Parents—Train Your Children With Love
“Let all your affairs take place with love.”—1 CORINTHIANS 16:14.
1. What feelings do parents experience at the birth of a child?
MOST would agree that the birth of a child can be one of life’s most joyful events. “When I first gazed at my newborn daughter, it was a wonderful feeling,” says a mother named Aleah. “I thought she was the most beautiful child I had ever seen.” Such a joyful occasion, though, can also create anxiety for parents. “My concern,” says Aleah’s husband, “was whether I could properly prepare my daughter for the trials of life.” Many parents share such concerns and realize the need for training their children with love. However, Christian parents who desire to give such loving training face challenges. What are some of them?
2. What challenges do parents face?
2 We are now living deep in the last days of this system. As foretold, a loveless attitude pervades society. Even among family members, people display “no natural affection” and have become “unthankful, disloyal, . . . without self-control, fierce.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Daily contact with people who display such traits can affect the way members of Christian families treat one another. In addition, parents wrestle with their own inherited tendency to lose self-control, to say things they do not mean, and to use poor judgment in other ways.—Romans 3:23; James 3:2, 8, 9.
3. How can parents raise happy children?
3 Despite these challenges, parents can raise happy, spiritually healthy children. How? By following the Bible’s advice: “Let all your affairs take place with love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14) Indeed, love is “a perfect bond of union.” (Colossians 3:14) Let us examine three aspects of love described by the apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians and discuss some specific ways parents can put this quality to work as they train their children.—1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
The Need to Be Long-Suffering
4. Why do parents need to be long-suffering?
4 Paul wrote: “Love is long-suffering.” (1 Corinthians 13:4) The Greek expression translated “long-suffering” denotes patience and slowness to anger. Why do parents need to be long-suffering? Most parents can no doubt think of many reasons. Consider just a few. Children seldom ask just once for some desired object. Even if a parent replies with a firm no, the child may ask again and again, hoping for a different answer. Teenagers may want to argue at length that they should be allowed to take some course of action that the parent knows to be foolish. (Proverbs 22:15) And like all of us, children are prone to repeat some of their mistakes.—Psalm 130:3.
5. What can help parents to be long-suffering?
5 What can help parents to be long-suffering and patient with their children? King Solomon wrote: “The insight of a man certainly slows down his anger.” (Proverbs 19:11) Parents gain insight into their children’s behavior by recalling that at one time they too used to “speak as a babe, to think as a babe, to reason as a babe.” (1 Corinthians 13:11) Parents, can you remember bothering your mother or father to give in to a childish request? As a teenager, did you ever think that your parents just did not understand your feelings or problems? If so, you likely appreciate why your children behave as they do and why they need constant, patient reminders of your decisions. (Colossians 4:6) It is worth noting that Jehovah told Israelite parents to “inculcate” his laws in their young ones. (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7) The Hebrew word for “inculcate” means “to repeat,” “to say again and again,” “to impress.” This implies that parents may have to repeat themselves many times before a child learns to apply God’s laws. Similar repetition is often needed to teach other lessons in life.
6. Why is a long-suffering parent not a permissive one?
6 A long-suffering parent, however, is not a permissive parent. God’s Word warns: “A boy let on the loose will be causing his mother shame.” To prevent such an outcome, the same proverb states: “The rod and reproof are what give wisdom.” (Proverbs 29:15) At times, children may question the right of parents to reprove them. But Christian families should not be run as a democracy, as if the parents’ right to enforce rules were somehow dependent on the children’s approval. Rather, Jehovah, as the ultimate Head of the family, confers on parents the authority to train and discipline their children lovingly. (1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 3:15; 6:1-4) In fact, discipline is closely linked with the next aspect of love mentioned by Paul.
How to Discipline in Love
7. Why will kind parents discipline their children, and what is included in such discipline?
7 Paul wrote that “love is . . . kind.” (1 Corinthians 13:4) Parents who are truly kind will discipline their children in a consistent manner. By doing so, they imitate Jehovah. “Whom Jehovah loves he disciplines,” wrote Paul. Please note that the type of discipline referred to in the Bible does not simply mean punishment. It carries the idea of training and education. What is the purpose of such discipline? “To those who have been trained by it,” Paul states, “it yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:6, 11) When parents kindly educate their children according to God’s will, they give them the opportunity to become peaceable, upright adults. If children accept “the discipline of Jehovah,” they gain wisdom, knowledge, and discernment—assets more valuable than silver or gold.—Proverbs 3:11-18.
8. What usually results when parents fail to discipline their children?
8 On the other hand, it is not a kindness when parents fail to discipline their children. Jehovah inspired Solomon to write: “The one holding back his rod is hating his son, but the one loving him is he that does look for him with discipline.” (Proverbs 13:24) Children raised without consistent discipline are likely to be self-centered and unhappy. In contrast, the children of parents who are sympathetic but maintain firm limits were found to perform better at school, to have better social skills, and to be generally happy. Certainly, then, parents who discipline their children are being kind to them.
9. What do Christian parents teach their children, and how should these requirements be viewed?
9 What is involved in disciplining children in a kind and loving manner? Parents need to discuss with their children exactly what is required of them. For example, from infancy, children of Christian parents are taught fundamental Bible principles as well as the need to participate in the various aspects of true worship. (Exodus 20:12-17; Matthew 22:37-40; 28:19; Hebrews 10:24, 25) Children need to know that these requirements are nonnegotiable.
10, 11. Why might parents consider their children’s concerns when making house rules?
10 At times, though, parents may want to bring their children into the discussion when formulating house rules. If youths are able to share in discussions about those rules, they may be more inclined to obey them. For instance, in case parents decide to impose a curfew, they could choose a specific hour that the children are required to be at home. Or, as an alternative, they might allow their children to suggest an hour and to offer reasons for their preference. The parents may then state their own desired time and explain why they feel that this is appropriate. If there is a difference of opinion, as there will likely be, what then? In some cases, the parents may decide that it might be possible to accommodate their children’s wishes when Bible principles are not jeopardized. Does this mean that the parents are abdicating, or giving up, their authority?
11 To answer that question, consider the way in which Jehovah lovingly exercised his authority when dealing with Lot and his family. After escorting Lot, his wife, and his daughters out of Sodom, the angels said to them: “Escape to the mountainous region for fear you may be swept away!” However, Lot replied: “Not that, please, Jehovah!” Lot then suggested an alternative: “Please, now, this city is nearby to flee there and it is a small thing. May I, please, escape there?” What was Jehovah’s response? “Here I do show you consideration to this extent also,” he said. (Genesis 19:17-22) Did Jehovah abdicate his authority? Certainly not! Nevertheless, he considered Lot’s request and chose to extend extra kindness to him in this matter. If you are a parent, are there times when you can consider your children’s concerns when establishing family rules?
12. What will help a child to feel secure?
12 Of course, children need to know not only the rules but also the penalties for breaking those rules. Once the penalties have been discussed and are understood, the rules need to be enforced. Parents are not being kind if they constantly warn their children about a deserved punishment but fail to carry it 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,” says the Bible. (Ecclesiastes 8:11) True, a parent may refrain from punishing a child in public or around the child’s peers, thus saving the young one some embarrassment. But children feel more secure and develop more respect and love for their parents when they know that their parents’ “Yes” means yes and their “No” means no—even if that entails punishment.—Matthew 5:37.
13, 14. How can parents imitate Jehovah when training their children?
13 If it is to be kind, the punishment and the way it is administered need to be tailored to the child. “Our two children had different needs when it came to discipline,” recalls Pam. “What worked with one child didn’t work for the other.” Her husband, Larry, explains: “Our elder daughter was strong-willed and seemed to respond only to stern discipline. However, our younger daughter was very responsive to firm words and even a disapproving look.” Indeed, kind parents strive to discern what discipline works best for each of their children.
14 Jehovah sets the pattern for parents in that he knows the strengths and weaknesses of each of his servants. (Hebrews 4:13) In addition, when meting out punishment, Jehovah is neither unduly stern nor overly permissive. Instead, he always disciplines his people “to the proper degree.” (Jeremiah 30:11) Parents, do you know your children’s strengths and weaknesses? Are you able to use that knowledge in a positive, kind way to train them? If so, you are proving that you love your children.
Encourage Honest Communication
15, 16. How can parents encourage their children to speak honestly, and what approach have Christian parents found effective in this regard?
15 Another facet of love is that “it does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Corinthians 13:6) How can parents train their children to love what is right and true? A fundamental step is to encourage their children to express their feelings honestly, even if what the children say is difficult for the parents to accept. Understandably, parents rejoice when children express thoughts and feelings in harmony with righteous standards. At other times, though, a child’s heartfelt comments may reveal an inclination toward unrighteousness. (Genesis 8:21) How should parents respond? Their initial tendency might be to chastise their children immediately for expressing such thoughts. If parents respond in such a way, the children might soon learn to say only what they think the parents want to hear. Of course, disrespectful speech should be promptly corrected, but there is a difference between teaching children how to communicate politely and dictating what they say.
16 How can parents encourage honest communication? Aleah, mentioned earlier, says, “We have created an atmosphere of open communication by trying not to overreact when our children tell us things that we find troubling.” A father named Tom says: “We encouraged our daughter to express herself to us, even when she didn’t agree with our way of thinking. We felt that if we always cut her off and arbitrarily imposed our will, she would become frustrated and would learn not to tell us what was really in her heart. On the other hand, listening to her encouraged her to listen to us.” Certainly, children should obey their parents. (Proverbs 6:20) But open communication gives parents the opportunity to help their children develop reasoning ability. Vincent, a father of four, says: “Often, we would talk through the advantages and disadvantages of a situation so that our children could see for themselves the best outcome. This helped them develop thinking ability.”—Proverbs 1:1-4.
17. Of what can parents be sure?
17 Of course, no parent will be able to apply perfectly the Bible’s counsel on child rearing. Even so, you can be sure that your children will deeply appreciate your attempts to train them in a long-suffering, kind, and loving manner. Jehovah will certainly bless your efforts to do so. (Proverbs 3:33) Ultimately, all Christian parents want their children to learn to love Jehovah as much as they themselves do. How can parents reach this noble goal? The following article will discuss some specific methods.
Do You Recall?
• How can showing insight help a parent to be long-suffering?
• How are kindness and discipline related?
• Why is honest communication between parents and children vital?
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Parents, can you remember what it was like to be a child?
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Do you encourage honest, open communication with your children?