What Kind of Training Do Children Need?
“Train up a boy according to the way for him.”—Prov. 22:6.
1, 2. (a) What is the feeling of many parents as to the rearing of children? (b) Despite Bible counsel, what is happening to young ones today?
PARENTS, have you found rearing children to be difficult today? Do you ever feel at a loss as to how to train your young ones to protect them in these dangerous times? Many parents do feel at a loss. True, the Bible says: “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) Yet today both boys and girls by the millions are turning to delinquency.
2 In 1966 a United States Senate study revealed that of the nation’s 29 million children in the ten-to-seventeen age-group, two and a half million, or about one in every eleven, had a police record! Since then conditions have grown much worse. The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner of February 2, 1970, reported: “Juvenile crime in Southern California is rising at a rate which may soon see total juvenile arrests outstripping those of adults—yet juveniles make up only a fraction of the total population. Detention centers are overflowing already and there’s no letup in sight.” In New Zealand, according to the police commissioner’s report, crimes by children doubled in numbers from 1966 to 1970!
3. What trend has been noted relative to juvenile crime?
3 Not only are juvenile crimes increasing rapidly in numbers, but also they are becoming more serious in nature; and more children are committing them at younger ages. In a recent year, in Baltimore, Maryland, there were 526 arrests of children ten years of age and under. Included were 169 arrests for burglary, 22 for robbery, and arrests for murder, auto theft and narcotics violations! In Perth, Australia, 80 percent of the car thefts are by teenagers! A police officer there said: “It is no longer unusual to find a kid of 13 behind the wheel of a stolen vehicle.”
4, 5. (a) What are the tragic consequences of immorality that have become so evident today? (b) These conditions are evidence of our living in what time period?
4 Sexual immorality among the young has also become rampant. Reported a 16-year-old New York City girl: “About half my class is on the pill [to prevent pregnancy] and the other half intends to buy it when they go to college.” (New York Times, September 24, 1971) The tragic consequences of immorality include an epidemic of venereal diseases and illegitimate births. In California nearly ten times as many teen-agers contracted gonorrhea in 1970 as in 1960. It is now estimated that one in five high-school students will contract a venereal disease before graduating. In some schools the estimate is that half the student body will get a venereal disease. A total of 43,100 teen-age girls in California reportedly became pregnant in 1970, not including those who married because of their pregnancy.—San Francisco Examiner, June 20, 1971.
5 The director of a medical clinic in Richmond, Virginia, noted that teen-age pregnancies are increasing in a “tragic fashion,” and said: “Alarming is the number of pregnancies among girls under 15.” (Newport News Daily Press, December 13, 1970) The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin reported: “A significant number of unwed mothers are elementary school girls aged 11 and 12.” From what is occurring, is it not apparent that we are living in the critical “last days” that the Bible foretold? These are indeed days marked by extreme lawlessness, including ‘disobedience to parents.’—2 Tim. 3:1-5.
6. (a) What does the widespread delinquency indicate as to the kind of training children are receiving? (b) What is largely responsible for the confusion many parents have as to rearing children?
6 Since so many young ones are becoming delinquent, does it not indicate that something is wrong with the training that children are receiving? Obviously they are not being trained ‘according to the way for them.’ (Prov. 22:6) Yet what kind of training do children need? Many parents are confused regarding the matter. “By their words and actions, many fathers and mothers make it clear that they are almost paralyzed by uncertainty,” noted a member of the Editorial Board of the New York Times. “Old standards of behavior no longer seem to apply,” he said. (New York Times Magazine, January 16, 1972) The conflicting opinions of worldly counselors on child rearing are largely responsible for the confusion of parents.
7. (a) What do writings of worldly counselors on child rearing generally have in common? (b) As indicated by Jeremiah 8:9, what is wrong with the kind of training most children today have been receiving?
7 Although the opinions of these counselors differ greatly, an examination of their writings does reveal something that they have in common. And that is, they generally ignore the Bible as a teaching instrument. Could this be the problem? Recent developments seem to point to the answer. For think about it: Has it not been in recent times when “old standards of behavior” (those frequently based on the Bible) have been cast aside that delinquency has greatly increased? Does this not indicate that young ones need the training and guidance based on the teachings of the Bible?—Jer. 8:9.
WHY TEACH CHILDREN ABOUT GOD
8. (a) What is an outstanding characteristic of children? (b) Why are the answers parents give to the questions of children important?
8 It is natural for children to look to their parents for guidance. Young ones are full of questions. It is typical for them to ask: “Who made the pretty flowers?” “How did the stars get up in the sky?” Or they may inquire: “Where did I come from? Who made me?” One should not minimize the importance of how children are answered on these matters. What young ones are taught makes a lasting impression, shaping their attitudes and viewpoints and thus affecting their future life pattern.
9. (a) What is commonly taught children today as to their origin? (b) What indication is there that the evolutionary views being taught children are not correct?
9 A parent could answer: “No one made us or these other things. All things just came to exist by themselves; it was a chance development—an accident—by which all things came into existence.” This is the evolutionary view commonly taught children in the schools today. It is often said that this view is “scientific,” and that persons who believe that there is a God who made all things are “unscientific.” But is this so? Are today’s popular evolutionary views true? Well, consider: Is it not a fact that when the truth is taught, good fruitage results? Yet look at the millions of delinquent children today who have grown up under an educational system that has promoted evolutionary ideas!—Ps. 14:1.
10. (a) Why is it confusing to a child to be taught that there is no Creator? (b) What do children need to be taught regarding themselves, the grass, the moon and the stars, and so forth, and why?
10 Actually, it is confusing for young ones to be taught that there is no heavenly Creator. Children can see, for example, that men build houses and women bake cakes. These things have makers. Why, then, children may understandably reason, do not beautiful flowers or bright stars have a maker? Children need to be taught the reasonable explanations in the Bible: “Of course, every house is constructed by someone, but he that constructed all things is God.” (Heb. 3:4) They need to be shown that the Bible does not unreasonably teach that no one made us, but says: “Know that Jehovah is God. It is he that has made us, and not we ourselves.” (Ps. 100:3) Children should be taught that God “is making green grass sprout for the beasts, and vegetation for the service of mankind.” (Ps. 104:14) What God’s Word says about “the moon and the stars that you [God] have prepared” should also be explained to young ones. (Ps. 8:3) These Scriptural truths will satisfy a child’s sense of reason, and will help him to develop respect for our Grand Creator. This kind of teaching is necessary in order to “train up a boy according to the way for him.”—Prov. 22:6.
11. What opportunities might a parent seize to teach his child about God?
11 A parent should wisely seize opportunities to build love and appreciation for Jehovah God in their young ones. Perhaps when child and parent are together beneath a star-filled sky, the father can impress upon his son the wisdom and power of Jehovah in making and marshaling these beautiful heavenly bodies in their orbits. (Ps. 19:1, 2) On other occasions, perhaps when viewing the beauty of flowers, a gorgeous sunset, or the varieties in plant and animal life, a parent may be able to teach young ones that these marvelous and good things are evidences of the love of our heavenly Father for mankind. (Acts 14:17; Matt. 5:45) But is not this teaching about God really “unscientific”?
12. (a) Why is it not unscientific to teach that the marvelous things we see around us were created by God? (b) What benefit will it be to a child to know that there is an all-powerful Creator who cares for him?
12 No, not at all! It is as valid today as when an inspired Bible writer long ago observed that God’s “invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that they are inexcusable.” (Rom. 1:20) The fact is, true science in recent years has brought to light a vast storehouse of knowledge that testifies to how masterfully designed the universe and all living things are, providing evidence that there is indeed a mighty, intelligent Creator. How strengthening it is for children to know that such a great God exists, and that he cares for them! (1 Pet. 5:7) This will help them to avoid being overly troubled by the fears, doubts and insecurity of today’s world. It will protect them from mental or emotional upsets, and give them a sense of security and trust. Thus they will not react with violence and hate, but will be inclined to treat all with Godlike love.—Ps. 23:1-6; 55:22; Isa. 41:10.
WHY TEACH CHILDREN GOD’S WORD
13. Why is it evident that simply telling a child not to do wrong things is insufficient?
13 However, simply teaching children that there is a God is insufficient. Young ones also need to be taught God’s Word, including what God requires of humans. Why is this? Well, consider: Many modern parents tell their children that there is a God. And practically every parent tells his child that it is wrong to lie, to steal and to commit other such crimes. Also, mothers often tell their daughters that it is wrong to engage in premarital sexual relations. And yet children by the millions turn to these delinquent activities, realizing even while they are engaging in them that they have been told that these things are wrong. Clearly, telling a child is not enough. But why not?
14. Why is it that children often do not respond to the instruction given by older persons?
14 A principal reason is that children soon learn that they cannot rely on the word or example of humans. They discover that older ones are often wrong, and that their standards of behavior are subject to change. Also, children find that older ones frequently say one thing and do another. So when children begin to realize that other people lie, steal and commit fornication, they understandably come to the conclusion that it is all right to do these things just so long as they do not get caught, or so long as they do not get hurt. Thus young ones today commonly do whatever they think they can get away with.
15. (a) What more important reason do children need to have for avoiding wrongdoing? (b) Why will knowing that these are the commands of Almighty God be a deterrent to wrongdoing?
15 Obviously, then, a child needs to have a more important reason for obeying than simply that his parents or other humans want him to obey. He needs to be taught in the name of God, whose commands these really are, not to lie, steal, commit fornication or engage in other wrong practices. (Prov. 6:16-19; Mark 10:17-19; Heb. 13:4) This instruction from God’s Word will impress on the child the seriousness of wrongdoing. He will then realize that it is not simply the word of a human that is involved, but it is the word of the Creator himself, the One who gives life and who has the power to take it away forever from willful lawbreakers. (Rev. 21:8) Also, the child comes to know that, as the Bible says, “the eyes of Jehovah are in every place, keeping watch upon the bad ones and the good ones.” (Prov. 15:3) Thus the child will recognize that he cannot engage in wrongdoing without being seen by God.—Ps. 11:4; Heb. 4:13.
16. How will teaching children God’s Word provide the strongest deterrent to wrongdoing?
16 However, as the child is taught God’s Word an even stronger, more important deterrent to wrongdoing will grow within him. Bible study will reveal Jehovah God to the child, not only as the Grand Creator, but as a real Person who truly loves mankind. He will learn how God showed his love by sending his Son to the earth to provide a basis for recovering mankind from sin and death, thus opening the way for humans to enjoy everlasting life in a paradise under a new system of things. (John 3:16; 2 Pet. 3:13) Also, the child will learn from Bible study that in his new system God will remove from mankind sickness and even death, as well as the pain, suffering and tears so common today. (Rev. 21:3, 4) At that time all people will be friendly and peace loving. In fact, even the animals will be at peace, and a young child will be able to play with them without being hurt. (Isa. 11:6-9; Ps. 37:9-11, 29) As a child comes to know about these marvelous provisions of Jehovah, his love for God will grow very strong. As a result, he will not want to do anything to displease his wonderful heavenly Father. The child’s love and appreciation for Jehovah will thus serve as the strongest deterrent against doing anything that God says is wrong.
17. (a) Why can one be sure that teaching children God’s Word will benefit them in later life? (b) What Bible example shows the benefit of early training?
17 But can one really be sure that early instruction in God’s Word will benefit the child in later life? Yes, one can, for remember that the Bible proverb says that if a child is trained up “according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.” (Prov. 22:6) Consider as an example the young Hebrew Joseph. His father Jacob evidently taught him about Jehovah and his laws when he was young. Later in life Joseph came to be in the foreign land of Egypt, away from his family and friends. There, while he was working for a wealthy man named Potiphar, this man’s wife began making attempts to entice the good-looking Joseph. She would say to him: “Lie down with me!” But Joseph would refuse, explaining: “How could I commit this great badness and actually sin against God?” Even when Potiphar’s wife grabbed Joseph and tried to get him to lie down with her, he resisted and fled. It was Joseph’s respect and love for God, which had been inculcated in him as a child, that restrained him from wrongdoing.—Gen. 39:1-12.
18. (a) What benefit will teaching children God’s Word have? (b) Why are young ones experiencing so much trouble today?
18 Do you not agree that children today need this kind of instruction from God’s Word? Impressing upon young ones God’s moral requirements will surely help them to live upright, happy lives. Yet today Scriptural guidance is commonly thrust aside as being too restrictive and causing frustration. For example, regarding the prohibition of sexual relations for unmarried persons, one individual recently wrote in the New York Times Magazine: “Surely there are enough areas of frustration in life so that deliberate encouraging of frustration is not necessary. . . . All that we need to do to give our children direction (their own, we hope), is to show them that we value ourselves and others as well, and that there are many different ways of fulfilling ourselves.” But what trouble such rejection of God’s direction has brought, including an avalanche of venereal diseases, illegitimate births and abortions, with their accompanying pain, heartbreak and misery! How clear it is that children need the instruction provided in God’s Word!—Jer. 10:23.
NEED OF DISCIPLINE
19. (a) Are children naturally inclined to do what is right, and how do we know? (b) What is included in the matter of administering discipline?
19 However, in order for a program of instruction in God’s Word to be effective, it must also include loving discipline. This is because 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) The word “discipline” has the thought of giving training that molds and corrects. Thus it involves frequent repetition of instruction so that the child is motivated to comply with it. But discipline involves more. As most parents well know, a child is often not corrected simply by words. (Prov. 29:17, 19) Therefore disciplinary training may also include chastisement or punishment administered with the purpose of correcting the child. But should this form of discipline ever include spanking? Is there truth to the old adage: “Spare the rod and spoil the child”?
20. What is a common view of worldly authorities regarding administering physical punishment as a form of disciplinary training?
20 Worldly authorities on rearing children frequently say: ‘No, the child should never be spanked. Avoid frustrating the child by using such strong measures to change his natural inclinations.’ A New York Times editorial, April 5, 1972, said: “‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’ is a wrong-headed adage that continues to get approving nods from self-appointed upholders of ‘the old virtues.’ It is difficult to fathom why the administration of premeditated, painful punishment by a bigger and stronger person could instill anything other than the belief that force triumphs.” But is this view correct? Is it a mistake to use physical punishment for the purpose of correcting a child’s wrong course of conduct?
21. (a) What does God’s Word say regarding using physical punishment to correct the wayward course of a child? (b) How do we know it is God’s way to administer such kind of discipline?
21 God is man’s Creator. There is no higher authority. His Word is very clear on the matter. It says: “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 [the grave] itself.” (Prov. 23:13, 14) The life of the child is at stake. If he is allowed to pursue a wrong course, it will lead to his own unhappiness and eventual death outside God’s favor. Thus the Bible says: “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) It shows real love on the part of a parent to do whatever he can to correct his child, including spanking him. This is God’s way. “For whom Jehovah loves,” the scripture says, “he disciplines; in fact, he scourges [whips or lashes] every one whom he receives as a son.”—Heb. 12:5, 6.
22. (a) What should be the parental motive for administering discipline, as shown by God’s example? (b) What is largely responsible for the tremendous increase in juvenile delinquency today?
22 Why does God do this to his children? “For our profit,” the apostle Paul said, “that we may partake of his holiness. True, no discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but grievous; yet afterward to those who have been trained by it it yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness.” (Heb. 12:7-11) Children, for their own benefit, need such discipline. It is part of the training that is ‘according to the way for them.’ (Prov. 22:6) The rejection by the world of such disciplinary training is largely responsible for the tremendous increase of juvenile delinquency and the resulting trouble and shame it has brought to parents.—Prov. 29:15.
23. How do children react when they receive or fail to receive discipline?
23 Contrary to popular opinion, children appreciate it when parents show a genuine interest in them by providing reasonable guidelines and restrictions on their activities. Some children may complain at times because of the discipline, but they learn to love and respect parents who show a genuine interest in their welfare. On the other hand, failure on the part of parents to administer the discipline that children so much need is likely to cause a child to resent his parents. A popular magazine not long ago told of a fifteen-year-old girl who slipped into a bad course of conduct and brought shame upon herself and her family. Grieved by her conduct, she said to her father: “Daddy, you should have demanded that I behave years ago, and when I didn’t, instead of talking to me, you should have blistered my behind. When I didn’t make good grades, why didn’t you make me? Did you think I was so dumb I couldn’t make better grades?”—McCall’s, July 1969, page 114.
24. (a) How can parents show that they really do love their children? (b) What will be the result of showing this love?
24 Parents, show that you really do love your children by giving them the discipline that they so desperately need. Heed the wise counsel of God’s Word. Teach its wisdom to your children. Develop within them a love and respect for the Creator, Jehovah God. By doing this you can be confident that you are ‘training up your children according to the way for them, and that they will not depart from it.’ (Prov. 22:6) This will eventually mean for them endless life in Jehovah God’s glorious new system of things. How grateful your children will be to you for preparing them to enjoy this!
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When viewing divine creation, a parent should seize the opportunity to build love and appreciation in his children for Jehovah God