Can the Bible Help You Train Your Children?
THE orchid is a very attractive flower, but it is difficult to raise. To do so successfully, you need to control the temperature, the light, and the size of the flowerpot. The orchid is sensitive to soil and fertilizer and is easily damaged by disease and insects. Thus, it is very common to fail at one’s first attempt at raising an orchid.
Rearing children is far more difficult and complicated, and it also requires careful attention. So it is common for parents to feel at a loss when it comes to child rearing. Many feel the need for help, like an orchid grower who needs advice from an expert. Obviously, every parent wants to get the best guidance. Where can such guidance be found?
While the Bible is not a manual on child rearing, the Creator inspired the writers to include in it much practical advice on the subject. The Bible emphasizes the nurturing of desirable qualities, which many feel is often overlooked. (Ephesians 4:22-24) In this respect, Scriptural counsel supplies a key element of a balanced education. Such counsel has already benefited thousands who have applied it, regardless of the era in which they lived or their cultural background. Hence, following Scriptural counsel can help you to be successful in training your children.
Parents’ Example—The Best Education
“Do you, however, the one teaching someone else, not teach yourself? You, the one preaching ‘Do not steal,’ do you steal? You, the one saying ‘Do not commit adultery,’ do you commit adultery?”—Romans 2:21, 22.
A chairman of the Seoul Board of Education said: “Example in word and deed is the best child education.” If parents do not set a good example in speech and conduct and give their child specific instruction, the child will quickly assume they are hypocritical. The parents’ words will lose their effect. For instance, if parents want to teach their child honesty, they themselves must be honest. It is very common for some parents, when they do not want to receive a telephone call, to have their child say, “Sorry, my dad (or mom) is not here.” The child who is given such direction will be embarrassed and confused. In time, he may begin to lie without feeling guilty if he is in a difficult situation. Therefore, if parents sincerely want their child to be an honest person, they themselves must speak honestly and act accordingly.
Do you want to train your child to speak well? Then you have to set a good example. Your child will be quick to imitate you. Sung-sik, a father of four, says: “My wife and I decided not to use crude language. We showed respect for each other and did not raise our voices even when we were upset or angry. A good example was far more effective than mere words. We are pleased that our children are respectful and polite when they talk with others.” The Bible says at Galatians 6:7: “Whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.” Parents who want their children to have high moral standards must first show that they themselves are living according to such standards.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
“You must inculcate [God’s commandments] 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.”—Deuteronomy 6:7.
The trend to work overtime is on the increase. When both husband and wife have jobs, it has a serious impact. The time that many parents spend with their children is diminishing. While at home, parents have to do housework and other chores, so they may well be tired or exhausted. Under such circumstances, how can you maintain good communication with your children? Opportunities for conversation may arise if you and your children do the household chores together. One family head even got rid of the TV, primarily to have more time for conversation with his children. He observed: “At first the children were bored, but as I played puzzle games with them and discussed interesting books, they came to accept the change.”
It is important that children early on become accustomed to communicating with their parents. Otherwise, when the children are adolescents and perhaps face problems, they will not think of their parents as friends whom they can talk to. How can you help them to open their hearts? Proverbs 20:5 says: “Counsel in the heart of a man is as deep waters, but the man of discernment is one that will draw it up.” By using viewpoint questions, such as “What do you think?” parents can encourage their children to express their thoughts and feelings.
What will you do if your child makes a serious mistake? That is the time when he needs kind consideration. Control your emotions while you listen to your child. A father says this about his way of dealing with such a situation: “When the children make mistakes, I try not to overreact. I sit down and listen to what they have to say. I try to grasp the situation. When I find it difficult to control my spirit, I wait a while and calm down.” If you control your emotions and listen, the correction you give will more readily be accepted.
Discipline Based on Love Is Essential
“You, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.”—Ephesians 6:4.
To get good results, your manner of giving loving discipline is important. How is it that parents can ‘irritate their children’? If the discipline does not fit the seriousness of the mistake or if it is given in a highly critical way, children will resist. Discipline should in all cases be given with love. (Proverbs 13:24) If you reason with your children, they will realize that you discipline them out of love.—Proverbs 22:15; 29:19.
On the other hand, it is good for children to feel the undesirable consequences of wrong behavior. For instance, if the child wrongs another person, you can insist that he apologize. When he breaks family rules, you may place restrictions on certain privileges in order to emphasize the importance of keeping rules.
It is good to administer discipline at the right time. Ecclesiastes 8:11 points out: “Because sentence against a bad work has not been executed speedily, that is why the heart of the sons of men has become fully set in them to do bad.” Similarly, many children will test whether they can escape without punishment after misbehaving. So once you have warned that punishment will follow a specific wrongdoing, be sure to follow through.
Wholesome Recreation Has Value
Leisure time and wholesome, balanced recreation are necessary for the mind and body of a child to develop. When parents enjoy recreation with their children, family ties are strengthened and the children gain a sense of security. What types of recreation can members of a family enjoy together? If you take the time to think about it, you can find many pleasant things to do. There are outdoor sports, such as bicycle riding, and ball games, such as tennis, badminton, and volleyball. And imagine the joyful times that can be had when the family plays musical instruments together. Fine memories can be the result of traveling to nearby places to enjoy nature.
In such situations, parents can instill in their children a balanced view of recreation. A Christian man who has three sons said: “I share in my children’s recreation if possible. For instance, when they play computer games, I ask about them. When they enthusiastically explain them, I use the opportunity to talk about the danger of unwholesome entertainment. I have noticed that they turn down inappropriate entertainment.” Yes, children who are happy with family recreation are less inclined to resort to television programs, videos, movies, and Internet games that feature violence, immorality, and drug abuse.
Help Your Children Make Good Friends
“He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.”—Proverbs 13:20.
A Christian father who successfully brought up four children said: “The importance of their choice of friends cannot be overemphasized. One bad friend can destroy all the work you’ve done.” To help his children make good friends, he wisely asked such questions as: Who is your closest friend? Why do you like him? What about him do you want to imitate? Another parent arranges for his children to invite close friends home. He can then observe them and give his children appropriate guidance.
It is also important to teach children that they can make friends with older people as well as with peers. Bum-sun, a father of three sons, says: “I help my children to appreciate that friends don’t have to be peers, as in the case of David and Jonathan in the Bible. Actually, I invite Christians of various age groups to enjoy association with my children. As a result, the children associate with many people who are not their peers.” Association with exemplary seniors gives the children the advantage of learning many things.
You Can Succeed in Child Training
According to one survey conducted in the United States, many parents who tried to instill such qualities as self-control, self-discipline, and honesty in their children had relatively little success. Why is that so difficult? A mother who answered the survey said: ‘The sad thing is that the only way to protect our children is to lock them up in a room and never let them go out in the world.’ She had in mind that the environment children now grow up in is worse than ever before. In this situation, is it really possible to bring up children successfully?
If you wanted to raise an orchid but were concerned that it might wither, you might be discouraged. If an authority on orchid cultivation came along and gave you some good ideas and confidently said, “You will succeed if you do it this way,” how relieved you would be! Jehovah, the Supreme Authority on human nature, provides advice on the best method of bringing up children. He says: “Train up a boy according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) When you train children according to the Bible’s counsel, you will likely have the joy of seeing your children grow up to be responsible adults, considerate of others, having a sense of morality. Then they will be loved by men but most of all by Jehovah, our heavenly Father.