Parents’ Moral Responsibility
“Go on bringing them up in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah.”—Eph. 6:4.
1. In what respects do human parents differ considerably from animal parents?
HUMAN parents are not in a class with animals that give suck to their young, protect them until they can forage for themselves and then separate perhaps never to see them again, and without further concern as to their future. Human parents with a right sense of responsibility are definitely concerned about the present and future welfare of their children. In fact, as long as they live they will keep track of their children, showing keen interest in their successes, deep sympathy for their setbacks.
2. Why does God require so very much more of human parents?
2 All of this is quite rightly so, for human parents who exercise the God-given, procreative function should bear in mind that man was created originally “in God’s image.” (Gen. 1:27) God, therefore, requires much more of those creatures made in his own image than he does of animals. Human children are born equipped with latent powers of intelligence, thought, discrimination. They have the capacity for love, and they have an innate longing to receive love, not an adoring love, but a steady, dependable, principled love. The child’s powers and capacities need to be developed, molded and trained in such a way as to bring God’s favor, the only sure way of success.—Prov. 8:35.
3. With the birth of the first child, what responsibility now devolves upon the parents?
3 When parents produce their first child a family has come into existence, one of those “families of the ground” that are envisioned in God’s promise to Abraham as blessing themselves by their course of action in relation to God and his provided Seed, Christ Jesus. (Gen. 12:1-3) From that time on parents should take the lead in planning, thinking, working and playing as a family. As a family they should receive instruction from God and serve him. (Josh. 24:15) When the children grow up, get married and themselves become parents, they should always be able to look back with gratitude and respect to the ones who gave them their start in life.
AVOID COMMON FALLACIES
4. Why cannot parents count too much on the innocence or guilelessness of their young children?
4 Parents who are truly Christian will refuse to entertain the sentimental notion that their own children are little angels. They are not. They are imperfect and very immature humans, of whom the Bible, God’s own Word, says: “Foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy; the rod of discipline is what will remove it far from him.” (Prov. 22:15) And this holds true of little girls also. Even in young children it is only too true that “the heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate.” (Jer. 17:9) They are governed mainly by their feelings, their fleshly desires, and are capable of deceit and trickery to gain their ends. As one psychiatrist expressed the matter: “Potentially delinquent children have powers of persuasion and observation beyond their years.” Parents have the responsibility to mold and train the thinking patterns of their children.
5. What unwise course do some parents pursue, and why is it unwise?
5 Unwise parents, those not guided by Jehovah’s counsel, dote upon their children, indulge their every whim, placate them and give in to their tantrums. How unwise at that early stage to give the child the idea that he will be yielded to all through his life! Parents sometimes justify this course by claiming they do not want to give the infant the idea that he is not loved. So they fail to reprimand, punish or otherwise discipline him properly. God, who knows much better, advises: “The one holding back his rod is hating his son, but the one loving him is he that does look for him with discipline.” (Prov. 13:24) Children long for correction and discipline, and if they do not get it they will conclude that nobody cares about them.
6, 7. In the matter of giving generously, what principle do some parents overlook, and with what lamentable results?
6 Another foolish error into which some parents fall is to determine that they will give their children all the things that they themselves did not enjoy in youth, undisciplined freedom, toys aplenty, generous cash allowances, and so forth. Soon, with heartache, they come to realize that their children have no more appreciation for a roomful of toys than they themselves had for one old broken doll. At this as at all other stages of life the principle holds true that a satisfying life, any life, ‘does not result from the things possessed.’—Luke 12:15.
7 So often, parents end up spoiling their children. They overlook the practical rule that gifts should be in proper proportion to the ability and sense of the recipient to make use of them. (Matt. 25:15) Money that is not going to be spent wisely is not a good gift. It is the kind of gift that adds sorrow eventually, for it tends to produce irresponsibility. The child reasons, “There is more where this came from,” and then goes ahead and spends it foolishly.
8. What far outweighs all the material gifts that parents could give their children?
8 Far more valuable to the child than the richest of material gifts is the time that loving parents devote to his welfare in the way of discussion, answering of questions, training in the processes of right thinking. At a later stage of life it is easy to distinguish between children who have been starved for parental companionship and those who have been blessed with it. The latter prove to be more balanced, less childish, mature in their thinking.
ADOPT GOD’S COUNSEL
9. What choice must parents begin to make for their children from an early stage in their lives?
9 The Christian parent who has genuine love for his child is concerned about training him to be the recipient, not of the rewards of a selfish world, but of the favor and blessing of the Creator. What value could there be to teaching him the way of worldly success? The Bible expressly advises: “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world.”—1 John 2:15, 16.
10. How does God’s Word say to bring up children, and where is his “authoritative advice” to be found?
10 Parents, fathers and mothers, need to adopt the divinely-inspired counsel transmitted by the apostle Paul: “Go on bringing them up in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah.” (Eph. 6:4) That matchless advice is to be found distributed throughout the pages of the Holy Scriptures. There is no other dependable source in which to find the true and righteous standard of conduct that is pleasing to Jehovah God.
11. What questions might parents ask themselves with benefit, in considering their qualifications for their job?
11 Parents do well to examine their own qualifications for this job. Are they themselves qualified to teach, or at least putting forth systematic effort to become better qualified? Are they leading a clean, godly life as followers of Christ Jesus? Do they have the appreciation of God’s worshipfulness to impart to their child? The most vital part of the teaching program in the home is that given by example. Only certain hours may be given to oral teaching, but the child is forever scrutinizing his parents and patterning his course in accord with what he observes.
12. What continuing course of instruction is indispensable to all parents if they are to prove successful?
12 Before they can give out beneficial spiritual instruction parents must take it in. So there is urgent reason to schedule hours for personal study, study that is undertaken with a view to being able to pass it on effectively to the children. At regular assemblies at the Kingdom Hall it is possible to observe a great variety of lively and interest-capturing teaching methods. If the parents cultivate an interest in what is going on in the world and then awaken the interest of the family, it should be possible to combat any tendency for the children to become self-centered.
URGENT REASONS FOR PARENTAL ACTION
13. What urgent reasons are there for parents to undertake the family-training program without delay?
13 There are urgent reasons why godly parents should no longer delay getting a family training program under way. It is estimated that 90 percent of young children today are regular readers of comic books in which, not comedy, but horror and violence are paraded before their impressionable minds. Children, too, spend many more hours than do parents scanning the TV screen and learning in a graphic manner the selfishnesses, the infidelities and the corruptions of the adult world. Sex is frequently depicted in its uglier manifestations, and certainly with a lot of sloppy sentimentality.
14, 15. Why must the youngsters have adequate training at a very tender age?
14 When the time comes for the children to go to school and spend many hours away from a godly home, will they be adequately protected against the corruption of worldly attitudes? They need to be, for this world presents a most degraded picture. Sex, smoking and narcotics are already common topics of conversation among schoolchildren. The situation is intensified at the high-school level. According to statistics, half of the young girls who marry are no longer virgin, and young men do not seem to care whether they are marrying a virgin or not. In many high schools the boy or girl who turns down invitations to have sex adventures is considered socially backward.
15 Senseless crimes, sadistic brutalities and defiance behavior mark the rising generation, while indulgent parents look on helplessly, little realizing that theirs is a good share of the blame for these developments. Mental imbalance and suicidal tendencies are showing up among young people as never before. As one writer expressed it, people today “seem less able to contain their anxieties, less able to tolerate frustrations than was true when children were reared according to more rigid codes of behavior.”
16. What is the obvious reason for the sex revolution that has today turned human society upside down?
16 People profess amazement at the sex revolution that is taking place in our midst today, a revolution marked by the fact that more and more husbands and wives are tolerating infidelity in their mates, living a life of surface respectability as though they were the best mates in the world, but surreptitiously, and sometimes even with the tacit consent of the mate, carrying on extramarital affairs. There is no mystery about the source of this kind of trouble. Such adulterers and adulteresses are simply convicting their own parents of failure to ground them in the Bible’s teaching on cleanness and honesty.
17. How are the social reformers and clergymen reacting to the great tide of immorality now engulfing society?
17 Modern social reformers, including clergymen, are advocating the legalizing of adultery, fornication, sodomy and other sex perversions. They are, in effect, throwing up their hands in helplessness before today’s encroaching tide of immorality. Having lost faith in God’s Word, if they ever did have any, they are ready to adopt without a struggle the supine policy: If you cannot beat them, join them. They still maintain the outward pretenses of godly morality, but they have proved false to the power of godliness for cleaning up immoral conditions.—2 Tim. 3:5.
18. To what extent are parents responsible for todays bumper crop of delinquents?
18 In a report that took a professor of Harvard Law School about ten years to compile, note the following statements as to parental responsibility for today’s delinquents: “There are mothers of ample income who neglect their children just as much as tenement mothers do, and there are fathers who might as well not be there, for all the time they spend with their children. . . . Fifty percent of the delinquents studied began to show clear signs of maladjustment and bad behavior at the age of 8 and under. . . . World War II children are more and more left alone, and go as they please. In the home and outside, the trend has been steadily toward more permissiveness, that is, placing fewer restraints and limits on behavior.”
19. Do juveniles themselves discern the cause of today’s moral breakdown?
19 Perhaps one of the most melancholy features of this era of lawlessness is the fact that many teen-agers have been able to assess the cause and point unerringly to the culprits. Not long ago the magazine This Week conducted an opinion survey among teen-agers, and here are some of the findings: “The significant fact, we found, is that teen-agers respect discipline. They look to parents for guidance—and firm guidance. In our survey an amazing 86 percent of the teen-agers gave the opinion that a prime cause of juvenile delinquency is the absence of correct example, discipline, and leadership in the home.”—Vital Speeches, June 15, 1965, page 526.
20. What is the fact that above all others marks this time as one of greatest urgency to parents and children?
20 By all the evidences this system of things is hastening to its final confrontation with the God of justice at Armageddon. Parents and children who fail to gain the “mark on their foreheads,” that is, an adequate appreciation of God’s moral standard, are sure to suffer. Parents will be held accountable for their children, and children will suffer for the failure of their parents. The prophet overheard the instruction issued to the angelic executioners: “Do not feel any compassion. Old man, young man and virgin and little child and women you should kill off—to a ruination. . . . Their way I shall certainly bring upon their own head.”—Ezek. 9:4-6, 10.
DISCHARGING THE RESPONSIBILITIES
21, 22. How should parents deport themselves, and why?
21 In view of these urgent reasons, parents need to take stock of how they are presiding over their own households. (1 Tim. 3:4) Do the children see and hear them wrangling and quarreling? Do the parents shout and scream at the children and in bad temper inflict excessive punishment? Can the children truthfully charge that the parents are provocative and dictatorial? (Eph. 6:4) Do the parents give an excellent example to children in being tidy, clean, honest in every way and morally above reproach? Impartial self-examination on such matters can be most beneficial.
22 From time to time it will be advantageous for father and mother to talk privately about their joint responsibility, so they will always be able to present to the children a united administrative front. Otherwise, children can take advantage of differences and play one parent off against another. Youngsters are sharp to detect whether parental unity is genuine or simply a veneer, and they are quick to exploit a situation to their own advantage.
23. What fine example should fathers of families look to and follow?
23 The father is the proper head in each household. If Christian, he should look to Christ Jesus as the perfect example of husbandly ownership and tender fatherhood. (Eph. 5:23) No doubt about it, Jesus had the respect of his whole family of followers. Why? Because his attitude and conduct were based on principled love. He gave them of his time, he trained them, he reprimanded them, he encouraged them by frequent commendation.
24. What is the mother’s role in connection with authority in the family?
24 In the family circle mother should be the foremost supporter and respecter of the father’s position, whether he is Christian or not. As perfect Eve was provided to be a suitable helper for Adam, so a wife’s proper role in the household is to promote, not impede, her husband’s discharge of his responsibilities. The mother who gives evidence of genuine respect for her husband is, in fact, aiding her children to appreciate the importance of complying with God’s arrangements in everything.—Eph. 5:33.
25, 26. What are some of the moral precepts on which children should be thoroughly grounded in the home? What will help?
25 The Bible and its principles should be recognized as the constitutional law of the Christian home. What God’s Word has to say on any issue should be considered as final and binding on all members, parents as well as children. Children need to be taught, for example, that “everyone liking and carrying on a lie” is abominable to Jehovah. (Rev. 22:15) Theft, too, in all its various manifestations, should be seen as a violation of God’s moral standard. (Eph. 4:28) From a tender age they should be helped to understand that happiness and peace can be maintained only by frank, honest, just dealings, inside and outside the home. Cheating at school or failing to give honest return for secular wages should be exposed for what they are, a combination of lying and stealing.
26 As soon as it is feasible, young people should have some explanation of what is involved in the admonition of the apostle: “Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” (Heb. 13:4) In view of the proper delicacy of the subject, parents need to guard against the extremes of undue reticence and brutal frankness. Articles in Awake! magazine of June 8 and July 8, 1965, offer helpful suggestions to fathers and mothers who are concerned about transmitting to their children essential knowledge of God’s provision of sex.
ENCOURAGEMENT FOR RESPONSIBLE PARENTS
27. What aids should parents avail themselves of in undertaking these duties for which they often feel inadequate?
27 Often it is true, parents feel quite inadequate for the task of training up their children successfully. However, instead of becoming frustrated and giving up easily, why not avail themselves of the aids that God provides? For example, there is the congregation of Christian witnesses, an association of godly friends who are happy to extend aid. Congregational gatherings for study of the Bible afford excellent opportunities for your family to integrate with other families who want to worship God in spirit and in truth. Remember, those meetings are designed so that those attending may “consider one another to incite to love and fine works.” (Heb. 10:24, 25) However, parents must take, not send, their children to these meetings, in order to gain fullest benefit.
28. What is the objective toward which parents can steer their children, with what great satisfactions as experienced by parents of old?
28 Parents who always keep before their children the excellent goal of giving themselves wholly to Jehovah God for his service will be truly blessed. Elkanah and Hannah must have rejoiced to see their boy Samuel grow up and enjoy marvelous privileges as a servant at God’s holy tent and as a judge of Israel. (1 Sam. 1:11) Manoah and his wife surely must have been thrilled to hear of their son Samson doing mighty exploits by virtue of God’s spirit. (Judg. 13:5, 12) Zechariah and Elizabeth must have gained great satisfaction from the self-denying course of their son John, of whom the Lord Jesus himself later declared: “Among those born of women there has not been raised up a greater than John the Baptist.”—Matt. 11:11.
29. Children should be trained with what vital step in mind, and what moral responsibility rests upon parents in connection therewhith?
29 Children of Christian parents who have been properly trained will eventually offer themselves willingly in dedication to Jehovah. Before permitting the child to undergo water baptism, however, the parents should be satisfied that he knows exactly what is involved. Being baptized will not make him enjoy the preaching work, if he does not already enjoy it. Baptism will not necessarily add to his sense of responsibility. Before baptism he should have sufficient experience with study of the Bible and with telling others what he has learned to realize that these are features of his worship of the true God.
30. Periods of relaxation should be employed in what manner?
30 Another important feature of family life is the planning and executing of family projects in which every member can find enjoyment and satisfaction during hours set aside for relaxation. It may mean going to some clean, upbuilding form of entertainment together, going on a picnic, going to visit some new place, building up a neglected garden, any one of a number of things. By enthusiastic planning on the part of the parents, the whole family can be kept in safe and healthful unity, protected from outside associations that could undermine faith in God and adherence to his right standard.
31, 32. What are the satisfactions now gained by godly parents, and what future rewards can they confidently expect?
31 There is truly much to do to discharge successfully these responsibilities that rest upon God-fearing parents. It is a huge job. But, then, there are so many joys and satisfactions to be gained along the way as you see your children develop into fine, upright, God-honoring men and women. And what a thrill for parents to know that they have indeed helped their children to comply with the command that bears a promise: “Honor your father and your mother”! Worldly parents often make it very difficult for their children to honor them in harmony with God’s requirement. But Christian parents have the joy of knowing that they did what was humanly possible, and, with Jehovah’s help, ensured for their children “a long time on the earth”—yes, so long a time that it may well reach into the New Order beyond Armageddon.—Eph. 6:2, 3.
32 How satisfying to know that you have obeyed the divine injunction to “train up a boy according to the way for him,” the way that bypasses a corrupt and immoral system of things, and rejects its deceptive rewards and death-dealing goals! How rewarding to observe how Jehovah blesses your efforts as your child grows up and never turns aside from the way that leads to life and peace with his Creator! (Prov. 22:6) The acknowledging of God’s direction in your responsibility as a parent has secured a vital need of all children, their need for love, guidance and a sense of security. Truly “the judicial decisions of Jehovah are true; they have proved altogether righteous. . . . In the keeping of them there is a large reward.”—Ps. 19:9, 11.