“Let the man of the true God . . . instruct us about what we should do with the child who will be born.”—JUDG. 13:8.
1. How did Manoah respond to the news that he was going to become a father?
THE man’s wife could hardly have brought him more surprising news. After all, the couple was sure that the wife was infertile. However, Jehovah’s angel had appeared to her, and what had seemed impossible was true: Manoah and his wife were going to have a son! No doubt, Manoah was happy, but he was also aware of the great responsibility that rested on his shoulders. In a nation filled with badness, how could he and his wife successfully raise their son to serve God? Manoah “pleaded with Jehovah,” saying: “Please let the man of the true God [the angel] whom you just sent come again to instruct us about what we should do with the child who will be born.”—Judg. 13:1-8.
2. What does training your child involve? (Include the box “Your Most Important Bible Students.”)
2 If you are a parent, you can likely relate to Manoah’s earnest plea. You too bear the weighty responsibility of helping your child to come to know and love Jehovah. (Prov. 1:8) To that end, Christian parents arrange for a meaningful and progressive Family Worship program. Of course, to impress Bible truths on a child’s mind, you need to do more than conduct a weekly family study. (Read Deuteronomy 6:6-9.) How can you meet the challenge of inculcating the truth in your child? This article and the next will examine how parents can follow Jesus’ example. Though Jesus was not a father, parents can benefit from his way of teaching because he taught and trained his disciples with love, humility, and insight. Let us consider each of these qualities, one at a time.
LOVE YOUR CHILD
3. How did Jesus express love for his disciples?
3 Jesus did not hesitate to tell his disciples that he loved them. (Read John 15:9.) He also showed his love by closely and regularly associating with his disciples. (Mark 6:31, 32; John 2:2; 21:12, 13) Jesus was not “all business” with them. Thus, they did not have to wonder whether he truly loved them. How can you imitate Jesus’ way of teaching?
4. How can you convince your children that you love them? (See opening image.)
4 Tell your children that you love them, and regularly show them how much they mean to you. (Prov. 4:3; Titus 2:4) Samuel, who lives in Australia, says: “When I was very young, Dad used to read My Book of Bible Stories to me every evening. He would answer my questions, hug me, and kiss me good-night. What a surprise when I later discovered that Dad was not raised in a family where hugs and kisses were common! Yet, he made a real effort to express his love for me. As a result, I developed a strong bond with him, and I felt contented and secure.” Help your children to feel that way by often telling them “I love you.” Show your affection for your children. Talk with them, eat with them, play with them.
5, 6. (a) What does Jesus do for those whom he loves? (b) Explain how proper discipline helps children to feel secure and loved.
5 “All those for whom I have affection,” said Jesus, “I reprove and discipline.”* (Rev. 3:19) Although Jesus’ disciples repeatedly argued about who was the greatest among them, Jesus did not give up on them. He also did not ignore it when they failed to respond to his counsel. Lovingly and mildly, Jesus reproved them at a suitable time and place.—Mark 9:33-37.
6 Show your love for your children by disciplining them. It is sometimes enough to explain why a certain course is right or wrong. At other times, a child may fail to apply what you say. (Prov. 22:15) When that happens, imitate Jesus. At a fitting time and place, discipline your child lovingly and mildly through patient guidance, training, and correction. “My parents were consistent in giving discipline,” says Elaine, a sister in South Africa. “If they warned me about the consequences of misbehaving, they would always follow through. But they never disciplined me in anger or without explaining why I was being disciplined. As a result, I felt secure. I knew my boundaries, and I understood what was required of me.”
7, 8. (a) How did Jesus show humility in his prayers? (b) How can your prayers teach your children to rely on God?
7 Imagine how Jesus’ disciples must have felt when they heard, or later learned about, one of his final prayers as a human: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you; remove this cup from me. Yet, not what I want, but what you want.”* (Mark 14:36) From Jesus’ pleading words, his followers undoubtedly learned that since the perfect Son of God humbly prayed for divine help, they should do the same.
8 What do your children learn from your prayers? True, you do not pray to Jehovah primarily to teach your children. Nevertheless, when you pray humbly in their presence, your children learn to rely on Jehovah. Ana, who lives in Brazil, states: “When there were problems, such as when my grandparents were ill, my parents would ask Jehovah to give them the strength to cope with the situation and the wisdom to make good decisions. Even when under terrible pressure, they left their problems in Jehovah’s hands. As a result, I learned to rely on Jehovah.” When you pray with your children, do not pray just for them. Ask Jehovah to help you too—perhaps to help you speak to your employer about getting time off for a convention, to give you courage to witness to your neighbor, or to help you in other ways. Humbly rely on God, and your children will learn to do so too.
9. (a) How did Jesus teach his disciples to serve others humbly? (b) If you are willing to serve others, what will your children learn?
9 By word and example, Jesus trained his disciples to serve others humbly. (Read Luke 22:27.) He taught his apostles to be self-sacrificing in Jehovah’s service and in dealing with fellow believers. Through your example of humble self-sacrifice, you can teach your children the same lesson. “I never felt jealous because of the time my husband spent with others as an elder,” says Debbie, a mother of two. “I knew that whenever our family needed my husband’s attention, he would give it to us.” (1 Tim. 3:4, 5) Her husband, Pranas, adds: “Later, our children were keen to be involved at assemblies and on theocratic projects. They flourished, made friends, and felt that they belonged!” The entire family now serves Jehovah in the full-time ministry. By the way you demonstrate humility and self-sacrifice, your children are likely to learn how to serve others.
10. When a crowd came to see Jesus, how did he show insight?
10 Jesus showed insight by looking beyond the obvious and discerning why people acted in a certain way. On one occasion, some of his listeners in Galilee appeared eager to follow him. (John 6:22-24) But Jesus, who could read hearts, discerned that the people were more interested in physical food than in what he taught. (John 2:25) He saw what was wrong, patiently corrected them, and explained how they could improve.—Read John 6:25-27.
11. (a) Give an example that shows how insight can help you determine whether your child enjoys the ministry. (b) How can you make the ministry interesting and rewarding for your child?
11 Although you cannot read hearts, you too can show insight and learn how your child feels about the field ministry. Many parents include short breaks during field service to allow their children to rest and enjoy some refreshments. Yet, you might look beyond the obvious and ask yourself, ‘Does my child enjoy the ministry or only the breaks?’ If you discern that the ministry could be more interesting or more rewarding for your children, set goals with them. Use creativity to help them to have a full share as your preaching companions.
12. (a) How did Jesus insightfully warn his followers about moral uncleanness? (b) How did Jesus’ warning prove to be timely?
12 Jesus also showed insight by identifying missteps that lead to sin. For example, his followers knew that sexual immorality is wrong. But Jesus warned them about the steps leading to immorality, saying: “Everyone who keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If, now, your right eye is making you stumble, tear it out and throw it away from you.” (Matt. 5:27-29) Those words were very timely for Christians living under Roman rule. At Roman stage plays, “eye and ear alike saw and heard indecencies,” wrote one historian, “and the lewdest scenes were the most applauded.” How loving and insightful of Jesus to warn his disciples about things that would make it hard to stay morally clean!
13, 14. How can you protect your children from unclean entertainment?
13 Insight can help you to protect your children from spiritual harm. Today, children may be exposed to pornography and other immoral material at a younger age than ever before. Of course, Christian parents tell their children that unclean entertainment is wrong. However, insight will also help you to understand how your child might become curious about pornography. Ask yourself: ‘What may tempt my child to look at pornography? Does he know why it is so dangerous? Am I approachable so that he will come to me for help if he is ever tempted to look at pornography?’ Even while your children are quite young, you could say to them: “If you ever come across an immoral website and you feel tempted to look at it, please come and talk to me. You don’t have to be ashamed. I want to help you.”
14 Insight will also help you to choose your own entertainment prudently. “What we as parents approve of in the way of music, movies, or books sets the tone for the family,” says Pranas, quoted earlier. “You can say a lot about a lot of things, but your children will watch what you do and imitate you.” If your children see you carefully choosing clean entertainment, they will probably be moved to make similar choices.—Rom. 2:21-24.
THE TRUE GOD WILL LISTEN TO YOU
15, 16. (a) Why can you be sure that God will help you to train your children? (b) What will we discuss in the next article?
15 What happened when Manoah asked for help to raise his son? “The true God listened to Manoah.” (Judg. 13:9) Parents, Jehovah will listen to you too. He will answer your prayers and help you to train your children. You can succeed in doing so with love, humility, and insight.
16 Just as Jehovah helps parents to train their young children successfully, so he can help parents to train their adolescent children. The next article will examine how you can imitate Jesus’ love, humility, and insight as you train your teenager to serve Jehovah.
According to the Bible, discipline includes loving guidance, training, correction, and sometimes punishment—but never in anger.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states: “In the colloquial speech of Jesus’ time, ʼabbāʼ was primarily used as a term of informal intimacy and respect by children of their fathers.”