Are You Teaching Your Children?
“These words that I am commanding you . . . you must inculcate them in your son.”—Deut. 6:6, 7.
1. Why is it so important that parents teach their children?
ARE you sincerely interested in seeing your children grow up to be honest, upright persons who love God and their fellowman? No doubt this is one of your keenest desires. But do you realize that whether this desire comes true or not depends largely upon how you teach them? This is true. And it is especially true now when there are so many pressures upon young people to turn to sexual immorality, drug abuse and other forms of delinquency. That is why teaching your children is one of the most important activities you parents will ever perform in life. Do you consider it that important? Do you know what can happen, and is actually happening in families where parents have failed to maintain regular and free communication with their children?
2, 3. What true experience illustrates what can happen when communications between parents and child break down?
2 Recently a popular magazine told about a family in Long Island, New York, in which there was a breakdown in the lines of communication. The boy developed periods of moodiness, silence and belligerence. Eventually he began taking drugs. The parents found out, but were unable really to discuss the matter with him. Instead, there were only angry arguments, and the boy flouted his parents’ orders to stop using drugs. In many other families in the parents’ circle of friends, the children were also drug users. In fact, a district attorney estimated that three quarters of the youths in the county had experimented with marijuana and other drugs!
3 In this particular family, conditions deteriorated to the point where the father would yell at his son, and his son would yell back and even threaten his parents. Finally, on Sunday afternoon, February 27, 1972, when under the influence of drugs, the boy came at his father with a steak knife. The father drew the gun he was carrying for protection and fired into his son’s heart. Asked later why he aimed to kill, the father said: “All I could think of was that if I only wounded the boy, he would come back and kill Carol [his mother] and me. There had been so many threats.” How tragic!—Life, May 5, 1972.
4. (a) As indicated by 2 Timothy 3:14, 15, when should one begin teaching one’s children? (b) How can the lines of communication be kept open as young ones grow older?
4 It is clear that a vital need exists for parents to take a loving interest in teaching their children and in always keeping open the lines of free and uninhibited communication! The Bible shows that the time to begin working on this is when the children are very young, even from infancy. (2 Tim. 3:14, 15) Then efforts need to be continued day in and day out, year after year, from infancy right up through the teen-age years. There can be no letup in the program of teaching. If children are to receive the guidance they so much need, parents must continually work to maintain a relationship that will encourage their children to talk freely with them and to confide in them.
DIVINE GUIDANCE THAT CHILDREN NEED
5, 6. (a) Even though some parents try to rear their children properly, why do they have tragic results? (b) What valuable instructions did God give his people Israel on rearing children?
5 However, even some parents who make a real effort to rear their children properly have tragic results, as evidenced in the case of the family mentioned above. The father, for example, would try to help his son by getting books from the library on animals and their care, something in which the son showed interest. And both parents encouraged the boy to take an interest in sports. Yet, despite their efforts, something was evidently lacking, as is true in so many homes today. And what is it that is lacking? The parents fail to heed closely GOD’S instructions on rearing children. Long ago Jehovah God gave his people Israel counsel on how to rear their children. And happily this guidance has been preserved in his word the Bible so that parents today can benefit from it.
6 Jehovah God used his spokesman Moses to give these instructions to his people: “Now these are the commandment, the regulations and the judicial decisions that Jehovah your God has commanded to teach you . . . Listen, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah. And 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. And you must tie them as a sign upon your hand, and they must serve as a frontlet band between your eyes; and you must write them upon the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”—Deut. 6:1, 4-9.
7. (a) In these instructions of God, what first essential is noted for successfully rearing children? (b) Why is it important to spend time with children even though it may require adjustments in schedules?
7 Rather than pass over this divine counsel quickly, let us consider it carefully. What is it emphasizing to parents? First of all, does it not show the importance of parents’ spending time with their children? Note that it speaks of parent and child being together when they ‘sit in the house, when they walk on the road, and when they lie down and when they get up.’ The need to spend time with your children can hardly be overemphasized. This is because children whose parents have little time for them frequently become involved in wrongdoing. True, to arrange to be with your children more may take planning, perhaps even requiring you to forgo certain personal pleasures and other activities. But the reward of having your young ones grow up to become law-abiding, respectful men and women is surely well worth the effort.
8. (a) What else does God show that parents should do, and are older persons today generally diligent about doing this? (b) If one truly is busy when children want to talk, what might one do? Why?
8 However, simply being with your children is not all that is needed. Note that God’s instruction also says to “speak” with the children. Parents should never underestimate the importance of talking with their youngsters. And do not forget, an important part of a two-way conversation is to listen. “The fundamental complaint of young Americans,” noted one well-known writer, is “that they cannot talk with grown people. . . . Their efforts to communicate with us are invariably and completely squelched.” Unfortunately, this is often true. Parents frequently push off their inquiring child with a gruff: “Go away; can’t you see I’m busy?” Never allow this to occur in your home! If it is true that you are really busy, why not tell your child that you will discuss the matter later with him, and then do so? In this way your child will sense that you are really interested in him and he will more readily confide in you. So heed the Bible’s divine counsel! Speak with your children, and do so regularly, as God says: “When you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.”
“THESE WORDS” YOU MUST TEACH
9. (a) What questions are raised regarding “these words” that God says should be taught young ones? (b) What type of instructions, although important, have been found to be insufficient?
9 But spending time with your children and speaking with them is still not enough. Looking again at God’s instructions, you will note that He explains what parents should speak to their children. He says: “These words . . . you must inculcate them in your son and speak of them.” What are “these words”? Have they to do with general instruction, teaching your children an appreciation for fine music, good literature, the wonders of life and other marvelous things around us? Have they to do with good manners and proper habits, such as to be neat, orderly, punctual, and so forth? Surely these are good things to teach young ones. But is it not true that many parents who have taught such things to their children have received the shock of learning that their youngsters have become involved in illegal use of drugs, or other criminal activity, or that their daughters have become pregnant as a result of illicit sex relations? Obviously there is something even more valuable that parents need to teach their young ones.
10. (a) What, principally, are “these words” that parents should teach their children? (b) What does the word “inculcate” mean, and so what is God, in effect, telling parents?
10 A closer examination of God’s instructions reveals that God is talking about imparting spiritual matters to children. “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah,” parents are told. “And you must love Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your vital force. And these words . . . you must inculcate them in your son.” Yes, what parents should primarily teach their young ones is regarding Jehovah God—that he is the one and only Creator and Life-Giver—and that he is worthy of our whole-souled love and devotion. And note that God does not say that these matters are just to be told to children, but says: “You must inculcate them in your son.” According to Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, the word “inculcate” means “to teach and impress by frequent repetitions or admonitions: urge on or fix in the mind.”a So God is here, in effect, encouraging parents to institute a planned program of Bible instruction that has the express purpose of impressing on the minds of their children spiritual matters.
11. What other things are included in “these words” that parents are to inculcate in their children, and how do we know?
11 But “these words” that are to be inculcated in children also include God’s moral standards or requirements. This is indicated by the context in which these instructions to the nation of Israel are found. The prophet Moses had just reiterated the principal commandments of God’s law to Israel, namely, not to bear false witness, not to steal, not to murder, not to commit adultery, and so forth. (Deut. 5:6-21) And since shortly afterward Moses went on to say, “And these words . . . you must inculcate them in your son,” it is evident that parents were being impressed with the need to impart moral values to their children. It is similar instruction that Christian parents must provide their children today if they are to ensure for them a secure, happy future.—Matt. 22:37-40; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10; Rev. 21:8.
12, 13. (a) Who are chiefly responsible for teaching children? (b) What does it mean to bring children up in the “mental-regulating of Jehovah”?
12 That both the father and the mother have the privilege and responsibility to share in giving this instruction is shown by the Bible command to children: “Observe, O my son, the commandment of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother.” (Prov. 6:20) Indicating who it is, however, that bears the chief responsibility for teaching the children, God’s Word says: “You, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Eph. 6:4) Yes, it is Christian fathers who are principally entrusted with the responsibility of teaching their children.
13 However, what does it mean for fathers to bring up their children in the “mental-regulating of Jehovah”? “Mental-regulating,” in the original Greek, has the idea of “putting mind in.” And so Christian fathers are here, in effect, being urged to put the mind of Jehovah God in their children. And what a protection this will be for their young ones! For if children have inculcated in their minds God’s thoughts, his way of thinking, this will be a wonderful safeguard against their engaging in any wrongdoing.
PUTTING GOD’S MIND IN YOUR CHILDREN
14. What else is usually required to put God’s mind in children besides simply telling them God’s laws?
14 But it is admittedly not easy to bring children up in the mental-regulating of Jehovah. Simply telling them what is God’s mind on matters often is not enough to cause them to accept what God says. Thus a parent may read to his son or daughter from the Bible regarding God’s laws prohibiting fornication, even doing so many times. (Gal. 5:19, 21; Eph. 5:5) Such repetition may impress upon young ones what God’s law is. However, putting God’s mind in them often requires more. Children need to be helped to reason on the value of God’s law so that they become convinced that it is really right and good, and is for their benefit. When you reason with them on the rightfulness of the Scriptures, they will come to be in full agreement with God’s viewpoint. Then, in effect, it can be said that you have put God’s mind in them.
15. (a) What is it good to know in order to put God’s mind in young ones, and how can a parent find this out? (b) How might a parent wisely respond if his child expresses incorrect views?
15 Convinced that you should endeavor to put God’s mind in your child, you can take an important preliminary step in doing so by finding out what your child’s thinking is. Appropriate questions often will draw forth his true feelings. For example, in talking to him about God’s law prohibiting fornication, you might ask: “Do you think that we are benefited by obedience to this law of God, or does it rob us of happiness?” Or you could ask: “What difference does it make whether we live according to God’s law or not?” After asking such a question, welcome your youngster’s expressions. If you scold or severely criticize when the views he expresses are not correct, this may squelch further communication. Rather, why not thank him for being straightforward in expressing his thoughts, and encourage him always to speak freely with you? You have accomplished a great deal if your child expresses his true feelings to you. It puts you in a better position to talk with him.
16. How could a parent help his youngster to appreciate the correctness of God’s law prohibiting fornication?
16 If you should find that your youngster’s views are incorrect, then be prepared to reason with him on the matter. You might, for example, draw attention to the truly miraculous process of reproduction in which one fertilized cell divides and multiplies according to a prearranged plan to become a human baby, and then ask: “Don’t you think that the One who designed this marvelous reproductive process knows best how humans should use their God-given powers of reproduction?” (Ps. 139:13-17) Or you could ask: “Do you think that our loving Creator would make a law to rob us of the enjoyment of life? Or do you think his laws were made to enhance our happiness?” (Ps. 145:16) Such questions can start your youngster really to think on the matter. Then perhaps you can draw his attention to examples of how sexual immorality has led to disappointment, venereal diseases and calamity. (2 Sam. 13:1-33) In this way the child is helped to see the reasonableness and correctness of God’s law. As a result, he may come to accept God’s views, and you will thus have put God’s mind in him.
17. What help can prayer be in bringing children up in the “mental-regulating of Jehovah”?
17 In a similar way, you will want to put God’s mind into your children on many other matters, inculcating in them, for example, God’s laws in connection with being truthful, kind, peaceable, loving, and so forth. But if you have problems in teaching your children, what can you do? Manoah, the father of Samson, prayed to Jehovah for guidance in training his boy. (Judg. 13:8-14) Why not follow this example? Prayer to Jehovah can accomplish a great deal. One father explained that on occasions when his son would become moody or depressed and talked little, he would go to his bedroom at night and, after knocking, he would go in and say: “Son, I couldn’t help but notice that you haven’t been quite yourself these past few days. Is there something on your mind, something that we can talk about?” Usually they would be able to talk, and the father would suggest asking Jehovah’s help, saying: “Mind if I do that for us?” After the prayer, and once they had talked the matter out, the son was usually greatly benefited. When problems arise, praying with your children, asking Jehovah’s guidance, will prove an aid in bringing them up in the “mental-regulating of Jehovah.”
18. What besides teaching ability is needed to bring children up in the “mental-regulating of Jehovah”?
18 Much indeed is involved in putting God’s mind in your children, including a lot of time, effort and teaching ability. Yet it is not a matter of perfecting some academic teaching methods, but, rather, your love for your children, evidenced by your teaching them with earnestness, conviction and enthusiasm, that will prove especially effective in bringing them up in the “mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Prov. 3:1-7) Also, your children will be helped if you explain to them that you, too, are under obligation to obey God’s laws, and that you are grateful for these laws because they have aided you to enjoy a happier life. Do you have a regular program of teaching your children, beginning to do so when they are very young, even from infancy?
A VALUABLE AID IN TEACHING CHILDREN
19. (a) What aid did the Watch Tower Society provide for helping parents to teach their children? (b) What are some of the lessons taught in this teaching aid?
19 Because the Watch Tower Society realized what a difficult job parents have in rearing children in this wicked system of things, it arranged that an aid be provided for parents in teaching their young ones. Beginning in the May 15, 1970, issue of The Watchtower, a series of articles “specially designed for parents to read with their children” was printed. These articles appeared in nearly every magazine up to and including the August 1, 1971, issue. Then in the summer of 1971 the small book Listening to the Great Teacher was released for circulation. It contains, not only these Watchtower articles in revised form, but many other subjects as well. Each subject is designed to impress upon a child’s mind some principle or instruction of God’s Word. In all, there are forty-six subjects based on the illustrations, teachings, miracles and life experiences of the Great Teacher, Jesus Christ. For example, the one entitled “A Good Neighbor” impresses the point that we should be kind to everyone; “One Leper Gave Glory to God” shows that we should not forget to say ‘Thank you’; “The Unforgiving Slave” stresses the importance of being forgiving; “Happy Are the Peaceable” explains why we should not become involved in fights; “Two Persons Who Did Not Tell the Truth” teaches that we should always tell the truth, and there are many more valuable lessons taught.
20, 21. What benefits have been realized from using this teaching aid?
20 When this material began to be published, scores of letters began to be received expressing appreciation for this teaching aid. One parent wrote: “The results have been astonishing. Not only isn’t our daughter rebellious anymore, but she cannot wait for The Watchtower to come so that she can read these articles.” A mother explained: “I had a very hard time getting my children to study the Bible with me. They tried everything they could think of to get out of the study. Now, because of the enthusiasm that they show, my husband, who was a nonbeliever, has started to study the Bible.” A father wrote: “I have had difficulty communicating to my children the truths from Jehovah because one has to explain them in a certain way in which a child can understand. These articles have helped me to speak with them in a more interesting and delightful way. After we finish reading the articles together the children, all five, will say, ‘Is that all?’”
21 Even persons who are not Jehovah’s witnesses have found this to be a valuable aid in teaching children. A schoolteacher who had been given the book Listening to the Great Teacher said: “Thank you so much. It is exactly what I’ve been looking for. Many of these children get little training at home so we must teach them many basic things such as not to lie, steal, and so forth. I read them the first chapter today because they will have to know who the Great Teacher is.” A seven-year-old in an Indiana school offered to read the book to his class. By March 1972 he had read to them thirty chapters, and many in the school obtained books for themselves.
22. What is the finest gift parents can give their children?
22 Are you using this valuable aid in teaching your children? Surely you need every help you can receive to inculcate in your young ones the spiritual counsel and moral values that God has commanded that children be taught. Many parents have found the book Listening to the Great Teacher just what they have needed in order to do this. So do not fail to use it regularly. Truly, there is no better gift that you can give your children than to impart to them spiritual instruction that puts in them the mind of God!
a This, too, is the sense of the original Hebrew word, an intensive form of sha·nanʹ, meaning “to repeat,” “to say again and again,” “to impress sharply.”