Parents, Find Pleasure in Your Children
“Your father and your mother will rejoice.”—PROVERBS 23:25.
1. What will cause parents to find pleasure in their children?
HOW fine to see a sapling grow and become a stately tree that provides beauty and shade—especially if you planted and took care of it! Similarly, parents who care for children who grow up to be mature servants of God find great pleasure in them, as the Bible proverb says: “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.
2, 3. (a) How can parents avoid grief and bitterness? (b) What do both saplings and children need in order to become a source of pleasure?
2 Yet, a child does not automatically become “righteous” and “wise.” Great effort is needed to keep young ones from becoming a source of “grief” and “bitterness,” even as work can be involved in turning a sapling into a stately tree. (Proverbs 17:21, 25) For example, support stakes can train a young sapling to grow straight and strong. A regular water supply is vital, and a sapling may need to be protected from pests. Finally, pruning helps to produce a tree of beauty.
3 God’s Word reveals that children need such things as godly training, saturation with the water of Bible truth, protection from moral abuses, and loving discipline to prune away undesirable traits. To supply these needs, fathers especially are urged to bring their children up “in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) What does this involve?
Emphasis on Jehovah’s Words
4. What responsibility do parents have toward their children, and what is required before they can fulfill it?
4 “Mental-regulating of Jehovah” means regulating our thinking to conform to Jehovah’s will. Parents, then, must instill in the minds of their little ones Jehovah’s thinking on matters. And they must also imitate God’s example of providing compassionate discipline, or corrective training. (Psalm 103:10, 11; Proverbs 3:11, 12) But before parents can do this, they themselves must absorb Jehovah’s words, as God’s prophet Moses admonished the ancient Israelites: “These words [from Jehovah] that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart.”—Deuteronomy 6:6.
5. When and in what way were Israelite parents to instruct their children, and what does it mean to “inculcate”?
5 Regular study of the Bible, meditation, and prayer equip parents to do what Moses next commanded: “You must inculcate [Jehovah’s words] in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” The Hebrew word translated “inculcate” means “to repeat,” “to say again and again,” “to impress sharply.” Note how Moses further emphasized the need to keep Jehovah’s words to the fore: “You must tie them as a sign upon your hand, and they must serve as a frontlet band between your eyes; and you must write them upon the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Clearly, Jehovah requires parents to give their children regular, loving attention!—Deuteronomy 6:7-9.
6. What were parents to inculcate in their children, and with what benefit?
6 What are “these words” of Jehovah that parents were to inculcate in their children? Moses had just reiterated what is commonly called the Ten Commandments, including the commands not to murder, not to commit adultery, not to steal, not to bear false testimony, and not to covet. Such moral requirements, as well as the command to “love Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your vital force,” were particularly what Israelite parents were to inculcate in their young ones. (Deuteronomy 5:6-21; 6:1-5) Would you not agree that this is the kind of teaching that children need today?
7. (a) To what were children compared in the Bible? (b) What will we now examine?
7 The Israelite father was told: “Your wife will be like a fruit-bearing vine in the innermost parts of your house. Your sons will be like slips of olive trees all around your table.” (Psalm 128:3) Yet, for parents to find pleasure in their “saplings” rather than experience grief, they must take a personal, daily interest in their children. (Proverbs 10:1; 13:24; 29:15, 17) Let us examine how parents can train, spiritually water, protect, and lovingly discipline their children in such a way that they come to find real pleasure in them.
Training From Infancy
8. (a) Who served as training stakes for Timothy? (b) When did the training begin, and with what result?
8 Consider Timothy, who received support from, as it were, two firmly implanted training stakes—his mother and his grandmother. Since Timothy’s father was a Greek and evidently an unbeliever, it was his Jewish mother, Eunice, and her mother, Lois, who trained the boy ‘from infancy in the holy writings.’ (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15; Acts 16:1) Their diligence in teaching Timothy—even when he was a baby—the “wonderful things that [Jehovah] has done” was richly rewarded. (Psalm 78:1, 3, 4) Timothy became a missionary in distant lands, perhaps while he was still a teenager, and he had a prominent role in strengthening early Christian congregations.—Acts 16:2-5; 1 Corinthians 4:17; Philippians 2:19-23.
9. How can young ones learn to avoid the snares of materialism?
9 Parents, what kind of training stakes are you? For example, do you want your children to develop a balanced view of material things? Then you must set the right example by not pursuing all the latest gadgets or other things that you do not really need. If you choose to pursue material advantages, do not be surprised when your children copy you. (Matthew 6:24; 1 Timothy 6:9, 10) Indeed, if the training stakes are not upright, how can the sapling grow straight?
10. Whose direction should parents always seek, and what attitude should they have?
10 Parents who find pleasure in their children will constantly seek divine help to train them, always considering what is in their children’s best interests spiritually. A mother of four related: “Even before our children were born, we regularly prayed to Jehovah to help us to be good parents, to be guided by his Word, and to apply it in our lives.” She added: “‘Jehovah comes first’ was not just a common phrase but the way we lived our lives.”—Judges 13:8.
Supplying “Water” Regularly
11. What do both saplings and children require for growth?
11 Saplings particularly need a constant water supply, as is indicated by how well trees grow beside a river. (Compare Revelation 22:1, 2.) Babes too will flourish spiritually if they are regularly provided the water of Bible truth. But parents need to consider their child’s attention span. Perhaps frequent abbreviated sessions of instruction would be more effective than a few long ones. Do not minimize the value of such shorter sessions. Spending time together is vital to create a bonding between parent and child, a closeness repeatedly encouraged in the Scriptures.—Deuteronomy 6:6-9; 11:18-21; Proverbs 22:6.
12. What is the value of praying with little ones?
12 One of the sessions with the little ones can be at the close of the day. One youth remembers: “My parents would sit on the end of our bed every night and listen to us say our own prayers.” Of the value of doing this, another said: “That got me in the habit of praying to Jehovah every night before I go to bed.” When children daily hear their parents speak about Jehovah and pray to him, he becomes a real person to them. One young man said: “I could close my eyes in prayer to Jehovah and see a real grandfatherly person. My parents helped me to see that Jehovah plays a part in everything we do and say.”
13. What can regular instruction periods include?
13 To help little ones absorb the water of Bible truth, parents can include many practical things in the regular instruction periods. The parents of two preteens said: “Both children started to receive training to sit quietly in the Kingdom Hall from their first few weeks of life.” A father described what his family did: “We listed all the books of the Bible on index cards and practiced putting them in order, all of us taking turns. The kids were always looking forward to this.” Many families include a brief instruction period either before or after a meal. One father said: “The evening meal has been a good time for us to discuss the daily Bible text.”
14. (a) What spiritually rewarding activities might be shared with little ones? (b) What potential for learning do children have?
14 Little ones also enjoy listening to the vivid Bible accounts in My Book of Bible Stories.* “When the children were young,” a couple observed, “a lesson in the Bible Stories book would be covered, and then the children would put on costumes and act out the parts in the form of a minidrama. They loved this and often insisted on doing more than one story per study.” Do not underestimate your child’s potential to learn! Four-year-olds have memorized whole chapters of the Bible Stories book and have even learned to read the Bible! One youth recalls that when she was about three and a half years old, she would again and again mispronounce “judicial decisions,” but her father encouraged her to continue to practice.
15. What matters can be included in discussions with children, and what evidence is there that such discussions are of value?
15 Sessions with your little ones can also be used to prepare them to share the water of truth with others, such as by commenting at meetings. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) “During our practice sessions, I would have to comment in my own words,” one youth remembers. “I was not permitted just to read without understanding.” In addition, children can be trained to have a meaningful share in the field ministry. A woman reared by God-fearing parents explains: “We were never tagalongs who merely accompanied our parents in their work. We knew we had a share, even if it was only to ring a doorbell and leave a handbill. By careful preparation prior to each weekend’s activities, we knew what we would say. We never woke up on a Saturday morning asking if we were going in the ministry. We knew we were.”
16. Why is regularity in holding a family study with children important?
16 The need regularly to supply little ones with the water of Bible truth cannot be overemphasized, which means that a weekly family Bible study is vital. A father of two claims that “a major factor in irritating children is inconsistency.” (Ephesians 6:4) He said: “My wife and I picked a day and time and faithfully conducted the family study on that schedule. It didn’t take long before the children expected it at that time.” All such training from infancy is important, in keeping with the truism, ‘The way the twig is shaped, so grows the tree.’
17. What is as important as supplying little ones Bible truths?
17 Supplying little ones Bible truths is important, but parental example is equally so. Do your children see you studying, regularly attending meetings, sharing in the field ministry, yes, finding delight in doing Jehovah’s will? (Psalm 40:8) It is vital that they do. Significantly, a daughter said of her mother, who had endured the opposition of her husband and had reared six children to become faithful Witnesses: “What impressed us the most was Mother’s own example—it spoke louder than words.”
Providing Little Ones Protection
18. (a) How can parents provide children the protection they need? (b) What kind of instruction did little ones in Israel receive about reproductive body parts?
18 As saplings often need protection from dangerous pests, in this evil system of things, little ones need protection from “wicked men.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13) How can parents give this protection? By helping them to acquire divine wisdom! (Ecclesiastes 7:12) Jehovah commanded the Israelites—including their “little ones”—to listen to the reading of his Law, which included identification of proper and improper sexual conduct. (Deuteronomy 31:12; Leviticus 18:6-24) Reproductive body parts are repeatedly mentioned, including “testicles” and “genital organ.” (Leviticus 15:1-3, 16; 21:20; 22:24; Numbers 25:8; Deuteronomy 23:10) Because of the extreme corruption of today’s world, little ones need to know the proper and improper use of such body parts that are included in the creation that God called “very good.”—Genesis 1:31; 1 Corinthians 12:21-24.
19. What is appropriate instruction to provide little ones regarding their private body parts?
19 Ideally both parents together, or each adult guardian, should identify for the child its private body parts. They should then explain that no other person should be allowed to touch these parts. Since child molesters often test how little ones respond to subtle sexual advances, a child should be taught to resist firmly and say, “I’m going to tell on you!” Teach your little ones that they should always tell on anyone who tries to touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, no matter what scary threats are made.
Supplying Loving Discipline
20. (a) How is discipline like pruning? (b) What is the initial effect of discipline, but what is the result?
20 Little ones benefit from loving discipline, as a tree does from pruning. (Proverbs 1:8, 9; 4:13; 13:1) When undesirable branches are lopped off, the growth of others is encouraged. So if your children are focusing particularly on material possessions or are leaning toward bad association or unwholesome entertainment, these wrong inclinations are like branches that need to be cut off. If they are removed, your children will be helped to grow in a spiritual direction. Initially such discipline may not seem pleasant, just as pruning may cause some shock to a tree. But the fine result of discipline is renewed growth in the direction you want your child to grow.—Hebrews 12:5-11.
21, 22. (a) What indicates that discipline is neither pleasant to give nor to receive? (b) Why should parents not hold back in giving discipline?
21 It is readily admitted that discipline is not pleasant either to give or to receive. “My son was spending quite a bit of time with a youth that the elders had warned me was not good association,” one father noted. “I should have acted more quickly than I did. Although my son did not become involved in any blatant wrongdoing, it took a while to readjust his thinking.” The son observed: “When I was cut off from my best friend, I was crushed.” But he added: “This was a good decision, since soon afterward he was disfellowshipped.”
22 “The reproofs of discipline are the way of life,” God’s Word says. So regardless of how difficult discipline may be to give, do not hold it back from your children. (Proverbs 6:23; 23:13; 29:17) In time, they will be grateful that you corrected them. “I remember being so angry with my parents when I was disciplined,” a youth recalls. “Now I would be even more angry if my parents had denied me that discipline.”
The Reward Worth the Effort
23. Why is all the loving attention invested in young ones worth the effort?
23 There can be no question about it, children in whom parents, as well as others, find pleasure are the product of a lot of daily, loving attention. However, all the effort that is invested in them—whether they be physical children or spiritual ones—is well worth the reward that can be enjoyed. The aged apostle John showed this when he wrote: “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.
Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
Do You Remember?
□ What do both saplings and children need in order to become praiseworthy?
□ How, in effect, can parents serve as effective training stakes?
□ What can be included in instruction sessions with little ones, and what should they be taught to resist?
□ How is discipline beneficial for a child, as pruning is for a tree?
[Picture Credit Line on page 10]
Courtesy of Green Chimney’s Farm