What Kind of Future Can You Give Your Child?
PARENTS want the best for their children—a really pleasant future. And it is often observed that they labor hard to give them a comfortable life. Yet, despite such efforts, youngsters frequently are disrespectful. At home they often talk back to their parents; in school they get into trouble; and soon they are involved with the police. They live for “good times.” Their chief concern often is to satisfy their appetite for “kicks” or “thrills.” A frightening number are doing this through experimentation with sex, the use of marijuana, LSD, and even more potent drugs.
Last June many parents were shocked by a report of the President’s Crime Commission, which estimated that 40 percent of the male children living in the United States will be arrested for a nontraffic offense sometime in their lives. “For boys living in cities,” the Commission reported, “the figure is on the order of 60 percent.” The number of children turning delinquent truly is staggering! In the United States alone, over two and a half million youngsters in the ten-to-seventeen age-group already have police records!
While boys are the principal offenders, many girls too are throwing off all moral restraint. This is particularly apparent in their sexual promiscuity. Teen-age girls in the United States account for about 100,000 illegitimate births a year. And some experts estimate that at least two out of five teen-age brides, perhaps one of every two, are pregnant on their wedding day! How many youths have had their futures ruined!
Nevertheless, parents usually are surprised when they learn about the criminal or immoral activities of their children. A prominent New York City jurist observed: “How many parents have stood before me, after I have sentenced their children to prison, and asked, ‘Judge, what did I do that was wrong? I sacrificed for him, gave him a good life, put him through school . . . ’”
WHAT IS WRONG?
The trouble generally does not lie with what these parents did, but, rather, in what they failed to do. Dr. Benjamin B. Wolman, professor of psychology at Long Island University, recently emphasized this failure of many modern parents. He said: “I’m tired of wealthy people who give their children cars, but no moral values, coming to me and saying they don’t know what’s wrong with their youngsters. What’s wrong is that the parents are leading hollow, empty, shallow lives and not giving their children anything to hold onto. . . . The abdication of parents seems general.”—New York Times, October 19, 1967.
If children are to enjoy a happy future they need to have inculcated in them a set of proper values, deep spiritual convictions, and something worth while for which to live and work. It is a tragic misconception of many modern parents to think that simply giving their youngsters expensive material comforts will prepare them for a pleasant future. True, providing material needs is necessary, and is a responsibility that Almighty God places upon parents, yet this is only a part of a parent’s responsibility.—1 Tim. 5:8.
PROPER INSTRUCTION VITAL
Whether parents appreciate it or not, providing a child wholesome instruction is as important to his future as furnishing him physical nourishment and other material needs. This is because such instruction will assist a youngster to form values and convictions to which he can hold, and which will sustain him in a proper course as the child grows older. Therefore, the inspired Bible proverb wisely encourages parents: “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.
But what instruction is it vital that you give your child? Which counsel will put him in the way for future happiness? Is it enough to teach your child an appreciation for fine literature and beautiful things? Is it sufficient to cultivate in him good manners and proper habits, such as to be neat, orderly, punctual, and so forth? Although this is important, it is not enough.
This has so often been illustrated in recent years. Many parents who have inculcated these things in their children have received the shock of learning that their youngsters have become involved in the use of drugs, or other criminal activities. Or they were horrified to find out that their daughters had become pregnant as a result of illicit sex relations. Obviously something vital was missing in the teaching that these parents gave their children.
The trouble was that they failed to provide them anything really substantial to hold onto. They did not give them proper moral guidance. Nor did they inculcate within them a love of God, and a love of truth and righteousness. If you desire to assure your child a happy future, this vital instruction cannot be neglected.
Notice how God’s Word the Bible emphasizes the importance of imparting spiritual values and moral guidance to children, saying: “You must love Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your vital force. And 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. 6:5-7.
What are “these words” that God’s people were urged to teach their children? First of all, that they were to love their Creator, Jehovah. But “these words” also included the commandments that the prophet Moses had just reiterated, namely, that one should not bear false witness, should not steal, should not murder, should not commit adultery, and so forth. (Deut. 5:6-21) Youngsters were to be taught by their parents that these are laws of God, and that their very life and happiness depend upon obedience to them.
It is similar instruction that Christian parents need to provide for their children today if they are to ensure them a happy future. (Matt. 22:37; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10; Rev. 21:8) As a parent, you must impart to your child a love of truth and righteousness, and instill within him spiritual values and a firm faith in his grand Creator. And notice how regularly this instruction should be given—‘when you sit in the house, when you walk on the road, and when you lie down and when you get up.’ In other words, you should at all times have in mind building within your youngster godly qualities.
LOVING DISCIPLINE NECESSARY
In order to guard your child’s future effectively, this program of instruction must also include loving discipline. Training up a child according to the way for him involves more than simply telling the child what is the right way. He must be molded or motivated so that he actually pursues the proper course. This requires, not only frequent repetition of the instruction, but also correction, and even, at times, sanctions for disobedience.
Children are not naturally inclined to do the right thing. It is as the inspired Bible proverb 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) It is entirely a mistaken belief that children should be allowed to do what pleases them, without any restrictions. Therefore, a parent who is truly concerned about his child’s future will act in harmony with the inspired recommendation of Proverbs 29:15: “The rod and reproof are what give wisdom; but a boy let on the loose will be causing his mother shame.”
Really, the administering of reproof is evidence that a parent loves his child and wants a happy future for him, as God’s Word makes plain: “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) The loving parent desires to see his child do the correct thing, and so he takes the necessary steps to direct his child in the right way. Proper discipline is invariably beneficial, as the Bible explains: “To those who have been trained by it it yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness.”—Heb. 12:11.
Contrary to popular opinion, children appreciate it when their parents give them guidelines and set reasonable restrictions on their activities. Some of them may complain at times, but they learn to love and respect parents who show a genuine interest in their welfare. Deep in their hearts they desire rules to govern their activities. For then they know what they can do and what they cannot do, and it relieves them of what are often difficult decisions. One teen-ager whose parents imposed a set of guidelines said: “It’s taken a terrific load off my mind.”
Although it may sound strange, modern youths sometimes yearn for stricter guidelines. For instance, a group of New Jersey high school students took exception to one rule laid upon them by parents, namely: “Reasonable hours for beginning and ending parties.” The students unanimously agreed that it was too vague. “Our parents,” said one youth, “should let us know exactly what time to be home.”
Permissive parents who allow their youngster free rein, thinking that they are being kind and will win his friendship, are sadly mistaken. Their child is likely to turn on them in anger or hatred, as did one young girl, after finally confessing to being pregnant: “Why didn’t you stop me? You knew what was going on. You let me stay over there at Jimmy’s when his mother and father were away. You just didn’t care what I did.” If you care about your child’s future, you will administer loving discipline.
PROTECTION FROM MORAL POISON
A prominent feature of discipline should be directed toward guarding your child from the present-day flood of moral poison. If you are to protect his future, you cannot afford to let his mind become filled with the sex, violence and immorality glamorized in modern literature and over radio and TV. You must take protective measures, even as you do to safeguard your child’s physical health.—Eph. 5:3-5.
For example, if you allowed dirt to accumulate on your dishes and silverware, germs would multiply, and a child could easily get sick if permitted to eat from these things. So you are careful to keep your dishes and silverware clean, is that not true? Well, polluted information can have an equally bad effect. It can sicken a child’s mind and influence him to pursue a course of crime and immorality that can ruin his future. Nevertheless, permissive parents today commonly allow their children to devour moral rot, as a Texas police chief noted: “We are careful to see that the silverware and glasses are sterilized, but we let their minds feed on garbage.”
Even though other parents allow their youngsters to consume this filthy diet, you need not. (Phil. 4:8) Furthermore, you need to protect your children from the association of such worldly youths. (1 Cor. 15:33) An effective way is to be a frequent companion of your child, sharing regularly with him in recreation and work.
REGULAR BIBLE STUDY
As part of their program of activities, many Christian families set aside a definite time each week when they get together for Bible study. The father properly takes the lead, thus fulfilling his Scriptural obligation to “go on bringing [his children] up in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah.” (Eph. 6:4) The family discusses, not only Bible principles governing proper moral behavior, but also Scriptural teachings regarding Jehovah God and his wonderful purposes for blessing obedient mankind. This builds up faith and encourages young ones to want to serve and obey God.
Children come to appreciate that we are living at the conclusion of this system of things—that the deterioration of morals and the rejection of God’s standards of righteousness are evidences of this very fact. (2 Tim. 3:1-5; Matt. 24:3-21) And they see that it is God’s purpose to usher righteously disposed persons into His wonderful new system of things, where perfect health and everlasting life will be enjoyed by everyone. What a glorious future for which to live!—2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:3, 4.
Of course, to instruct your child effectively in these matters, you yourself must be familiar with God’s Word, and have a firm faith in Jehovah God and his promises. Jehovah’s witnesses will be glad to help you build this firm faith through Bible knowledge. At your invitation they will conduct a Bible study with you in your own home free of charge. This study will assist you to carry out your Scriptural responsibility to ‘go on bringing up your children in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah.’ Only in this way can you assure a lasting, happy future for your child.—Eph. 6:4.