Rearing Your Children to Love Jehovah
“My son, if your heart has become wise, my heart will rejoice, even mine.”—Proverbs 23:15.
1. What special joy can parents have, and what should you as a parent do about it?
WHAT a joy it is to watch little children grow up and become mature servants of God! Step-by-step they develop curiosity, absorb knowledge, gain ability, side with Christian truth, develop maturity, dedicate themselves to God and become his faithful servants. If you are a parent, how can you help your children along this fine road? Obviously this takes effort. The apostle Paul asked how persons could “put faith in him of whom they have not heard,” and how can they hear unless someone teaches them?—Romans 10:14.
2. How can we help our children to appreciate Jehovah God?
2 Small children are full of wonder. A butterfly, a bird, a flower, a blade of grass, the sky, a star—all such things intrigue them. What wonderful opportunities this gives us to speak of the Creator and of our reasons for being thankful to him! The psalmist wrote: “It is good to give thanks to Jehovah.” (Psalm 92:1) You can thank him for natural wonders, for material necessities and for the truth of his Word. Your children will observe your thankfulness and will never forget it.—Psalm 8:3, 4; 19:1; Romans 1:20; Deuteronomy 8:10; Proverbs 22:6.
3. What is one fine way to teach our children? Give examples.
3 Little ones love stories. God knew this. He had many true stories recorded in the Bible—stories that can teach even very young children about God’s ways. These show, for example, that we should have faith as did Abraham, trust Him the way Joshua and Caleb did, obey Him in youth as did Samuel and Timothy, and stand firm for our faith like young Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.*
4. What examples do we have of children who learned God’s ways, both today and in Bible times?
4 Children learn rapidly. They learn advertising slogans and many things that you sometimes wish they had not heard. How much more important it is to help them learn about God and his ways! Many persons have remarked on how children can give fine comments in Christian meetings, and how they can participate in the Theocratic Ministry School at a young age. Such youngsters are living examples of the value of the Bible’s instructions about training children. Israelite parents were to teach their children constantly, and even the “little ones” were brought to hear God’s law read. Their sons were to listen and to “learn to fear Jehovah your God.”—Deuteronomy 31:12, 13; 6:5-9.
5, 6. How can you help your children to learn God’s ways?
5 You may know a great deal about God’s Word, but that does not mean that your children do. They do not inherit knowledge. It is up to you as a parent to teach them the wonderful things of God and to make this appealing, so that they will want to learn.
6 Do your children understand the doctrines of the Bible? Have they learned its principles for daily living? Do you have a regular family Bible study with them? If they are still small, have you studied Listening to the Great Teacher, with its forty-six subjects written on their level? If you have done that, and your children are growing up, have you studied with them Your Youth—Getting the Best out of It, which provides outstanding information to help young people face life? The Bible says that “from infancy” young Timothy was taught such things. Jacob’s concern about “the pace of the children” on their way to Seir shows the importance of pacing yourself to their ability. Your study together should be at a level they can understand, and of a reasonable length for their age.—2 Timothy 3:15; Genesis 33:14.
The Power of Truth
7, 8. (a) Why is knowledge of the truth so important? (b) How can parents help their children to appreciate Christian meetings?
7 God’s truth is a powerful force. It can change the thinking and personality of grown men. The Bible says to “put away the old personality which conforms to your former course of conduct and . . . be made new in the force actuating your mind.” (Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:9, 10) Being that powerful, Christian truth can provide great protection for your children. Over and over again young persons express appreciation for the regular efforts their parents made to take them to meetings where God’s Word is discussed, whether they originally wanted to go or not. A teenager said: “I didn’t really want to go at first. I didn’t understand very much. Then I would get really excited because I found out: Wow, I’m learning about the Bible!”
8 Many parents prepare in advance with their children, so the children will understand. Others encourage their children to remember a few points from the meeting and talk about these on the way home. We can imagine such excited discussions as Israelite families returned from their worship at Jerusalem.—Deuteronomy 31:10-13; Luke 2:41, 42.
9, 10. What can you do to help your children to appreciate and enjoy Christian service?
9 As to sharing in the public preaching work, your youngsters may look at godly service somewhat the way Jeremiah did: “Alas, O Sovereign Lord Jehovah! Here I actually do not know how to speak, for I am but a boy.” So, it is important to train them, step by step. In accord with their age and advancement they can ring the doorbell, present an invitation, read a Scripture text, present Bible-based publications at homes in their neighborhood, perhaps even conduct Bible studies.—Jeremiah 1:6, 7.
10 Your own attitude will greatly affect your children. A young Witness says: “My mom really takes joy in the service. Every time she comes back she has something nice to relate.” When young people do extra chores so their mother can spend a month as a pioneer (full-time preacher), they feel they are a part of her activity and look forward to having such privileges themselves. A twenty-one-year-old says: “My parents always made it known that they thought pioneering was the finest way of life.” Another youth explained: “I don’t even remember a time when pioneering was not set as a goal.” Young people can rejoice and have happy experiences serving Jehovah, for he is “the happy God,” and Christ Jesus is “the happy and only Potentate.”—1 Timothy 1:11; 6:15.
11-13. What are some of the advantages your faith provides for your children regarding: (a) fear of the future? (b) fear of death?
11 It is important to make sure that your children appreciate the things they have that other people may not have.
12 One thing they have is security. Today’s youth in general discuss the world’s problems in school, and see them on television. They talk about pollution, atomic war and the possible destruction of the world. Unlike them, young Witnesses have confidence and a feeling of security. They know that God will not let things go that far, but that he will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.”—Revelation 11:18.
13 Many of their friends are frightened by death. A thirteen-year-old said: “Just growing up and having the hope of dying doesn’t seem right.” Your youngsters know that the Bible says the dead “are conscious of nothing at all,” and that their “thoughts do perish,” so the dead could not be in torment. They also know that the Scriptures promise life—that many people in their tombs will “come out,” for there will be a “resurrection on the last day.” Your youngsters can read these comforting statements in the Bible at Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; Psalm 146:4; John 5:28, 29 and John 11:11-25.
14. Why should having the truth be of importance to your children?
14 Further, do your children realize the importance of the truth they have? A young Witness said: “What drew me to the truth is that that is what it is—the truth. I always had to have things explained, I always asked: Why? The Bible is clear as day, you can really hold onto it.” Jesus said: “The truth will set you free.” It has freed thousands, not only from religious bondage but also from drugs, immorality, the danger of venereal disease, superstitions, false doctrines and the worries and troubles that mark this wicked world.—John 8:32.
15 Have you taught your children the importance of God’s love and mercy? Do they appreciate what it meant for him to send his Son to earth as a ransom? (1 John 4:9, 10; Romans 8:38, 39) Do they cherish the prospect of everlasting life in the earthly paradise? (2 Peter 3:13) Your own appreciation of such blessings will encourage your children to grow in appreciation of them. The Scriptures say that parents should fear God and keep his commandments “in order that it might go well with them and their sons to time indefinite!”—Deuteronomy 5:29.
16. What should children be helped to realize about the value of God’s Word in their family?
16 Do your children realize what knowledge of God’s Word may have done for your family? Your children probably have schoolmates who, as a result of divorces, have two or three mothers or fathers. If yours is a united family, in which the parents have made a lifelong commitment to each other, do your children appreciate that this is in accord with Bible principles? (Hebrews 13:4) Do they realize that principles found in the Bible help them to have a sense of security, companionship, belonging, purpose, direction, achievement and personal worth that many young persons have never had?
17, 18. How can children see that God’s Word is of value to them: (a) in religiously divided families? (b) in single-parent homes?
17 But you may be thinking: ‘My family is divided—my husband (or wife) does not apply such principles.’ That does not keep you from applying them. The Bible says unbelieving husbands “may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives.” If your unbelieving mate could be impressed by your good example, think of the effect your faithful application of godly principles could have on your children!—1 Peter 3:1, 2.
18 Or you may be a single parent, having to rear your children alone. If so, acknowledge this problem to your children. Support one another. Let them see the difference between their life and that of other single-parent families they know. What a blessing they have to live in a home where drunkenness, alcoholism, fornication and other works of the flesh do not enter!—1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Galatians 5:19-21.
19, 20. (a) How can parents help fill their children’s needs for communication and association? (b) With what results?
19 Children need play. One of the happy conditions the Bible associates with the restoration of Jerusalem’s temple was “boys and girls playing in her public squares.” (Zechariah 8:5) Children also need your time. Only by spending time with them, letting them talk, and really listening to what they have to say, can you have communication, learn of their problems and be of help. While Christian children do not celebrate certain holidays that have pagan origins, their parents often plan good times for them—outings, get-togethers or other wholesome family fun. They get gifts from time to time throughout the year. Some families have a celebration when grandparents visit. Parents encourage wholesome association with other young Christians. If the family is isolated, youngsters can have pen pals they meet at Christian assemblies.
20 One father often asks his children: “Do you feel deprived in any way because of your faith?” The answer: “Definitely not!” A youth, comparing his life with that of his schoolmates, said: “The only thing I’ve missed out on is a lot of trouble.”
21. While realizing that the training of children is the parents’ responsibility, how can others help?
21 The responsibility of teaching our children is our own responsibility. The Bible shows that the father is to take the lead, and the mother is to help. It says: “Listen, my son, to the discipline of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother.” (Proverbs 1:8; Ephesians 6:4) But this does not mean that others cannot help. The congregation is a family, and over and over again mature older men tell of the special help someone in the congregation offered when they were young. Zealous Witnesses remember with affection persons who took them in Christian service long ago. Young persons really appreciate it when older ones take such interest in them and help them stay in the right way.—Proverbs 13:20.
Your Own Example
22. Of what importance is the example you set?
22 It is important for your children to see that you look to God for guidance and have made his Word a part of you—that you really believe it and apply it to your life. (Psalm 143:10) They see your attitude. If you consider meetings a chore, pick at the elders, criticize members of the congregation and begrudge time spent in Jehovah’s service, it is likely that your children will follow your bad example. But if you view these theocratic arrangements as splendid blessings from Jehovah, it is likely that your children will too. Rearing children is not primarily doing a few big things but a great number of little ones. If you do the little things right each day, you probably will be able to handle any big ones that arise.—Luke 16:10; Matthew 25:21.
23. How can your expectations affect your children?
23 It is very important for your children to know the special place they have in your heart. They should know that you really love them, and that you would be disappointed if they failed to follow godly principles. Solomon wrote: “My son, if your heart has become wise, my heart will rejoice, even mine.” Also: “The father of a righteous one will without fail be joyful.” (Proverbs 23:15, 24) But what if—as your children are growing up and perhaps feeling an urge toward independence—they do something that you have discussed with them and thus they know that it is wrong in God’s sight? Do not be quick to give up on them or quit trying to help. Remember that they too are imperfect and may be going through a very difficult transitional time. Despite your disappointment, continue to show in an understanding, yet firm and clear, way that following God’s principles will truly be best for them.—James 3:2.
24. What reward can parents hope for if they have reared their children according to godly principles?
24 It is gratifying to see our children grow into fine young men and women, to see them take on their own responsibilities and apply in life things we tried to teach them. As Paul urged young Timothy, so we say to our children: “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.” (2 Timothy 2:15) Then we can say of our physical children, who will also have become our spiritual ones: “No greater cause for thankfulness do I have than these things, that I should be hearing that my children go on walking in the truth.”—3 John 4.
These and many other accounts are related in language easily understood by young children in My Book of Bible Stories, available from the publishers of this magazine, or any of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Do You Remember These Points?
□ Why should we be faithful in teaching our children about God and his truth?
□ How can you make Christian meetings interesting for your children?
□ As loving parents, how will we lead our children, step-by-step, in godly service?
□ We want to be sure they appreciate what blessings?
[Box on page 27]
Children need correction, guidance and limits. The Bible says: “Foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy.” (Proverbs 22:15) But when parents are interested enough to set limits and to see that their children understand these and stay within them, children feel safe—their parents won’t let them do things that might harm them.
[Pictures on page 28, 29]
As a young person matures physically . . . parents can assist his spiritual advancement