All parents know they are to prepare their children for adulthood. While this is no easy task, there is an instruction manual to help you along the way.
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Think about a time you sat in a public place, perhaps a restaurant, waiting for a bus or a train, at a movie, or maybe on a plane. You were trying to read a book, check your email or just sit quietly and think about your day. Suddenly, you are interrupted by a screaming child nearby!
Perhaps being a mother or father yourself, your heart goes out to the parents and even more to that frustrated child. However, this may not have been your immediate reaction.
In such instances, the parent or adult responsible appears to have completely lost control. He or she seems to have little or no influence over the child’s behavior. Granted, the child may be tired or frustrated by some unavoidable nuisance, nevertheless the screams impact you and everyone around!
The episode is just as frustrating for the parents. It is a scene filled with confusion and embarrassment about the inability to control their child’s behavior in public.
Do these parents love their children? The parents would respond with yes and almost certainly be offended by the question. In nearly every case parents say and feel that their childrearing habits are guided by a love for their children. They want what is best for them. They do not want them in pain or discomfort. They know that parental love is one of the most important things they can offer.
The word “love” is often confused by those in today’s society. It can begin to mean whatever we want or think it to mean. We should therefore ask about love for our children in a slightly different way: Is avoiding teaching a child proper behavior demonstrating love?
The answer to this question from God’s perspective is easy to find. His principles regarding teaching our children are clearly spelled out in the Bible.
Both the Old and New Testaments command children to obey their parents. Ephesians 6:1-3 states this in clear terms: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honor your father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) that it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth.”
Exodus 20:12 adds more about the promise: “Honor your father and your mother: that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God gives you.”
What parents would not want to ensure the blessing of long life for their children?
Yet note this: The responsibility for the child keeping this command from God begins with the parents!
Read Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” This is the other side of God’s command to children! It is required that we as parents train—teach—our children if we want them to experience a long, prosperous life. But how?
Frankly, our society is generally lost on the answer to this question. Experts abound. Yet their counsel is often critical of and in direct opposition to God’s own instructions.
Add to this the fact parents today are forced to raise children in a world immoral and twisted in character and the task can seem overwhelming. Yet parents must ask themselves, what should my child be taught? And how? Further, how do I make it “stick” so that my child will continue in what I have instructed?
Teaching must begin at an early age. Even small children can learn right from wrong. Social smiles begin in babies between 6 and 8 weeks of age. Less than 2 months old! It is endearing to see parents and their friends play games such as peek-a-boo to coax a smile out of a baby. You are likely smiling as you read this.
The point here is that the parent is already teaching in this moment! Fathers and mothers both are trying to teach a small infant to use a smile socially, to help a baby appropriately interact with others. The playing associated with peek-a-boo is a way to teach children when and how to smile as they watch and learn from you. These are examples of teaching them proper or correct behavior.
No one would argue that physical discipline is inappropriate for the very youngest of children. However, we can show our displeasure with certain facial expressions and our tone of voice. These can be very effective ways of letting children know we are not pleased with their behavior. Rewarding and not rewarding certain behaviors can be effective as well. The goal in both cases is to make clear there are rewards or consequences for the child’s actions.
When it comes to the “when” of teaching our children, many well-meaning parents tend to procrastinate: “Just wait until the terrible twos,” or, “Just wait until they start school,” or, “Just wait until they’re a teenager”! This reveals a tendency to underestimate how capable a child is of learning.
Yes, children do grow and develop in their ability to understand and retain certain concepts as they get older, but they know and understand more than what we give them credit for. Start to teach right and wrong as early as possible.
Most parents can recall being very excited upon the news that a child is coming. It would benefit all parents in this position to know that teaching and rearing a child should begin early—but also should be fun.
So how does a parent go about teaching a child? If some time has already passed and your child is a little older, this is an even more important question. For instance, some parents are already in the midst of their children’s “terrible twos.” Is it too late?
A quote from David C. Pack’s book Train Your Children God’s Way helps explain the way to approach this situation by pointing back to the scene mentioned at the beginning of this article: “…for those who need their very small children to be quiet in public places or at church services, it is crucial that you teach them when to ‘hush.’ While it is wonderful to watch tiny children ‘discover’ their voices, they must understand that there is a time and place for this. Be sure you are regularly teaching your children the importance of ‘quiet time.’”
Notice this advice expands on teaching your child the concept of right and wrong—showing right behavior at the right time and avoiding wrong behavior.
Another quote from the book includes some all-important instruction on how to teach right and wrong concerning behavior in public places to very small children so their behavior is appropriate: “This means making them practice at home. Your children need to understand that at naptime, or at any other time you want them to do this, they must respond to the meaning of ‘head down.’ It is a good idea to try to coordinate your little children’s naptime to the time you need them to be quiet, such as during church services. But this also applies to them being quiet when awake in a public place, such as a restaurant.”
This is just one simple example, however, implementing it properly can go a long way to ending the heartache and grief so often associated with parents dealing with their children in public.
It is cruel of parents to tolerate or even encourage “cute” behaviors, habits really, that later must be broken. In truth, parents must teach their children the behavior they want them to demonstrate. They cannot expect children to simply figure it out on their own.
Though such actions on the part of the parents take work, doing so will help them and children reap success.
Children should not amble through life until they reach the “adult age” of 18-20 years, and then suddenly be expected to behave and act as adults. We must teach them early. But there is more to understand. Teaching children proactively and consistently is also a crucial part of the equation.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 confirms this: “And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart: and you shall teach them diligently unto your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.” With the Bible as a guide, use the opportunities of daily life to diligently teach your children. Your instruction should literally be morning, noon and night!
This passage reinforces that we are to teach our children as soon and as early as possible. Naturally, as the problems and solutions in the life of our children become more complex, our parental responsibility grows. Lessons learned at age 2 will greatly differ from those learned at 12 and beyond.
The main point: We must teach, teach, teach all the time. We have a God-given responsibility to instruct them. God not only gives parents this responsibility, He also lays out the values to pass along. This allows the discerning parent to encourage and enforce behaviors children need for success.
Lessons can start with teaching appropriate times to be quiet. It can grow into teaching times to lay down for a nap, avoiding electrical outlets, or when to stay close to a parent. Later it can be not taking what does not belong to you, avoiding strangers, the importance of being where you say you will be, and coming home on time from playing outside. Finally, there are the more advanced lessons of being honest, having integrity, and fairness. These values and many others all become important for a child’s overall health and future.
In raising our children this way, we help them show a respect and maturity that their peers lack. These increasingly rare qualities help the child to listen to teachers in school and later bosses at work. So few children and young adults today seem to grasp these all-important lessons.
Childrearing is basically about caring for and teaching your offspring. There are myriad opinions available from a near innumerable number of experts. But our Creator is the ultimate expert on humans since He designed us! So these basics on childrearing are not just human opinion. They are based upon God’s instructions.
Any information on how to raise children must include what to do when a child does not properly heed instruction.
We have two basic extremes in society today, both of which are ditches to avoid. First, there are parents who discipline to the point of child abuse. The numbers who do this every year are staggering. Child abuse in some cases is a matter of parents ignorant of the proper way to discipline their children. In other cases it is a reflection of parents taking their own dissatisfactions and frustrations out on little children. Whatever the reason, child abuse, verbal or otherwise, is wrong.
But many appalled by such abuse end up falling into the opposite extreme—they discipline little or not at all. Children without discipline inevitably become undisciplined adults. They must understand that life and specifically their decisions have consequences. Just like there are rewards for doing the right things, there are also penalties for doing the wrong things. Failing to teach this can lead to catastrophic results when they get older and more is at stake.
Put simply, discipline is an important element of instruction. It should always be delivered in a controlled, intentional manner and for the good of the child.
This correction can often be quiet yet stern verbal direction. It can be guiding children through a crowd holding their hands, or with a hand on their shoulders as a consequence for them choosing to run off. It can be forbidding them to go outside to play or watch television. Examples can go on and on. However, there are times when more is required.
In a February 2019 opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Robert C. Hamilton, a pediatrician practicing in Santa Monica, California, summarized the subject of physical discipline of a child: “Disciplining children is time-consuming and unpleasant. But parents who do so consistently and conscientiously find that spanking becomes rare because their children learn to respect them and obey their words.
“The rejection of spanking flies in the face of multiple biblical injunctions regarding child discipline. It’s unreasonable to demand that believing Jews and Christians dismiss clear teachings like the one in Proverbs 22:15: ‘Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away.’
“The ancient rabbis weren’t fools. They understood human nature and recognized that children are born with wills that need to be quelled.”
The author’s point is sound, yet the verse in Proverbs was not from ancient rabbis, but God Himself! HE knows what is best when it comes to discipline in childrearing. Read it again in the King James Version: “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”
Also notice another proverb on the subject: “He that spares his rod hates his son: but he that loves him chastens him [diligently]” (Prov. 13:24).
The Wall Street Journal editorial concluded with an important point: “It [spanking] should continue to be an option for loving parents to employ when disciplining their children.”
Notice the words “option” and “loving parents.” This is not describing frustrated moms and dads who abuse or berate their children or think that physical discipline is their only recourse. Loving parents understand that including proper and age-appropriate physical discipline in their teaching repertoire can be effective.
Every parent is frustrated from time to time. During these moments, parents must remember that the love they have for their children should guide them to demonstrate proper behavior. Little ones see how their parents behave and they subsequently adjust. Parents, like it or not, set the tone.
Also, moms and dads must remember that they are adults and children are children. Frustration-fueled abuse by a much bigger person can leave a much smaller child with physical and emotional scars for life.
Proper spanking, when necessary, is meant to be a deterrent. When done early and consistently—and most parents who have done it effectively will tell you this—children rarely if ever continue to need spanking. This is the ultimate goal.
Remember we need to teach, teach and teach again. This includes training that incorporates the practical aspects of learning. The “doing.” The attitude, actions and behavior of the parent matters. Our example goes a long way! It is arguably more impactful than anything we say.
A simple example points this out. Many studies have found that in households where parents exercise, the children are much more likely to do the same. The same can be said of sons and daughters of parents who do not exercise. Children tend to do what their parents do.
Being raised in a family that exercised regularly, my adult children have continued to do so and as a result are experiencing fuller and better lives. This has also led to many other positive benefits such as improved self-discipline and motivation.
When considering ways to show the proper example, keep your child’s future adulthood in mind. Someday, they will be in the same position you are and faced with the exact same decisions. A few lessons to pass along: “Eat right—you’ll be healthy.” “Exercise—you’ll be strong, clearer minded and have better health.” “Get enough sleep—rest restores our bodies and keeps the mind sharp.” “Control excessive indulgences in all things—you’ll be more balanced, healthy and productive.”
A few more: “Be polite and respectful of others—you’ll go further in life.” “Live within your means and create a budget—you’ll be happier and reduce stress.” “Use proper language (this includes avoiding swearing)—you’ll be articulate and able to convince others.”
This list can go on and on, but it is an example of the deeper and more meaningful life lessons that will prepare your children for their future.
Remember, teaching must be constant. It must be persistent. It must be thoughtful. Do your best to leave nothing out and repeatedly emphasize the most important things. You are the adult in the relationship and, more important, you are the parent.
We ask again: “Is avoiding teaching proper behavior to a child demonstrating love?” The answer is clearly no. True love of our children includes taking the opportunity to teach them proper behavior. Doing so will help them avoid many problems common in society and become successful adults.
Another illustration from my now adult children. They have often said that although they considered their parents “strict” by society’s standards, they also never doubted that they were loved, unlike many of their friends. To them, love from my wife and me was proven by our actions—caring enough to make sure God’s principles were taught and expected to be followed. You too can apply the very same principle toward your children.
A good place to find more detailed information is in Train Your Children God’s Way. In it, you will find practical guidelines for teaching your children. Take the time to download this free book today and help prepare your child for a profitable future.