How to Be a Successful Parent
“I’LL tell you what it takes to be a successful parent,” says Raymond, father of five. “Blood, toil, tears, and sweat!”
Raymond’s wife agrees wholeheartedly. But she adds: “It isn’t easy raising children today, but as you see them growing into responsible adults, the struggle is well worth it.”
Raising children has never been completely free from anxiety. Yet, today, to many parents it seems that child rearing has become very troublesome. “I think being a parent today is more difficult than in my parents’ time because life has become more complicated,” says Elaine, who is 40 years old and the mother of a teenage son. “You don’t always know when to be strict and when to be lenient.”
What Is a Successful Parent?
A successful parent is one who raises his child in such a way that the child has every opportunity to grow into a responsible adult, who will continue actively to worship God and demonstrate love for his fellowman. (Matthew 22:37-39) Sadly, though, not all children take their turn in becoming responsible adults. Why not? Is it always the parents’ fault when this happens?
Consider an illustration. A building contractor may have at his disposal the finest blueprints and building materials available. But what would result if the contractor refused to follow the blueprints, perhaps even permitting foolish shortcuts to be taken or allowing inferior materials to be substituted for the quality ones? Would not the completed building be faulty, even dangerous to use? Suppose, though, that the contractor was conscientious and did his best to follow the blueprints and to use quality materials. Would not the owner of the completed building now have a responsibility to maintain it in proper order? Would he not also have a responsibility not to tear out the quality materials and replace them with inferior ones?
In a figurative way, parents are involved in a construction work. They want to build into their children fine personalities. The Bible provides the best blueprint for this. The quality materials, “gold, silver, precious stones,” are likened in the Scriptures to qualities such as strong faith, godly wisdom, spiritual discernment, loyalty, and loving appreciation for almighty God and his laws.—1 Corinthians 3:10-13; compare Psalm 19:7-11; Proverbs 2:1-6; 1 Peter 1:6, 7.
The child too, as he becomes older, takes on more and more responsibility to build within himself a true upright personality. He must be willing to follow the same blueprint, God’s Word, and use the same quality materials as did his parents. If the child on becoming a young adult refuses to do this or tears down such fine building work, then he is to blame for the resulting disaster.—Deuteronomy 32:5.
Why Is It Difficult?
Being a successful parent today is difficult for at least two reasons. In the first place, both parents and children are imperfect and make mistakes. Often, this involves what the Bible calls sinning, and the tendency to sin is inherited.—Romans 5:12.
The second reason is this: Growing children are influenced by more than just their parents. The whole community has some effect on a child’s values and outlook on life. In view of this, Paul’s prophecy about our day is of concern to parents. He said: “You must face the fact: the final age of this world is to be a time of troubles. Men will love nothing but money and self; they will be arrogant, boastful, and abusive; with no respect for parents, no gratitude, no piety, no natural affection; they will be implacable in their hatreds, scandal-mongers, intemperate and fierce, strangers to all goodness, traitors, adventurers, swollen with self-importance. They will be men who put pleasure in the place of God, men who preserve the outward form of religion, but are a standing denial of its reality. Keep clear of men like these.” (Italics ours.)—2 Timothy 3:1-5, New English Bible.
With the fabric of present-day society woven from such faulty threads, is it any wonder that some parents throw up their hands in frustration and almost give up on child rearing? Look back to the year 1914. That fateful year saw a fundamental change in society, and it was not a change for the better. The two world wars since then have swept more than peace from the earth. Society today is devoid of the moral fiber needed to play out its role in preparing children for responsible adulthood. As a matter of fact, righteoushearted parents face a social environment hostile to the values they want to teach their children.
Thus, parents have fewer helpers on the team. In the past, they counted on public schools to help teach their children the same basic values that they as parents treasured in their home. Not any more though.
“Pressures on youth today are different,” says Shirley, who graduated from high school in 1960. “We didn’t have drugs or free sex when I was in high school. Sneaking a puff on a cigarette was considered being bad 30 years ago. When my oldest daughter attended high school from 1977 to 1981, use of drugs was a big problem. Now drugs have penetrated the lower schools. My youngest daughter, who is 13 years old, has had to face that drug pressure every day at school for the last two years.”
Also, in the past, parents could count on grandparents, relatives, and neighbors to help supervise the behavior of “Johnny.” But once again, that has changed. And sad to report, in a growing number of families, there is not even a two-member team; the whole load of child raising falls on the shoulders of one parent.
Successful Blueprint for Parents
Although child rearing is harder today, parents can be successful if they avail themselves of a time-tested aid—the Bible. God’s Word can be your blueprint, or program of action, for parenting. Just as a wise contractor makes good use of a blueprint to guide the construction of a building to its successful completion, you can use the Bible as your guide in raising your children to be responsible adults. True, the Bible was not intended solely as a manual for successful parenthood, but it does contain direct counsel to parents and children. It is also a treasure trove of principles that when applied can benefit you as a parent.—Deuteronomy 6:4-9.
For example, consider Diane. When her 14-year-old son, Eric, was younger, he was “an intense child, hard to talk with,” she says. It was at that point that she discovered the wisdom behind this Bible proverb: “Counsel [one’s purpose or intention] in the heart of a man is as deep waters, but the man of discernment is one that will draw it up.” (Proverbs 20:5) For some children, their feelings and thoughts—their real intentions—lie in their heart like waters at the bottom of a deep well. Eric was like that. It takes hard work by the parent to draw those intentions out. “When he would come home from school, he would not be bubbling over with things to tell,” remembers Diane. “So I took the time to find out what he was facing at school. At times I would talk literally for hours with Eric before he would reveal what he was really thinking deep in his heart.”
The reason for the Bible’s high value as a guide is simple: Jehovah God is its Author. He is also our Creator. (Revelation 4:11) He knows our nature and is willing ‘to teach us to benefit ourselves and to cause us to tread in the way in which we should walk.’ This is true whether one is a parent or a child. (Isaiah 48:17; Psalm 103:14) Although some people have to work more than others at becoming a better parent, all can become better at parenting by following the guidelines outlined in the Scriptures.
Treat Each One as an Individual
Good children cannot be produced by following some pat set of human rules any more than every adult is cut out to be the “perfect” parent. Each child has his own personality, and each child must be dealt with as an individual. The Bible recognizes this. To help parents avoid unfavorably comparing one child with another, the principle behind the following Bible counsel is apropos: “But let each one prove what his own work is, and then he will have cause for exultation in regard to himself alone, and not in comparison with the other person.”—Galatians 5:26; 6:4.
John, a father of two, finds that the above Scriptural advice helps him keep his children’s viewpoint of each other, or even of other families, in balance. “I encourage my children not to look at what other families have or do,” John explains. “We have our own family standard that is to be maintained.”
Train “From Infancy”
When should religion become part of successful parenting? “You can’t start too soon,” says Gary, whose son has just begun kindergarten. Gary believes that children must have real friends in the local Christian congregation even before they start attending school. That is one reason why Gary and his wife have been bringing Evan to Christian meetings almost from the day he was born. Gary is imitating what Eunice, a parent who is commended in the Bible, did with her son Timothy. Timothy learned the ABC’s of Scriptural teachings “from infancy.”—2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15.
Timothy’s mother and probably his grandmother, Lois, made certain that it was not their personal ideas that impressed him from infancy; rather, they knew it was Jehovah’s teachings that would make him wise for salvation. The letter written to Timothy by the Christian apostle Paul states: “You, however, continue in the things that you learned and were persuaded to believe, knowing from what persons you learned them and that from infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through the faith in connection with Christ Jesus.”—2 Timothy 3:14, 15.
So Lois and Eunice helped Timothy to reason on the Word and to rest his faith on what the written Word of God said. In this way his faith was not grounded solely in his parents but in the divine wisdom of Jehovah’s Word. He did not follow Christian truth just because his mother and grandmother were worshipers of Jehovah, but he convinced himself that what he was taught by them was in fact the truth.
Doubtless, Timothy also considered what sort of persons his mother and grandmother were—truly spiritual individuals. They would not trick him or twist the truth for selfish ends; neither were they hypocrites. Timothy, therefore, had no question about the things he learned. And there is no doubt that his adult life as an active Christian warmed his faithful mother’s heart.
Yes, successful parenting is hard work, but as the mother previously quoted said: “The struggle is worth it.” Especially is this true when parents can say about their children what the apostle John wrote to his spiritual children: “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.
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Educational Program Followed by Parents in Israel
In ancient Israel, the parents were responsible for educating and training their little ones. They became the instructors and guides of their children. Modern parenting can benefit by heeding a similar program. The educational program in Israel may be summed up as follows:
1. Fear of Jehovah was taught.—Psalm 34:11.
2. Honor for father and mother was admonished.—Exodus 20:12.
3. Instruction in the Law, as well as in the activities of Jehovah, was inculcated.—Deuteronomy 6:7-21.
4. Respect for older persons was emphasized.—Leviticus 19:32.
5. Obedience was stressed.—Proverbs 23:22-25.
6. Practical training for living was instilled.—Mark 6:3.
7. Education in reading and writing was given.—John 7:15.
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God’s Word is a blueprint, or program of action, for parenting