Parents, Your Children Need Specialized Attention
“Your sons will be like slips of olive trees all around your table.”—PSALM 128:3.
1. How might raising plants and rearing children be compared?
IN MANY respects, children grow and develop like plants. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Bible speaks of a man’s wife as “a fruit-bearing vine” and likens his children to “slips of olive trees all around [his] table.” (Psalm 128:3) A farmer will tell you that raising a crop of young plants is not easy, especially when climate and soil conditions are adverse. Likewise, in these critical “last days,” it is very difficult to rear children to become well-adjusted, God-fearing adults.—2 Timothy 3:1-5.
2. What is usually needed to produce a good harvest?
2 To reap a good crop, a farmer needs fertile soil, warm sunshine, and water. In addition to cultivating and weeding, he must provide pest control and other protective care. There may be difficult times along the way, right up to the harvest. How sad when the crop turns out to be bad! Yet, how contented a cultivator can be when, after much hard work, a good crop is reaped!—Isaiah 60:20-22; 61:3.
3. How do plants and children compare in importance, and what kind of attention should children receive?
3 A successful, productive human life surely is more precious than a farmer’s harvest. It therefore is not surprising that rearing a child successfully can take even more time and effort than raising a bountiful crop. (Deuteronomy 11:18-21) A young child planted in the garden of life, if watered and nurtured with love and given healthy boundaries, can grow and blossom spiritually even in a world filled with blighted moral values. But if mistreated or oppressed, the child will wither inside and possibly die spiritually. (Colossians 3:21; compare Jeremiah 2:21; 12:2.) Indeed, all children need specialized attention!
Daily Attention From Infancy
4. What kind of attention do children need “from infancy”?
4 Parents have to give almost constant attention to a newborn. However, does the baby need only physical or material attention on a daily basis? To God’s servant Timothy, the apostle Paul wrote: “From infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation.” (2 Timothy 3:15) So the parental attention Timothy received, even from infancy, was also of a spiritual kind. But when does infancy start?
5, 6. (a) What does the Bible say about the unborn? (b) What indicates that parents should be concerned about the welfare of the unborn child?
5 The Greek word Paul used here (breʹphos) is also applied to an unborn child. Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptizer, told her relative Mary: “As the sound of your greeting fell upon my ears, the infant [breʹphos] in my womb leaped with great gladness.” (Luke 1:44) Thus, even the unborn are called infants, and the Bible shows that they can respond to activity outside the womb. Should prenatal care, which is often encouraged today, therefore include attention to the unborn infant’s spiritual welfare?
6 This is something to consider, since evidence reveals that the unborn can either benefit from or be adversely affected by what they hear. A music director found that various scores he was rehearsing sounded strangely familiar, especially the cello part. When he mentioned the names of the musical works to his mother, a professional cellist, she said that these were the very musical compositions she had been rehearsing when she was pregnant with him. Similarly, the unborn may be negatively affected when their mothers habitually watch TV soap operas. Thus, a medical journal spoke of “fetal soap addiction.”
7. (a) How have many parents given attention to the welfare of their unborn? (b) What capabilities does a child have?
7 Realizing the benefit of positive stimuli to infants, many parents begin to read, talk, and sing to their child even before it is born. You can do the same. While your infant may not understand the words, it will likely benefit from your soothing voice and its loving tone. After birth, the child will begin to comprehend your words, perhaps much sooner than you think. In only two or three years, a child learns a complex language just by being exposed to it. A baby can also begin to learn the “pure language” of Bible truth.—Zephaniah 3:9.
8. (a) What does the Bible evidently mean when it says that Timothy knew the holy writings “from infancy”? (b) What proved true regarding Timothy?
8 What did Paul mean when he said that Timothy had ‘known the holy writings from infancy’? He evidently meant that Timothy had received spiritual training from babyhood, not just from childhood. This is in keeping with the meaning of the Greek word breʹphos, which generally refers to a newborn. (Luke 2:12, 16; Acts 7:19) Timothy received spiritual instruction from his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois from as far back as his memory could reach. (2 Timothy 1:5) The saying, ‘As the young twig is shaped, so grows the tree’ surely applied to Timothy. He had been ‘trained up according to the way for him,’ and, as a result, he became a fine servant of God.—Proverbs 22:6; Philippians 2:19-22.
Specialized Care That Is Needed
9. (a) What should parents avoid doing, and why? (b) As a child develops, what do parents need to do, and what example should they heed?
9 Children also are like plants in that not all have the same characteristics, nor do they all respond to the same methods of care. Wise parents will respect the differences and will avoid comparing one child with another. (Compare Galatians 6:4.) If your children are to blossom into wholesome adults, you need to observe their distinctive personality traits, cultivating the good ones and weeding out the bad. What if you detect a weakness or improper trend, perhaps toward dishonesty, materialism, or selfishness? Correct it kindly, even as Jesus corrected the weaknesses of his apostles. (Mark 9:33-37) In particular, commend each child regularly for his strengths and good traits.
10. What do children especially need, and how can it be provided?
10 What children especially need is loving personal attention. Jesus took time to provide little ones with such special attention, even during the busy final days of his ministry. (Mark 10:13-16, 32) Parents, follow that example! Unselfishly make time to be with your children. And do not be ashamed to show them genuine love. Put your arms around them, as Jesus did. Give them warm, affectionate hugs and kisses. When parents of well-adjusted young adults were asked what advice they could offer other parents, among the most frequent responses were: ‘Love abundantly,’ ‘spend time together,’ ‘develop mutual respect,’ ‘really listen to them,’ ‘offer guidance rather than a speech,’ and ‘be realistic.’
11. (a) How should parents view the providing of specialized attention for their children? (b) When might parents be able to enjoy valuable interchanges with their children?
11 Providing such specialized attention can be a joy. One successful parent wrote: “When our two boys were younger, the process of getting them ready for bed, reading to them, tucking them in, and saying prayers with them was a pleasure.” Such times together provide opportunity for interchanges that can be encouraging to both parent and child. (Compare Romans 1:11, 12.) One couple listened while their three-year-old asked God to bless “Wally.” He prayed for “Wally” on succeeding nights, and the parents were greatly encouraged when they realized that he meant the brothers in Malawi, then suffering persecution. One woman said: ‘When I was only four, my mother helped me to memorize scriptures and sing Kingdom songs while I stood on a chair to dry dishes as she washed them.’ Can you think of times when you can enjoy valuable interchanges with your young ones?
12. What will Christian parents wisely provide for their children, and what methods could be used?
12 Wise Christian parents arrange for a regular study program. Though you may use a formal question-and-answer method, can you contribute to pleasurable interchanges by adapting study sessions, especially for younger children? You might include drawing pictures of Bible scenes, telling Bible stories, or listening to a report you have asked the child to prepare. Make God’s Word as tasty as you can for your children so that they form a longing for it. (1 Peter 2:2, 3) One father said: ‘When the children were younger, we crawled on the floor with them and acted out historic events involving famous Bible characters. The kids loved it.’
13. What is the value of practice sessions, and what may you rehearse during these?
13 Practice sessions also result in valuable interchanges because they help young ones to prepare for real-life situations. One of the Kusserow children—all 11 of whom remained faithful to God during the Nazi persecution—said of her parents: “They showed us how to act and how to defend ourselves with the Bible. [1 Peter 3:15] Often we held practice sessions, asking questions and giving answers.” Why not do the same thing? You can practice presentations for the ministry, with a parent acting as the householder. Or the practice session may deal with real-life temptations. (Proverbs 1:10-15) “Rehearsing for difficult situations can build a child’s skills and confidence,” one individual explained. “The practice might include playing the role of a friend offering your child a cigarette, drink or drug.” These sessions can help you to discern how your child will respond in such situations.
14. Why are loving and compassionate discussions with your children so important?
14 During interchanges with your child, appeal to him in the same compassionate manner as did the writer of these words: “My son, my law do not forget, and my commandments may your heart observe, because length of days and years of life and peace will be added to you.” (Proverbs 3:1, 2) Would it not touch your child’s heart if you lovingly explained that you require obedience because this will result in his having peace and length of days—in fact, eternal life in God’s peaceful new world? Take your young one’s personality into account as you reason from God’s Word. Do this prayerfully, and Jehovah will bless your efforts. Such loving and compassionate Bible-based discussions are likely to have fine results and bring lasting benefits.—Proverbs 22:6.
15. How can parents help their children to resolve problems?
15 Even if such an interchange does not take place during your planned study period, do not be distracted by other matters. Listen carefully not only to what your child says but also to how the thought is expressed. “Look at your child,” said one expert. “Give him your full attention. You need to understand, not just to hear. Parents who exert that extra effort can make a major difference in their children’s lives.” Children today often encounter serious problems at school and elsewhere. As a parent, draw the child out, and help him to view matters from God’s standpoint. If you are not sure how to resolve the problem, do research in the Scriptures and the publications provided through “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45) By all means, give your child all the specialized attention needed to solve the problem.
Cherish Your Time Together
16, 17. (a) Why do young people particularly need specialized attention and instruction today? (b) What do children need to know when disciplined by their parents?
16 Young people need more specialized attention today than ever before because we are living in “the last days,” and these are “critical times.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5; Matthew 24:3-14) Parents and children alike need the protection afforded by true wisdom that “preserves alive its owners.” (Ecclesiastes 7:12) Since godly wisdom involves the proper application of Bible-based knowledge, children need regular instruction in the Word of God. Therefore, study the Scriptures with your young ones. Tell them about Jehovah, carefully explain his requirements, and create joyful anticipation for the fulfillment of his grand promises. Speak of such things at home, as you walk with your children at your side—indeed, on every appropriate occasion.—Deuteronomy 6:4-7.
17 Farmers know that not all plants flourish under the same conditions. Plants need specialized care. Similarly, every child is different and needs specialized attention, instruction, and discipline. For instance, a parent’s disapproving look may be enough to halt the wrong course of one youngster, whereas another child may need stronger discipline. But all your children need to know why you are displeased with certain words or actions, and both parents should cooperate so that discipline is consistent. (Ephesians 6:4) It is especially important that Christian parents give clear guidance that harmonizes with the Scriptures.
18, 19. What responsibility do Christian parents have toward their children, and what is likely to result if that work is well done?
18 A farmer must do the work of planting and cultivating at the right time. If he delays or neglects his crop, he will harvest little or nothing. Well, your young children are developing “plants” that need specialized attention right now, not next month or next year. Do not pass up precious opportunities to promote their spiritual growth in harmony with God’s Word and to weed out worldly thoughts that can cause them to wither and die spiritually. Cherish the hours and days that you are privileged to spend with your children, for these times pass quickly. Work hard to cultivate in your offspring the godly qualities needed for a happy life as Jehovah’s faithful servants. (Galatians 5:22, 23; Colossians 3:12-14) This is not someone else’s work; it is your job, and God can help you to do it.
19 Give your children a rich spiritual heritage. Study God’s Word with them, and enjoy wholesome recreation together. Take your young ones to Christian meetings, and have them at your side in the Kingdom-preaching work. Build within your beloved offspring the kind of personality that meets with Jehovah’s approval, and most likely they will bring you great joy in later life. Indeed, “the father of a righteous one will without fail be joyful; the one becoming father to a wise one will also rejoice in him. Your father and your mother will rejoice, and she that gave birth to you will be joyful.”—Proverbs 23:24, 25.
A Rich Reward
20. What is the key to being a successful parent of teenagers?
20 The rearing of children is a complex, long-term assignment. Raising these ‘slips of olive trees around your table’ to become God-fearing adults who bear Kingdom fruitage has been called a 20-year project. (Psalm 128:3; John 15:8) This project usually becomes harder when children reach the teenage years, when pressures on them often increase and parents find it necessary to intensify their efforts. But the key to success remains the same—being attentive, warm, and understanding. Remember that your youngsters really need personal attention. You can give them such attention by showing genuine loving concern for their welfare. To help them, you must expend yourself by providing the time, love, and concern that they really need.
21. What can be the reward for giving children specialized attention?
21 The reward for your efforts to care for the precious fruitage Jehovah has entrusted to you can be far more satisfying than any farmer’s bountiful harvest. (Psalm 127:3-5) So then parents, continue to give your children specialized attention. Do so for their good and to the glory of our heavenly Father, Jehovah.
How Would You Answer?
□ How might raising plants and rearing children be compared?
□ What kind of attention should a child receive daily from infancy?
□ What specialized care do children need, and how can it be given?
□ Why give your children specialized attention?