How to Protect Your Children by Means of Godly Wisdom
EVERY day our bodies are at war. They must fight off a host of microbes, parasites, and viruses. Thankfully, most of us have inherited an immune system that protects us against such attacks and saves us from falling prey to numerous infectious diseases.
In a similar way, Christians must fight against unscriptural thinking and values and against the pressures that can destroy our spiritual health. (2 Corinthians 11:3) In order to resist this daily attack on our minds and hearts, we need to develop spiritual defenses.
Such defenses are especially necessary for our children, since they are not born with spiritual defenses that can counter the spirit of the world. (Ephesians 2:2) As children grow up, it is vital for parents to help them develop their own defenses. On what do those defenses depend? The Bible explains: “Jehovah himself gives wisdom; . . . he will guard the very way of his loyal ones.” (Proverbs 2:6, 8) Divine wisdom can guard the way of young ones who might otherwise succumb to harmful association, peer pressure, or unwholesome entertainment. How can parents follow Jehovah’s guidance and instill godly wisdom?
Seeking Upbuilding Association
Understandably, teenagers like the company of other teenagers, but exclusive companionship with other inexperienced ones will not promote godly wisdom. “Foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy,” warns the proverb. (Proverbs 22:15) How, then, have some parents helped their children apply godly wisdom in this matter of association?
A father named Don* said: “Our boys spent considerable time with friends of their own age-group, but most of that time was spent in our home, in our presence. We kept an open house that was invariably full of young ones, whom we fed and made feel welcome. We were happy to put up with the noise and commotion in our house for the sake of providing a safe environment in which our children could enjoy themselves.”
Brian and Mary have three fine children but freely admit that training them has not always been easy. They related: “In our congregation, there were few young ones in their late teens to associate with our daughter Jane. She did, however, have one friend by the name of Susan, who was an outgoing, cheerful young person. Her parents, though, were more liberal than we were. Susan was allowed to stay out later than Jane, wear shorter skirts, listen to questionable music, and see unsuitable movies. For a long time, Jane had difficulty in seeing our point of view. To her, Susan’s parents seemed more understanding, whereas we came across as being too strict. Only when Susan got in trouble did Jane realize that our firmness had served to protect her. We are very glad we didn’t weaken in our stand for what we believed was right for our daughter.”
Like Jane, many young people have learned the wisdom of seeking their parents’ guidance in this matter of association. “The ear that is listening to the reproof of life lodges right in among wise people,” says the proverb. (Proverbs 15:31) Godly wisdom leads young ones to seek the company of upbuilding friends.
Coping With the Pressure to Conform
Closely related to association is peer pressure. Day after day, the pressure to conform attacks our children’s defenses. Since youths usually seek the approval of those in their own age-group, peer pressure can squeeze them into the mold that the world views as desirable.—Proverbs 29:25.
The Bible reminds us that “the world is passing away and so is its desire.” (1 John 2:17) Thus, parents should not allow their children to be overly influenced by the world’s views. How can they help their children to think in a Christian way?
“My daughter always wanted to wear what other young ones were wearing,” said Richard. “So we patiently reasoned with her on the merits and demerits of each request. Even with those fashions we judged unobjectionable, we followed the counsel we heard some years ago, ‘It is a wise person who is not the first to adopt a new fashion nor the last to leave it.’”
A mother named Pauline counteracted peer pressure in another way. She recalled: “I took an interest in my children’s interests and regularly went to their room to talk to them. These long conversations enabled me to shape their ideas and help them to consider other ways of looking at matters.”
Peer pressure will not go away, so parents will likely face a constant struggle to ‘overturn worldly reasonings’ and help their children to bring their thoughts ‘into captivity, in obedience to the Christ.’ (2 Corinthians 10:5) But by ‘persevering in prayer,’ both parents and children will be strengthened to complete this vital task.—Romans 12:12; Psalm 65:2.
The Powerful Attraction of Entertainment
A third influence that parents may find it hard to deal with is entertainment. Naturally, young children love to play. Many older children also eagerly seek amusement. (2 Timothy 2:22, footnote) But if satisfied in an unwise way, this desire can break down their spiritual defenses. The danger mainly comes in two forms.
First, much entertainment reflects the world’s debased moral standards. (Ephesians 4:17-19) Yet, it is invariably presented in an exciting and attractive way. This poses a real danger for young ones, who may not perceive the pitfalls.
Second, the amount of time spent in entertainment can also cause problems. For some, having fun becomes the most important thing in life, absorbing far too much time and energy. The proverb warns that “the eating of too much honey is not good.” (Proverbs 25:27) Likewise, too much entertainment will dull the appetite for spiritual sustenance and lead to mental laziness. (Proverbs 21:17; 24:30-34) Enjoying this world to the full will hinder youths from getting “a firm hold on the real life”—everlasting life in God’s new world. (1 Timothy 6:12, 19) How have parents coped with the challenge?
Mari Carmen, a mother of three daughters, said: “We wanted our daughters to have wholesome recreation and to enjoy themselves. So we regularly went out as a family, and they also spent time with friends in the congregation. But we kept recreation in its place. We likened it to the dessert at the end of a meal—sweet but not the main course. They learned to become workers at home, at school, and in the congregation.”
Don and Ruth did not leave entertainment to chance either. “We made a habit of dedicating Saturday as ‘family day,’” they explained. “We would share in the field ministry in the morning, go swimming in the afternoon, and have a special meal in the evening.”
Trust in Jehovah
Spiritual defenses, of course, take many years to develop. There is no miracle drug that will impart godly wisdom, motivating children to trust in their heavenly Father. Rather, parents have to “go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) This ongoing “mental-regulating” means helping children to view things the way God does. How can parents accomplish that?
A regular family Bible study is a key to success. The study ‘uncovers the children’s eyes so that they may see the wonderful things out of God’s law.’ (Psalm 119:18) Diego took the family study very seriously and thus helped his children draw closer to Jehovah. “I prepared thoroughly for the study,” he said. “By doing research in Scriptural publications, I learned to make the Bible characters come to life. I encouraged the children to identify with the faithful ones. This gave my children a vivid reminder of what pleases Jehovah.”
Children also learn in informal settings. Moses exhorted parents to speak of Jehovah’s reminders ‘when they sat in their house and when they walked on the road and when they lay down and when they got up.’ (Deuteronomy 6:7) One father explained: “My son needs time to open his heart and express his feelings. When we go for a walk or do a job together, he eventually gets around to unburdening himself. On these occasions, we have some fine talks that benefit us both.”
The prayers said by parents also make a profound impression on their children. To hear their parents humbly approach God to request his help and forgiveness moves children to “believe that he is.” (Hebrews 11:6) Many successful parents stress the importance of family prayers, among them prayers that include school matters and other things that are worrying their children. One father said that his wife always prays with the children before they leave for school.—Psalm 62:8; 112:7.
“Let Us Not Give Up in Doing What Is Fine”
All parents make mistakes and may regret the way that they handled certain situations. Nevertheless, the Bible urges us to keep trying, not to “give up in doing what is fine.”—Galatians 6:9.
Parents may feel like giving up, however, when they at times just can’t understand their children. It would be easy to conclude that the younger generation is different and difficult. But, really, children today have the same weaknesses that earlier generations had, and they face similar temptations, although the pressure to transgress may have increased. Therefore, one father, after correcting his son, softened his words by kindly adding: “Your heart only wants to do what my heart wanted to do when I was your age.” Parents might not know much about computers, but they know all about the leanings of the imperfect flesh.—Matthew 26:41; 2 Corinthians 2:11.
Perhaps some children express little enthusiasm for their parents’ guidance and even rebel against the discipline they receive. Once again, however, endurance is essential. Despite initial reluctance or periods of defiance, many children eventually respond. (Proverbs 22:6; 23:22-25) Matthew, a young Christian now serving at a branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses, related: “When I was a teenager, I felt that my parents’ restrictions were unfair. After all, I reasoned, if my friends’ parents permitted something, why couldn’t mine? And I got really annoyed when they, at times, punished me by not allowing me to go canoeing—something I loved. Looking back, however, I realize that the discipline my parents gave me was both effective and necessary. I am grateful that they gave me the guidance I needed when I needed it.”
There is no doubt about it—although our children may sometimes have to be in an unhealthy spiritual environment, they can still grow up to be fine Christians. As the Bible promises, godly wisdom can give them spiritual defenses. “When wisdom enters into your heart and knowledge itself becomes pleasant to your very soul, thinking ability itself will keep guard over you, discernment itself will safeguard you, to deliver you from the bad way.”—Proverbs 2:10-12.
Carrying a child in the womb for nine months is not an easy task. And the following 20 years may bring their share of pain along with happiness. But because they love their children, Christian parents strive with all their might to protect them with godly wisdom. They feel about their children as did the aged apostle John regarding 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.
Some names in this article have been changed.
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“We kept an open house that was invariably full of young ones”
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Take an interest in your children’s interests
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“I prepared thoroughly for the study”