each step has become a strongly set habit. Pray without ceasing for Jehovah’s blessing on all this teaching and training. Then you have obeyed the injunction of Jehovah: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6, RS) We have God’s Word for it that such training of a child when he is young and impressionable will never be effaced and that such good habits will never be destroyed.
2. What does the Hebrew word hhandákh mean, and what attitude should parents adopt toward the training of their child?
2 The Hebrew word hhanákh, translated to “train up” or “initiate,” also means to dedicate. It is often used in connection with the dedicating of a person, a house or anything to the service of God. Therefore, parents, dedicate your child to God; then teach, train and discipline him as God’s child, whom he has entrusted to your care. “Look! sons are a possession from Jehovah; the fruitage of the belly is a reward.” (Ps. 127:3) If parents observe these sayings and illustrate them by their own conduct, then their sons and daughters will have the way of life laid out plainly before them and will find no just cause to depart therefrom.
3. What lesson can be learned from the animal kingdom that parents must drive home to their children?
3 Parents of the animal kingdom take great pains to train their young for survival. Take mother deer and her little fawn, for an example. What does the baby deer know about the vicious mountain lion and how to escape becoming a meal for this powerful beast? Virtually nothing. But Jehovah has instilled in the mother deer wisdom concerning survival techniques. Instinctively the mother deer trains her little ones how to escape danger and survive. Her first rule is implicit obedience to instruction. When danger threatens, the mother deer commands her young to lie absolutely motionless. Being magnificently camouflaged and perfectly still, the fawn remains hid from its enemies. The lion roars to frighten the young to move and betray its position. It might appear wiser for the little deer to leap up and run for its life. But how far do you think it would get before the hungry lion would pounce on it? Not very far. The little one obeys its mother until danger is past. The mother then returns and indicates to its young that it is free to move. The little one hops about happy to be alive. The mother gives it an affectionate lick for having obeyed. Yes, obedience means life, disobedience means death. This vital lesson parents of humankind must drive home to their children.
4. Before parents can teach Bible principles, what must they know, and what Scriptural advice is offered to children?
4 Before parents can inculcate survival techniques as set forth in God’s Word, the Bible, they themselves must know and be guided by them. To Israelite parents Moses said: “These words that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart.” After that Moses declared: “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. 6:4-9) Children are commanded by Jehovah to listen to such theocratically trained parents: “Observe, O my son, the commandment of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother. Tie them upon your heart constantly; bind them upon your throat. When you walk about, it will lead you; when you lie down, it will stand guard over you, and when you have waked up, it itself will make you its concern. For the commandment is a lamp, and a light the law is, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life.” Children must be made to know that it is Jehovah’s will respecting them that they listen to parental instruction, for such is the way of life.—Prov. 6:20-23; 4:10-13, 20-24.
HOME, CENTER OF TRAINING
5. What is the center of child training, who heads it, and why is this leadership essential?
5 The home is the center of theocratic training. What happens in the home will affect the child the rest of its life. The head of this training center is the father. He is to shoulder the responsibility by taking the lead in the instructing of his children. The Bible emphasizes the major role fathers are to play in the educating of their children, in these words: “You, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah.” (Eph. 6:4) Dr. Benjamin Spock says: “Some fathers have been brought up to think that the care of babies and children is the mother’s job entirely. This is the wrong idea.” As the Bible shows, a man needs to be with his children for their development. If he is not with them it affects their growth, whether he cares to have it so or not. The child is very fond of its father. “My father knows what he is talking about,” the child says. But when father fails to instruct or take the lead, or if he becomes overly critical or too strict and harsh, the child is inwardly hurt. He expects more of his father and rightly so.
6. What five factors did a test reveal that highlighted home training?
6 Recently, a test was taken that showed five factors that differentiated a large number of delinquent children from a large number of non-delinquent children. This test, which covered a ten-year period, revealed the differentiating factors to be: (1) discipline by father, (2) supervision by mother, (3) affection of father, (4) affection of mother, and (5) cohesiveness of family. The surprising discovery was the accent children placed on father’s guidance, affection and discipline. The overly strict, harsh, unreasonable father scored low. The firm, kindly father scored high. The careless mother who allowed her child to roam the streets was rated poor. There is no escaping this one fact: whether children turn out to be good or bad depends largely on the training they receive in the home by father and mother.
7. Why do Sunday schools not take the place of the home as training centers?
7 Parents must not deceive themselves into thinking that they are fulfilling God’s injunction to train up a child simply by sending the youngster off to some Sunday school or other religious meeting. Basic religious instruction is to be received in the home. This responsibility parents cannot lightly pass off to another. Reports show God’s blessing is not on the Sunday school system. Even though there are more than 36,000,000 children attending classes in close to 300,000 Sunday schools in the United States, “few lives are transformed into a true Christ-filled discipleship,” said a prominent minister. We want our children to grow up, not on a diet of anemic faith, but on strong spiritual food that is capable of turning them into mature Christian men and women with renewed personalities. The place for such instruction is in the home with the parents in the lead position.
A SPECIFIC DAY-TO-DAY PROGRAM
8. What specific program should the parents have for the children, and why is setting a specific time each day so important?
8 Home training has a better chance of succeeding if the parents have a specific day-to-day program outlined for the children to follow. At a set time each day the Bible should be read, then a brief review should follow to see if the children understood what was read. The same procedure should be followed each day when discussing the text and comments from the Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses. There should also be a weekly home Bible study with the children and a weekly family Watchtower study in which the children should be made to participate. Note: the day and time for each of these studies should be definite so that on that specific day and hour the child will know exactly what to expect. Once study habits are formed they will be hard to break. Then, whenever the child is away from home, his mind will be drawn to what mother and father are doing at those specific hours. This draws the child closer into the family circle, and it will cause him to reflect on the good things learned at home.
9. Name the various things parents should teach children, and tell why.
9 Children commit things to memory very easily. Train them to use their minds to remember important Bible passages. Teach them to pronounce the names of Bible books, other Bible names and words accurately. Instruct them in Bible doctrine. Instill in them the ability to make decisions, to distinguish right from wrong. Train them to have will power. It will help them to resist temptation when they grow older. Instruct them to share things with others. This will create in them a spirit of generosity. Be slow to criticize, quick to sympathize. Children must be taught respect for sacred things, and consideration for older brothers and sisters, compassion for the sick, kindness toward all. (Lev. 19:32) They must be taught humility, modesty and morality. When a child is ten it is intensely moral. Instill in this receptive mind the Bible principles of morality. Teach it the rights and wrongs of association with the opposite sex, how to conduct itself at social gatherings, and so forth. Big and little things count very much during these impressionable years; so, parents, train your children. Train them to be neat persons in dress, in habits of speech and in other things while in the privacy of their homes as well as in public. Train them to care for their own rooms, shoes, clothes, and so forth. In matters of money teach them the difference between extravagance and prudence, between stinginess and generosity. Let them give out of their own allowance for the upkeep of the Kingdom Hall. Let them pay for the literature they use; thereby teach them the value of money. Teach them to pray thoughtful, meaningful prayers. Inculcate in them the best of manners and they will be most grateful to you for having so trained them. In turn, you will reap great joy for your patience and hard work: “The father of a righteous one will without fail be joyful; the one becoming father to a wise one will also rejoice in him. Your father and your mother will rejoice, and she that gave birth to you will be joyful.” However, “a stupid son is a vexation to his father and a bitterness to her that gave him birth.” “Anyone becoming father to a stupid child—it is a grief to him; and the father of a senseless child does not rejoice.” (Prov. 23:24, 25; 17:25, 21) Training in youth will make the difference.
DISCIPLINING AND TRAINING
10. Why is Manoah’s prayerful course a good example for parents today?
10 Parents, call upon Jehovah for direction on how to train and discipline your child. Manoah, the father of Samson, wanted his son to grow up in the right way. So he prayed to Jehovah for guidance in the training of his boy. “Excuse me, Jehovah,” prayed Manoah. “The man of God that you just sent, let him, please, come again to us and instruct us as to what we ought to do to the child that will be born.” “Accordingly God listened to the voice of Manoah and the angel of God came” and instructed them. Their son grew up to be a faithful servant of Jehovah. (Judg. 13:8-14) Follow this good example. Pray to Jehovah for guidance, and then follow his direction in his Word.
11. Why do good children need oversight and direction, and what do various authorities say about disciplining children?
11 However good a child’s intentions, he is still a child and must be dealt with as a child. Constant oversight is necessary, because “foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy,” says the Proverbs; “the rod of discipline is what will remove it far from him.” Parents must be reasonably consistent in their instruction. They must feel, speak and act as if they expect the child to behave, and see to it that he does. There are times when the literal rod should be used to keep the peace and respect of the family. The Scriptures advise: “Do not hold back discipline from the mere boy. In case you beat him with the rod, he will not die. With the rod you yourself should beat him, that you may deliver his very soul from Sheol itself.” (Prov. 22:15; 23:13, 14) Says Dr. Spock, “Firm guidance, which springs from devotion, is not only good for children—they love it!” The father and mother must care enough for their child to teach him right and wrong. J. Edgar Hoover, director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, said: “Discipline, fairly and consistently invoked, breeds pride and respect. And children want—desperately—to be disciplined. Superficially, they may rebel. But on a deeper level, where character is formed, a child wants to be told what he can and cannot do. He needs guideposts to help him orient himself to the world. He looks to his parents for these guideposts. If parents are lazy or indifferent or over-indulgent, is it any wonder that a child loses love and respect for them? How can a child continue to look up to a parent who continually compromises and yields to him?” Along this same line Judge Philip B. Gilliam of the Juvenile Court of Denver, Colorado, gave some direct advice of interest and help to conscientious parents, saying: “Young people need a lot of parental love in their lives. That means supplying the sturdy discipline they require and unknowingly crave. And it means giving wisely of yourself, your experience and judgment.” So do not hold back discipline from the mere boy. A good pat on the back, only lower down, will not kill him. It will assure him that you care. The following scriptures emphasize the wisdom of the use of discipline: Proverbs 3:11, 12; 4:1; 13:1, 24; 19:18; 22:15; 23:13, 14.
12. Show how a seemingly clear order might be confusing to a child. What must parents do to make instruction clear to children?
12 Spanking may not always be the answer when your child disobeys. Tact, poise, wisdom and a little good sense on your part as parents pay off. A warm smile is very disarming; even little children cannot resist it. However, before you scold your child make sure he, and not you yourself, is at fault. For example, you may say, “Johnny, don’t scribble in the Society’s books, or else you’ll get a whipping!” That sounds clear enough to you, but is it to Johnny? You allow him to mark up other books. He sees you underlining your Bible, so in the little mind the thought is, “Why not this one?” So in your training of your child let him know in a way that he will understand. “This book belongs to daddy. You must not mark in it.” Or, “This book is to be placed in service. There must be no marks in it—understand?” Give him a reason for your order. A spanking will not always help.
13, 14. (a) What goal will parents want to set before their child, and how? (b) In what way can parents train their child in the house-to-house ministry? (c) What qualities will help the child to see that the ministry is a desirable career to pursue? (d) How can parents train their children to do work and accept responsibility?
13 Theocratic parents will want to instill in their child a desire to become one of Jehovah’s ministers. Set this goal before the heart of the child early. You can best do this by setting a good example yourself. Take your child with you from house to house in the ministry, on back-calls and home Bible studies. Explain to him why you do things. You must make sure the child understands both how and why he is expected to do things. Tell him why you gave that particular sermon at the door, why you offered the book instead of the magazines. Invite his comments. Inculcate respect with reasons. It is best not to be dictating always.—Ex. 12:26, 27.
14 Kindness, warmth and understanding go a long way toward creating in the child a desire to become one of Jehovah’s witnesses. It is not enough just to say to your son or daughter, “I want you to be a minister for Jehovah.” The child must see in you a good reason for becoming one. What you say, how you live and conduct yourself are weighed in the child’s mind for or against the ministry. So if you mingle your training with tender love and affection, the child will see that the ministry is a desirable career to pursue. Do not be hesitant about telling your child how much you love having him with you at the Kingdom Hall, how pleased you are with his comments and note-taking. Encourage him whenever you can and do it sincerely. The effect for good is overwhelming. Express your appreciation for even the slightest work he may do. He may be slow and inefficient, but remember, he is still a child. It takes him longer to see and do things. Do not make a big issue or, as children say, “a federal case” out of everything. Make things seem natural, easy and right when training them. “As long as a job is fun,” says a disenchanted father, “the kids are dynamos; but when work becomes routine or requires some extra effort, off they go.” Well, then, make washing dishes, mowing the lawn, polishing the car, cleaning the Kingdom Hall, the service center activity and the field ministry pleasurable—“fun.” Be patient, however, with children. Good work habits and attitudes take time to develop. But with good adult example and good adult-child co-operation, the goal of the ministry can be attained. Dr. Charlotte D. Elmott, director of guidance and secondary education in the Santa Barbara schools, in California, declared: “Once young people get experience in a job, they really begin to grow up.” Train them to accept little jobs at first, then to accept heavier work and responsibility. Soon they will be in position to take the lead in the service and assume servant duties. Do not withhold from them this privilege. Also, equip your child with a trade and perhaps a hobby. This will help to keep him balanced when he grows older.
LITTLE THINGS MEAN A LOT
15. In what way can parents use tact when training their children?
15 Children are very sensitive. Little things mean a lot to them. “If only mother and dad would be more appreciative,” they say. Be appreciative. Commend your child whenever you can. Be sympathetic and understanding. Say, “I thought that review was rather difficult, but you have a fine grade.” Always have something good to say to take the sharpness out of your criticism. “I thought you gave a good talk at the theocratic ministry school, son. But keep working on the points the school servant mentioned.” Only when absolutely necessary rebuke. Even then, cushion such blows with love and affection and an understanding tone. Bear in mind: “A rebuke works deeper in one having understanding.” Also, we are told “to be tactful toward all,” which includes our children.—Prov. 17:10; 2 Tim. 2:24, 25; Gal. 6:1.
16. What is the most vital element in training of children, and why is it important that parents take time to listen to their children?
16 The most vital element of all in training a child is that the parents love the child in the sense of being devoted to it, wanting it to turn out well, enjoying all of its good qualities. Dr. Spock says: A child “expresses his devotion to his parents by molding himself in their image; not just in the sense of copying their skills, occupations, manner of speech, but genuinely trying to be civilized and responsible like them. This is how the boy acquires much of his desire to be cooperative with men, brave in danger, courteous to women, faithful to a job, just as his father is. This is how a girl is inspired to be helpful in the home, devoted to babies (live and doll babies), tender to other members of the family, as her mother is.” In the same manner your child will want to imitate you to become a minister of God. Therefore, set before him a good example. Show children love and sympathy. Listen to their problems and experiences. Listening to them gives them the feeling that their thoughts are important to you, that you know what is on their minds, that you care for them and can help them with their problems. If you do not listen to them, someone else will. They may get wrong advice.
17. (a) What does every child need, and how can this be arranged? (b) How can parents instill in their child the missionary spirit, and what is the greatest blessing that they can bestow upon a child?
17 Train your children as you yourself would want to be trained. Be concerned about them. Parents, where are your children now? What are they doing? When was the last time you had a good heart-to-heart talk with them? Every child needs the chance to have a parent all to himself. Give him this chance by going for a walk with him. This allows him to get acquainted with you. Take him with you in service, on picnics, for rides; play with him. Take your child to baptismal services, to all congregation meetings, to national and international assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses. Whenever possible, work alongside him. Encourage him to preach and teach as a vacation pioneer. Have him join you to serve where the need for Kingdom witnessing is great. Instill in his young mind the missionary spirit by reading Yearbook experiences, by entertaining missionaries and pioneers in your home. Teach your child to love the brothers, the truth of God’s Word, the New World society, for this is the way of life. What greater blessing can a parent bestow upon his child than a good introduction to the Kingdom ministry, which is the way leading to everlasting life?
18. (a) Children that receive what instruction usually stand fast to their early training? (b) Of what is proper child training a vindication?
18 When children are trained to be industrious, when they are restrained and corrected with a due mixture of firmness and affection, when they are disciplined to endure hardship, to keep their place and obey, and when all this is enforced by good examples set before them and when constant prayers are made for and with them, children generally do not depart from the way. The good effects of their training can be seen wherever they go and as long as they live. Such well-trained children become a source of deep joy to their parents. Yes, parents, Jehovah’s Word says: “The father of a righteous one will without fail be joyful.” (Prov. 23:24) Therefore, parents, train up your child in the way he should go. If you do, your child will be a joy to you, a blessing to the theocratic organization, and a vindication of the arrangement that Jehovah instituted for the training of children, namely, the home, with the father and mother in the key positions.