Finding Joy in Training Children
1, 2. (a) What experience did King Solomon have in judging between two mothers, and what aided him to judge rightly? (b) How does blood relationship affect what a person does?
DURING the reign of wise King Solomon he was asked to judge between two women, living in the same house, who had given birth to sons. During the night one child died and its mother quietly exchanged it for the live one. In the morning the real mother, detecting that the dead child was not hers, charged the dishonest mother with the theft, and the case came before Solomon. Unable to determine the truth of the matter, Solomon ordered that the live child be cut in half so each claimant could share. The account says: “At once the woman whose son was the living one said to the king (for her inward emotions were excited toward her son, so that she said): ‘Excuse me, my lord! You men, give her the living child. Do not by any means put him to death.’ . . . At that the king answered and said: ‘You men, give her the living child, and you must by no means put him to death. She is his mother.’” (1 Ki. 3:26, 27) Solomon understood the love of parents for children. Not only had he learned this from experience, being a father himself, but he was well acquainted with God’s view of the family arrangement as expressed in the Scriptures.
2 A close family relationship is a blessing. When Andrew of Bethsaida learned the identity of the Messiah, to whom did he first go with this good news? “First this one found his own brother, Simon, and said to him: ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means, when translated, Christ).” (John 1:41) Blood relationship supplies a bond that cannot be denied. Andrew’s was a natural reaction.
3. Why is Christian brotherhood an even stronger uniting bond?
3 There is an even closer uniting bond, and that is the Christian brotherhood. At Romans 12:10 the Bible says: “In brotherly love have tender affection for one another. In showing honor to one another take the lead.” At 1 Peter 5:9 mention is made of “the entire association of your brothers in the world.” At Mark 10:29, 30 fleshly relationships are compared with those that the truth brings, Jesus saying: “Truly I say to you men, No one has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the good news who will not get a hundredfold now in this period of time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, with persecutions, and in the coming system of things everlasting life.” Yes, Christians have learned that brothers in the truth have something that even natural fleshly brothers do not have.—John 13:34, 35.
4. Why can Christian families expect to have a unity that other families cannot have?
4 But when your family combines both relationships you are indeed in a favored position. Parents who are dedicated and baptized servants of God have the natural love for their offspring that God implanted in humankind. They also have the opportunity to forge a unity in the family circle that can bring happiness and satisfaction unattainable by other means. They can aid their children to become faithful servants of God; not only will this bring the family closer together but it is the best inheritance they could pass on to the children. Yet today that is not as simple as it may sound.
5, 6. (a) What will help parents in anticipating problems that may need attention? (b) How can lines of communication be kept open between parents and their children?
5 In raising a family, problems will arise. It does no good to imagine that they will not, because they will. So keep your eyes and ears open for any signs of them. When your child comes to you with small problems, it is not wise to turn him aside with quick answers. That is the time to show a keen interest in what is on the child’s mind and to draw him out with questions. Many parents say that they have difficulty in getting their children to talk, to tell them what is on their mind. Might it be because the parents themselves have stifled conversation in the past when the children wanted to talk and needed help? How foolish to kill a conversation with your child just because you do not quite feel in the mood at the time.
6 The parent who watches for things to talk about with his children and shows a genuine willingness to discuss just about any subject will not find the lines of communication closing down but will find them constantly open and humming with messages that tell him what he needs to know, and that contribute to warmth and understanding in family relationships. A parent who is willing to listen will usually have children who are willing to talk. But will children go to parents with big problems if the parents do not listen to little problems, assisting in the solving of them and in a way that reflects kindness and understanding? Do you right now have a friend you trust and in whom you have confidence, one you could go to with a serious problem, knowing that he will take time to listen to all you have to say and will not look down on you just because you have the problem? Every child should feel that way about his parents. Do your children feel that way about you? Proverbs 17:17 says: “A true companion is loving all the time, and is a brother that is born for when there is distress.” It is a sad thing when a child must look outside the family circle for that kind of relationship.
7. What does presiding over a household in a fine manner include?
7 The apostle Paul wrote that an overseer should be “a man presiding over his own household in a fine manner, having children in subjection with all seriousness; (if indeed any man does not know how to preside over his own household, how will he take care of God’s congregation?).” (1 Tim. 3:4, 5) This does not say that, regardless of how much time a father gives to other interests, it is all right as long as he steps in and handles matters when his children get into trouble. No, he needs to preside over his family in a fine manner, watching carefully, anticipating problems, looking ahead to what might develop among those in his charge. Preventive counsel is far better than corrective counsel. A father who specializes in forestalling problems is wiser than one who is satisfied to try to solve them when they crop up. It is true that lawyers build reputations by fighting battles in court. But Christian fathers build fine reputations by presiding in a manner that avoids problems.
GUIDANCE FOR ‘THE UNEXPERIENCED ONE’
8. How can parents aid their children to have the right view toward experience?
8 Children have had only limited experience in life, but it does little good for parents to keep reminding them of that fact. On the other hand, if a child is really helped to understand the high value that the Scriptures place on experience and how he personally should be alert to learn from each experience, then the child will likely have the right attitude toward the help the parent is giving and will indeed benefit from the various events that touch his life as the years go by. Actually, all of us ought to be learning from each experience we have. And if the child realizes that his parents appreciate that there are lessons they themselves can learn from various situations, then he will be less apt to resent his own inexperience and be more receptive to the learning process.
9. What do the Scriptures say about those who refuse to learn from experience?
9 What do the Scriptures say about experience? They soundly score those who stubbornly refuse to listen and learn from experience, saying: “How long will you inexperienced ones keep loving inexperience, and how long must you ridiculers desire for yourselves outright ridicule, and how long will you stupid ones keep hating knowledge? Turn back at my reproof.” (Prov. 1:22, 23) “Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself, but the inexperienced have passed along and must suffer the penalty.”—Prov. 22:3.
10. Although young people are lacking in experience, what are some ways to compensate for this?
10 There are ways in which parents can help to compensate for youthful inexperience. Thoughtful parents can kindly help the inexperienced ones over rough spots without embarrassing the children in front of others. Also, as they teach them the Bible they are equipping them with knowledge that can make one wiser than all the experience of a lifetime. Psalm 19:7 tells us: “The reminder of Jehovah is trustworthy, making the inexperienced one wise.” And Psalm 119:130 adds: “The very disclosure of your words gives light, making the inexperienced ones understand.”
11. Is being young and inexperienced something of which to be ashamed?
11 Being young and inexperienced is not, in itself, something of which to be ashamed. It is just a part of growing up, and one must simply be patient. But when one refuses to acknowledge that one is inexperienced and goes right ahead and commits acts of foolishness or lawlessness, bringing reproach on one’s family and the Christian congregation, this is something of which to be ashamed. The parent who realizes this and skillfully aids his offspring to appreciate it will be richly rewarded as his child makes progress toward maturity.
12. How can parents aid their children to learn the importance of showing respect?
12 As a person becomes experienced in Jehovah’s ways he will also grow in appreciation of the importance of showing respect. Parents should set a good example in this regard for their children. The father should demonstrate respect for the mother, recognizing that she is a fellow heir of “the undeserved favor of life.” (1 Pet. 3:7) She, too, should show “deep respect for her husband.” (Eph. 5:33) Both of them should have respect for the elders in the congregation living in harmony with the Scriptural counsel: “Be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will render an account.” (Heb. 13:17) By thus adhering to Jehovah’s ways they show respect for Jehovah and his theocratic arrangement.—1 Cor. 11:3.
13. (a) How should a feeling of companionship affect the parent-child relationship? (b) In what way do television commercials sometimes present a twisted view of this relationship?
13 When such a fine example is set by the parents, it is not difficult for the children to grasp the principle of respect. They will likely have a high regard for their parents and show them respect in many ways. It is true, as has been said, that parents and their children should be as companions. But this refers only to such things as the relationship of warmth and friendliness that should exist between them and not an actual equality in other ways in the household. Application of Bible principles requires that there be a clear understanding of who is the father and who is the child. In contrast, have you ever noticed on television commercials that children are often shown teaching the parents, showing them up as old-fashioned or needing to be corrected or brought up-to-date? Such advertising encourages a son to put pressure on his father to buy the kind of car the son wants. Or it encourages the daughter to put pressure on the mother to be permitted to buy “new” and “different” clothes, perfumes, deodorants, shampoos and other things that really are not new at all. This is simply a device of the commercial world to benefit itself financially without regard to the bad effect in the home. But the Bible shows clearly that it is the children who are the less experienced ones, and they should be encouraged to show respect for those who have lived longer and have seen more of life.
14, 15. (a) Why should children be taught to do some thinking for themselves? (b) Offer suggestions that might assist parents in their efforts to help their children to develop the ability to think.
14 Of course, children must be taught to do some thinking for themselves. Someday they will have to make their own decisions, and early training can help in this. The Bible highly encourages the developing of thinking ability, and this is one of the most important matters in which parents can assist their children. They will develop some pattern of thinking; so why not be sure that they learn to reason things out on the basis of what the Bible tells us about Jehovah and his ways. Proverbs 5:1, 2 says: “My son, to my wisdom O do pay attention. To my discernment incline your ears, so as to guard thinking abilities; and may your own lips safeguard knowledge itself.” If you want to help someone to develop thinking ability it is important not to do for the student what he can do for himself. Christians, in presenting the truth to others, have learned the importance of drawing the listener into the conversation, getting him involved, learning what is on his mind, and then getting him to reason and come to right conclusions. These are devices that parents should have in mind in aiding their children to develop thinking ability.
15 This ability can be developed progressively as the child grows. There are many decisions he can be allowed to make for himself, minor ones. Ask him, “What do you think would be best to do here?” Maybe his answer will show he needs a little more help. Reason with him and get him headed in the right direction. Do not get irritated or impatient. The apostle Paul reached back to his own childhood as an example and said: “When I was a babe, I used to speak as a babe, to think as a babe, to reason as a babe; but now that I have become a man, I have done away with the traits of a babe.” (1 Cor. 13:11) He developed thinking ability as he grew older.
16. How do even worldly people endeavor to prepare their children for the future?
16 Even some parents who are no part of the Christian congregation realize the value of preparing their children for the future. They do not leave the child’s future to chance and allow him to choose what he wants to do, if anything, later, when he is old enough to do so. For example, they may begin early in the child’s life to prepare him to manage the family business, to care for the family estate or to start a new career. Not when it comes to his financial future, but with respect to religion, something that they regard as of little or no importance, they often say they will allow the child to decide later. So, do not think that the world does not approve of the principle of preparation and training. It does, very much so, but in materialistic pursuits, not in spiritual matters.
GIVING COUNSEL THAT BUILDS UP
17. Is it sufficient simply to give accurate counsel, or is something more needed?
17 Sometimes, after receiving counsel, persons have been known to say: “I didn’t mind what he said; it was actually true and deserved. I just didn’t like the way he said it.” Of course, in a Christian household counsel should be accepted even if not presented in the most acceptable way. But are there things that a parent might keep in mind so as to make the counsel easier for his children to take? Undoubtedly there are. It is not just a matter of knowing what is wrong and what is needed for improvement, but knowing also how to approach the matter and how to say it.
18, 19. (a) How do time and place enter into the matter of giving counsel? (b) What else will help in making counsel easier to take?
18 One thing to consider is the time to give counsel. Immediately after a mishap or wrongdoing may often be the appropriate time, but not always so. Waiting until both parent and child are in a more settled frame of mind might be better. Also, the place should be considered. If something amiss happened at the congregation’s meeting place, at someone else’s home or while shopping, it could be that the counsel, or at least any extended counsel, would be best postponed until you arrived home.
19 The way to say it involves kindness, tact, calmness and reasonableness. You might allow the child to express himself on some points, appreciating that you may not have the entire picture. And you could ask questions to see if he gets the point. A smile might be appropriate if the matter is not very serious and the counsel is being readily received. But on a more serious occasion when firm counsel is needed the smile might give a wrong impression. In all cases one should be sure that the counsel is clearly understood.
20, 21. (a) Why do threats not usually yield the best results in child training? (b) What is a better method?
20 Threats and warnings do not usually produce the best results. Why? Because they may result only in fear of the threatened punishment, not hatred of the wrongdoing. (Ps. 97:10) At Ephesians 6:9, masters are counseled to ‘let up on the threatening, for you know that the Master of both them and you is in the heavens, and there is no partiality with him.’
21 The better method is to show the advantage of doing things in Jehovah’s way and, where possible, the reasons why certain things are bad. Optimistically encourage the right course, but at the same time lovingly make clear what the consequences of disobedience will be. There is a difference between threatening and outlining what the consequences of a certain course undoubtedly will be. Notice the inviting manner in which Jehovah encourages the proper course: “My son, if you will receive my sayings and treasure up my own commandments with yourself, so as to pay attention to wisdom with your ear, that you may incline your heart to discernment; . . . in that case you will understand the fear of Jehovah, and you will find the very knowledge of God.” (Prov. 2:1-5) But later on in this chapter, consequences are introduced in a kindly but firm manner: “The purpose is that you may walk in the way of good people and that the paths of the righteous ones you may keep. For the upright are the ones that will reside in the earth, and the blameless are the ones that will be left over in it. As regards the wicked, they will be cut off from the very earth; and as for the treacherous, they will be torn away from it.”—Prov. 2:20-22.
22, 23. How do associates affect a child, and so what should be the attitude of parents on this?
22 Christian parents often find that problems arise when their children begin to associate with other children in the neighborhood or with schoolmates. They must, of course, have some association with outsiders. Complete isolation today is next to impossible and is inadvisable. Worldly associates vary in the degree of unchristian influence that they exert. But parents need to know with whom their children talk and play. While some worldly persons today have certain admirable characteristics, it must be remembered that one who is not a worshiper of Jehovah cannot be said to be good company.—1 Cor. 15:33.
23 In a general way one might say that there are really only two kinds of associates. Proverbs 13:20 says: “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.” Of course, just who it is that are the wise ones is not identified here. But the Bible makes clear elsewhere what kind of wisdom is meant. Psalm 111:10 says: “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom.” So worshipers of Jehovah are the wise ones with whom your children should associate. This will help them to become truly wise. The ideal situation is for parents to have such a fine program outlined for their children that little or no time remains for outside associations. Being with the family or other Christians becomes so interesting and absorbing that other associations do not become a temptation. But if they do, then parents should take time to make clear to the child the Bible’s viewpoint on the matter; at the same time they should firmly exercise needed control.
24. Why do the children themselves need to understand what the Bible says about bad associations?
24 Should Christian parents actually be that frank and straightforward in teaching their children about worldly associations? Why not? Children, generally, appreciate being told the truth of a matter so it is not misunderstood. At least a number of them today claim they want older ones to “tell it as it is.” Of course, children should also be taught kindness and tact so as to be able to deal with others in a loving way. But it is not sufficient for the parents alone to be aware of the dangers of wrong associations. If children are to be protected, then they too must know the dangers, and it is the responsibility of the parents to make the point clear.
25. To whom do parents need to look for guidance in training their children, and why?
25 In seeking to build within their children the durable qualities that they need in order to survive the trials that are still ahead for all true Christians, parents should look to Jehovah for strength and guidance. (1 Cor. 3:10-15) Training children so that they grow up to be a source of pleasure to their parents and an honor to God is no easy thing. It requires constant vigilance. But, while it is a responsibility that causes anxious moments at times, it is also a privilege given to us by a loving God that primarily brings joy. There can indeed be satisfaction and joy in training children.
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Genuine willingness to listen to your children’s little problems is important in keeping the lines of communication open