Parents—Be a Fine Example for Your Children
“PSYCHOLOGISTS can call off their century-long search for the key to rearing a good child—not because they’ve found it but because it doesn’t exist.” So said a Time magazine review of a book on child rearing. The book argues that children primarily absorb the values of their peers, not those of their parents.
There is no denying that peer pressure is a powerful force to be reckoned with. (Proverbs 13:20; 1 Corinthians 15:33) Columnist William Brown observed: “If there is any single, secular God for the teenager it is the God of conformity. . . . Being different for teens is a fate worse than death.” When parents fail to make homelife warm and inviting or do not spend enough time with their children—both of which are common situations in today’s busy world—they are, in effect, opening the door for peer influence to play havoc with their children.
Furthermore, during these “last days,” the family unit is under attack because, as the Bible foretold, people are preoccupied with money, pleasures, and self. Should we be surprised, then, to see children becoming “disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection”?—2 Timothy 3:1-3.
The term “natural affection,” as used in the Bible, describes familial love. This love is a natural bond that moves parents to care for their children and children to cling to their parents. But when parents lack natural affection, children will look elsewhere for emotional support—generally to their peers, whose values and attitudes they will probably adopt. Yet, this situation can often be avoided if parents allow Bible principles to govern their family life.—Proverbs 3:5, 6.
The Family—A Divine Institution
After uniting Adam and Eve as husband and wife, God gave them this mandate: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth.” Thereafter, the family—father, mother, and children—came into being. (Genesis 1:28; 5:3, 4; Ephesians 3:14, 15) To help humans rear their children, Jehovah made certain basic aspects of parenting instinctive. Unlike animals, though, humans need additional help, so Jehovah provided written guidelines for them. Included are directions on moral and spiritual matters and on the proper disciplining of children.—Proverbs 4:1-4.
Addressing fathers in particular, God said: “These words that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart; and you must inculcate them 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 6:6, 7; Proverbs 1:8, 9) Note that parents were to put God’s law into their own heart first. Why was this important? Because the kind of teaching that truly motivates others is not from the mouth but from the heart. Only when parents teach from their heart will they reach the heart of their offspring. Such parents will also serve as fine examples for their children, who are quick to detect insincerity.—Romans 2:21.
Christian parents are told to teach their children from infancy “the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4, The Amplified Bible; 2 Timothy 3:15) From infancy? Yes! “Sometimes we parents don’t give children the credit they deserve,” wrote one mother. “We underestimate their abilities. The potential is there. We parents must utilize it.” Yes, children love to learn, and when taught by godly parents, they will also learn to love. Such children will feel safe and secure within the boundaries set for them. Hence, successful parents strive to be loving companions, good communicators, and patient but firm teachers, providing a wholesome environment in which their children thrive.*
Protect Your Children
In a letter to parents, a concerned headmaster in Germany wrote: “We should like to encourage you dear parents to venture to take a greater hand yourselves in the upbringing of your children and not surrender to the television or to the street what is actually your own share of [the responsibility for] their personality development.”
To surrender one’s child to the television or the street is, in effect, to let the spirit of the world influence the child’s upbringing. (Ephesians 2:1, 2) In direct opposition to God’s spirit, this worldly spirit, like a strong wind, carries the seeds of “earthly, animal, demonic” thinking and liberally deposits them in the mind and heart of the naive or foolish. (James 3:15) These weedlike infestations eventually corrupt the heart. Jesus illustrated the effect of what is sown in the heart, saying: “A good man brings forth good out of the good treasure of his heart, but a wicked man brings forth what is wicked out of his wicked treasure; for out of the heart’s abundance his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) Hence, the Bible exhorts us: “More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.”—Proverbs 4:23.
Of course, children are children, and some are prone to be contrary, even wayward. (Genesis 8:21) What can parents do? “Foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy; the rod of discipline is what will remove it far from him,” says the Bible. (Proverbs 22:15) Some view this as harsh treatment that is out-of-date. Actually, the Bible is against violence and abuse of any sort. The “rod,” though at times literal, represents parental authority that is administered firmly but lovingly and appropriately out of concern for the children’s eternal welfare.—Hebrews 12:7-11.
Enjoy Recreation With Your Children
It is common knowledge that for children to develop properly, they need play and diversion. Wise parents take advantage of opportunities to reinforce the parent-child bond by enjoying recreation with their children whenever possible. Thus, not only can parents guide their children in choosing the right kind of recreation but they can also show the children how much they value their company.
One Witness father says that he often played ball with his son when he came home from work. A mother recalls that board games were a favorite with her children. A grown daughter remembers that her family enjoyed cycling together. All these children are now adults, but their love for their parents—and for Jehovah—is as strong as ever if not stronger.
Truly, parents who show by word and action that they love their children and want to be with them make a deep impression that often lasts a lifetime. For example, many of the graduates of one class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead related that their desire to pursue the full-time ministry could be attributed to the example and encouragement of their parents. What a wonderful heritage for the children and what a blessing for the parents! Granted, not all children are in a position to enter the full-time ministry when they get older, but all will certainly benefit from and honor God-fearing parents who become their closest friends and role models.—Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:2, 3.
Single Parents Can Succeed
Today, many children grow up in single-parent homes. While this adds to the challenge of raising a child, success can be achieved. Single parents can take heart from the Biblical example of Eunice, a Jewish Christian of the first century. Married to an unbeliever, Eunice likely received no spiritual support from her husband. Nonetheless, she was exemplary in teaching Timothy. Her good influence on Timothy from his infancy, along with that of Lois, Timothy’s grandmother, proved to be more powerful than any negative influence that might have come from some of Timothy’s peers.—Acts 16:1, 2; 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15.
Many young ones today who have grown up with an unbelieving parent or in a single-parent home reflect the same fine qualities young Timothy had. For example, Ryan, now 22 years old and a full-time minister, grew up in a single-parent home with his older brother and sister. Their father was an alcoholic, and he left the family when Ryan was four. “Mom was determined that our household continue to serve Jehovah,” recalled Ryan, “and she followed through on that resolve with all her heart.”
“For one thing,” said Ryan, “Mother made sure that we children enjoyed positive peer influence. She never allowed us to mix with those whom the Bible describes as bad associations, whether outside or inside the congregation. She also inculcated within us the right view of secular education.” Even though Ryan’s mother was often busy and tired from work, this did not prevent her from taking a loving interest in her children. “She always wanted to be with us and talk with us,” said Ryan. “She was a patient but firm teacher, doing her best to make sure we had a regular family Bible study. When it came to Bible principles, ‘compromise’ was not in her dictionary.”
Looking back, Ryan realizes that the most powerful human influence in his life and that of his older siblings was from a parent who truly loved God and loved her children. So you Christian parents—married or widowed, with or without a believing mate—do not give in to discouragement or temporary setbacks as you strive to teach your children. At times, some young ones, like the prodigal son, may turn away from the truth. But when they see how shallow and cold the world really is, they may return. Yes, “the righteous is walking in his integrity. Happy are his sons after him.”—Proverbs 20:7; 23:24, 25; Luke 15:11-24.
For a more detailed discussion of these specific points, see pages 55-9 of the book The Secret of Family Happiness, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
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Jesus’ Parents Chosen By God
When he sent his Son to be born as a human, Jehovah chose Jesus’ parents carefully. Interestingly, he chose a lowly, spiritually-minded couple who did not pamper Jesus but taught him God’s Word and the value of hard work and responsibility. (Proverbs 29:21; Lamentations 3:27) Joseph taught Jesus the trade of carpentry, and no doubt both Joseph and Mary called upon Jesus, the firstborn, to help them with the care of their other children, numbering at least six.—Mark 6:3.
You can picture Joseph’s family working together at Passover time to prepare for their annual journey to Jerusalem—a 130-mile [200 km] round-trip made without modern transportation. To be sure, a family of nine or more would have to be well-organized for such a long journey. (Luke 2:39, 41) Despite the challenges, Joseph and Mary no doubt valued these occasions, perhaps taking advantage of them to teach their children about past Biblical events.
While still at home, Jesus “continued subject to” his parents, all the time “progressing in wisdom and in physical growth and in favor with God and men.” (Luke 2:51, 52) Yes, Joseph and Mary proved worthy of Jehovah’s trust. What a fine example they are for parents today!—Psalm 127:3.