Parents—Reach Your Child’s Heart From Infancy
“Go on bringing [your children] up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.”—EPHESIANS 6:4.
1. What occurred during a particularly trying period in Jesus’ life?
JESUS CHRIST and his disciples were on their way to Jerusalem. Not long before, on two different occasions, Jesus had told his disciples that he would undergo many sufferings and be put to death in that city. (Mark 8:31; 9:31) During this especially trying period for Jesus, the Bible account says: “People began to bring him also their infants for him to touch these.”—Luke 18:15.
2. (a) Why may the disciples have tried to turn the people away? (b) How did Jesus respond to the situation?
2 What response was there to this? Well, the disciples scolded the people and tried to send them away, no doubt believing that they were doing Jesus a favor by protecting him from unnecessary disturbance and stress. But Jesus became indignant with his disciples, saying: “‘Let the young children come to me; do not try to stop them’ . . . And he took the children into his arms and began blessing them.” (Mark 10:13-16) Yes, despite all that must have been on his mind and heart, Jesus took time for infants.
What Lesson for Parents?
3. What lesson should parents learn from this incident?
3 A lesson from this for parents should be: Despite any other obligations you have or the troubles you face, spending time with your children needs to be given priority. The time spent together will allow you to inculcate the spiritual values that will safeguard the hearts of your children and set them on the right course. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Proverbs 4:23-27) Eunice and Lois, respectively the mother and the grandmother of Timothy, took the time to give him the instruction that touched his little heart and shaped his life so that he grew up to be a devoted servant of God.—2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15.
4. How precious are children, and how should parents show that they appreciate them?
4 Christian parents cannot afford to neglect the children that Jehovah God has granted to them. Yes, children are a precious gift from Jehovah. (Psalm 127:3) So spend time with them—reach their hearts—even as Timothy’s mother and grandmother set the example. Not only should you spend time talking with your children about their conduct and disciplining them but you also need to eat meals with them, read with them, play with them, help them to get ready for bed at night. All this time spent with your children is vital.
5. Give an example of one father who showed appreciation for his parental responsibilities.
5 A prominent Japanese businessman who became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses recognized this fact. Beneath the headline, “Top JNR Exec Quits To Be With Family,” the Mainichi Daily News of February 10, 1986, reported: “A top executive of the Japanese National Railways (JNR) chose resignation rather than separation from his family . . . Says Tamura, ‘The job of the director general can be taken by anybody. But I am the only father of my children.’” Do you take your parental responsibilities as seriously?
Why Special Efforts Needed Now
6. Why is it so hard to rear children properly today?
6 Probably never in human history has it been so difficult to rear children in the way God’s Word instructs, “in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) The reason for this is that we are living “in the last days,” and Satan and his demons are causing great woe because they are angry, knowing they have only a short time left. (2 Timothy 3:1-5; Revelation 12:7-12) Thus, the efforts of parents to rear their children in a godly way are being thwarted by the symbolic “air” over which Satan exercises authority. That “air,” or spirit of selfishness and disobedience, is as pervasive as the literal air we breathe.—Ephesians 2:2.
7, 8. (a) What can television bring into the home, and yet what do many parents do? (b) Why is using television as a baby-sitter a sad neglect of parental responsibility?
7 Television, in particular, carries into the home this “spirit of the world,” this poisonous “air.” (1 Corinthians 2:12) Actually what appears on television is often strongly influenced by a powerful immoral and homosexual segment of the entertainment field. (Romans 1:24-32) Your children are especially susceptible to the ungodly thinking and moral filth presented, even as they are to literal air pollution. But what do many parents do?
8 They use television as a baby-sitter. “Not now, honey. I’m busy. Go watch television,” they tell their children. A prominent television broadcaster says that these are “the most often spoken words in many American households.” And yet sending children off to watch whatever may be on television amounts, in effect, to letting them on the loose. (Proverbs 29:15) It constitutes a sad neglect of parental responsibility. As this broadcaster noted regarding raising children: “It is time consuming and a great responsibility this parenting business and it may not be delegated, certainly not to the television set.”
9. From what pollution do children particularly need protection?
9 However, because of the pressure of the times in which we live, you may be inclined, as the disciples were, to turn children aside so that you can attend to what may be thought of as more important business. But what is more important than your own children? Their spiritual lives are at stake! You may recall that when the Chernobyl nuclear accident occurred in the Soviet Union in 1986, children were removed from the region to protect them from the pollution. Similarly, if you are to guard the spiritual health of your children, you need to protect them from the world’s poisonous “air,” which is so often spewed out from the television set.—Proverbs 13:20.
10. What other sources of poisonous “air” are a danger to children, and what Bible example illustrates this?
10 There are other sources of poisonous “air,” however, that can destroy moral values and can harden young minds. Improper association with children in the neighborhood and at school can also crowd out Bible truths planted in tender hearts. (1 Corinthians 15:33) A lesson can be drawn from Jacob’s young daughter Dinah, who “used to go out to see the daughters of the land” and, as a result, was violated by one of the young men. (Genesis 34:1, 2) Children need to be well instructed and trained to avoid the moral pitfalls of a world that is even more debased today than it was then.
Why Train From Infancy?
11. (a) When should parental training begin? (b) What fine results can be expected?
11 But when should parental training begin? The Bible says that Timothy received his training “from infancy.” (2 Timothy 3:15) Interestingly, breʹphos, the Greek word here, is often used of an unborn child, as at Luke 1:41, 44. There the infant John was said to leap within his mother’s womb. But breʹphos is also used of the newborn Israelite babies whose lives were threatened in Egypt in the time Moses was born. (Acts 7:19, 20) In Timothy’s case, the word clearly refers to a mere infant, or baby, and not simply to a young child. Timothy received instruction from the holy writings from as far back as his memory could reach, from the time when he was only a baby. And with what fine results! (Philippians 2:19-22) Yet, can newborn babies really benefit from such early teaching?
12. (a) When may infants begin absorbing impressions and information? (b) When and how should parents begin providing spiritual instruction for their children?
12 “One of the most exciting developments in the whole field of psychology is our new understanding of the great ability of the infant to learn,” reported Dr. Edward Zigler, a professor at Yale University, in 1984. In fact, the magazine Health says: “Babies still in the womb may be able to see, hear, taste—and ‘feel’ emotions, new research suggests.” Evidently, parents can never start too early to instruct their children. (Deuteronomy 31:12) They can start by showing their children pictures from books and sharing stories with them. “The crucial years,” says Masaru Ibuka, author of the book Kindergarten Is Too Late, “are the years from birth to three.” This is because the young mind is especially malleable, absorbing information more easily, as is evidenced by an infant’s quick mastery of a new language. A professor in early childhood education at New York University even said that “parents should begin teaching kids to read the moment they bring them home from the hospital”!
13. What illustrates the ability of infants to learn?
13 A mother from Canada writes regarding her child’s ability to learn: “One day I was reading a story from My Book of Bible Stories to my four-and-a-half-year-old son, Shaun. As I paused at one point, I found to my amazement that he began to continue the story, word for word, as it appears in the Bible Stories book. . . . I tried another and then another, and he had memorized every one. . . . He has actually memorized, word for word, the first 33 stories, including difficult names of places and people.”*
14. (a) Who are not surprised by the accomplishments of infants? (b) What should be the goal of Christian parents? (c) For what do children need to be prepared, and why?
14 Those well acquainted with the potential of infants to learn are not surprised by such feats. “The world could be full of intellectual giants like Einstein, Shakespeare, Beethoven and Leonardo da Vinci if we taught babies instead of children,” claims Dr. Glenn Doman, director of The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential. Of course, the goal of Christian parents is not to produce intellectual giants but to reach the hearts of their children so that the children never depart from serving God. (Proverbs 22:6) Such efforts need to be made long before the child enters school, in order to prepare him for the tests he will face there. Kindergarten or day-care programs, for instance, feature birthday and holiday parties that can be fun for children. So the child needs to understand why Jehovah’s servants do not participate. Otherwise he may grow to hate his parents’ religion.
How to Reach a Child’s Heart
15, 16. What can parents use to help them reach their child’s heart, and how can these provisions be effectively utilized?
15 To help parents reach their child’s heart, publications such as Listening to the Great Teacher have been provided by Jehovah’s Witnesses. This book talks about parties and how “they can be lots of fun” in its chapter “Two Men Who Celebrated Birthdays.” Yet the chapter explains that the only two birthday parties mentioned in the Bible were celebrated by pagans, who did not worship Jehovah, and that at each party ‘someone’s head was chopped off.’ (Mark 6:17-29; Genesis 40:20-22) How can you use this information to reach your child’s heart?
16 You can employ the appealing method of the Great Teacher book by saying: “Now, we know that everything that is in the Bible is there for a reason.” Then ask: “So, what would you say that God is telling us about birthday parties?” Your child is thus helped to reason on the matter and reach right conclusions. Besides the Great Teacher book, other literature has been provided for use by parents, including My Book of Bible Stories and the serial “Jesus’ Life and Ministry” that has appeared in each issue of The Watchtower since April 1985. Have you been using these articles in teaching your children as well as yourself?
17. What practical suggestions are here offered to parents?
17 With your child, you need to go over and over material that covers issues and situations that he will face in school. Let your child know that both of you are accountable to Jehovah. (Romans 14:12) Highlight the good things Jehovah does for us, thus moving the child’s little heart to want to please Jehovah. (Acts 14:17) Make learning sessions a happy time. Children love stories, so really work at imparting instruction in an animated way that will reach your child’s heart. Many families miss a marvelous opportunity for such sessions by failing to have meals together regularly. Do you eat together as a family? If not, can you correct the situation?—Compare Acts 2:42, 46, 47.
18, 19. (a) How should parents schedule the teaching of their children, and what cannot be overemphasized? (b) What features of a modern example of parental training impress you, and what do you believe would result if a parent employed them?
18 The learning session should be adjusted to the child’s age. So with an infant, whose attention span is limited, have a number of short daily sessions. Then, progressively, make them longer and expand their content. The importance of having regular periods for teaching your children simply cannot be overemphasized. (Genesis 18:19; Deuteronomy 11:18-21) One father, now in his seventies, set a fine example in rearing his son, who now is a Christian elder. Years ago he described his program, explaining:
19 “When our boy was about one I began telling him bedtime Bible stories, related in an enlarged, colorful way to make a vivid impression. As soon as he began to talk in his second year we would kneel by his bedside and I would have him repeat after me, phrase by phrase, the ‘Lord’s Prayer.’ . . . When he was three I began to have a regular Bible study with him . . . He would follow in his book, verbally repeating the words after me. He thus came to pronounce words well and learned to enunciate clearly even the big words. . . . To aid in making Bible truths sink deeply into his heart, when he was three we began to have him memorize simple Bible texts. By the time he entered kindergarten he knew about thirty texts, and last September when he started the first grade he had memorized seventy scriptures. . . . Before our boy goes to bed I have him repeat some of his scriptures. Likewise when he gets up in the morning he often recites a few Bible texts as part of his greetings for the day.”
20. What should be included in a teaching program, and how can a child enjoy the house-to-house ministry?
20 Such a progressive teaching program, including proper parental example and the application of consistent discipline, will provide your child with a start in life for which he will be forever grateful. (Proverbs 22:15; 23:13, 14) A vital part of the program should be training in the public ministry from an early age. Make it a pleasant experience by preparing your child to have a meaningful share. The father mentioned above further commented regarding his son: “His ability to quote scriptures makes him very effective in the house-to-house ministry, since many householders are amazed and cannot resist the offer of Bible magazines he presents. He has shared in this Christian service since he was three years old, and is now [at age 6] often more effective in placing Bible literature with people than my wife and I.”—Awake!, January 22, 1965, pages 3-4.
21. (a) What is the grandest gift parents can leave their children? (b) What admonition is given parents, and what should all parents with minor children be having?
21 Truly, Christian parents have a marvelous inheritance, a knowledge of Jehovah, to leave their children and with it the prospects of unending life, peace, and happiness in a glorious new world. (Proverbs 3:1-6, 13-18; 13:22) Above all else, in your little ones’ hearts build confidence in the reality of that grand future, along with a desire to serve Jehovah. Make true worship a natural and happy experience for them. (1 Timothy 1:11) Inculcate trust in Jehovah from infancy. And never, no, never, neglect regular learning sessions with them! Give these your highest priority, continually reexamining what information your children need and how you can best reach their hearts with it. You are busy and under pressure; Satan and his world see to that. But remember Jesus’ example! Never be too busy to have a regular study with your children!
Long before he could read, he had learned those stories simply by listening to the recorded cassettes of the book.
How Would You Respond?
□ What Bible evidence shows that parents should give priority to the needs of their children?
□ Why are special efforts by parents now needed in protecting their children?
□ Why is it so vital that children be trained from infancy?
□ What are some practical suggestions for parents in reaching their child’s heart?
□ What should Christian parents never neglect?
[Picture on page 12]
Parental training cannot start too early