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In the book of Proverbs, God commands parents to “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (22:6).
Take a moment to consider the world around you. Reflect on all the different kinds of influences—with seemingly more every day—to which a child is exposed. Rearing children in today’s violent and confusing world is perhaps the most trying, difficult thing that adults could do.
How can parents—one alone or two working together—rear balanced, moral children? What should children be taught? How should they be instructed? And can you be sure that what you teach your children will stay with them for life?
God’s Word addresses these and many other questions—and the answers are not what you expect!
If you want to raise your children to lead successful, abundant lives, God’s Master Instruction Book will guide you. The Bible is filled with correct teachings and spiritual principles that always yield positive results for those who faithfully practice them. But you must deeply desire to learn God’s way of childrearing, and then diligently apply it without compromise—and for many years!
Be prepared to throw away the intellectual nonsense taught by people who have “credentials,” but who reject God’s authority over this and all other matters in life. You must also be prepared to put God’s Way into practice as you learn it.
This involves much more than you may realize. But there is hope. Truths in this Personal begin to show the way. You can succeed—and you should proceed as though you will!
Before entering any major endeavor, prudent people want to know what is at stake. They want to know what it means if they succeed or what it means if they fail in their effort. In other words, what are the consequences—either way?
Consider! Invariably, the most successful people, the most effective role models for others, the wisest parents, the best husbands and wives, and the greatest leaders were all exposed to great teachers who taught them in their formative years.
Not everyone can be a leader now, in this life, but everyone should be striving to qualify for future leadership—in fact, future rulership. Without strong leadership from you as parents—which is centered in your ability
to be effective teachers—your children have little chance to be anything but followers.
When properly understood, your children are actually also in training from an early age to become future members of the coming, world-ruling Kingdom, or Family of God—soon to arrive on Earth as a supergovernment led by the Father and Jesus Christ, ruling with all the saints of past ages over all cities throughout the nations of the world.
Christ has been carefully preparing His team of co-rulers for 6,000 years, beginning with what was offered to Adam. If God has called you, you already know that you are in training for this rulership. But so are your children—NOW! (To learn more about God’s Kingdom and your part in it, read What Is the Kingdom of God?)
The Four Important Rules of Childrearing
Contrary to common belief, people are not born with the knowledge of how to be good parents.
Due to all the stresses of today’s fast-paced life, many parents turn to movies, television and other electronic applications to help keep their children occupied. In an effort to have some quiet time, and to avoid the hard work of training their children, parents essentially hand their children over to the worst possible “babysitters” and “nannies”—Hollywood screenwriters, television and video game producers, YouTubers, etc. These people become the children’s most dedicated mentors!
Authorities in society do teach certain good things concerning the rearing of children. But this means that they are teaching a mixture of good and evil. This is the lesson of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden, which God told Adam to reject. Only God’s Way is pure, with no hidden “downside.”
It takes hard work to be a parent! It is a full-time job that requires substantial, ongoing effort. You may have never thought of correct childrearing as a biblical teaching, but it is. Properly rearing a child—made in the image and form of God, destined to be born into His Family—requires spiritual understanding from God. In fact, because of all that is at stake in the outcome of just one child, of course God would have to give detailed instruction.
No parent naturally knows everything about how to rear a child the correct way. God must teach this knowledge—like any other doctrine revealed in the Bible. Each parent must become a student of God’s Word on this vitally important subject.
Some people are naturally better at parenting and working with children than others. Yet all parents must be taught by God. All parents need to study His instruction on childrearing. Strive to merge the good things that you may have already been blessed to know with what God’s Word reveals.
Notice the New Testament instruction in Ephesians 6: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother: (which is the first commandment with promise)” (vs. 1-2).
Children must be taught to respect their parents—this does not come naturally. If followed, this commandment—and the application of all childrearing principles—will yield blessings, as Ephesians 6 continues: “That it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth” (vs. 3).
This Bible chapter next addresses parents: “And, you fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture [education, training, instruction] and admonition [mild rebuke, warning, correction, discipline] of the Lord” (vs. 4).
Help your children to honor you. Make it easy for them. No child will grow up to respect a nagging parent who berates him at every opportunity. Would you?
You must be determined and equally committed to continually teach your children all the vital lessons and important principles of life. It has been said that the single greatest gift you can give your child is to be a wise and understanding parent, one able to teach in almost every circumstance.
Now for what I call the FOUR GREAT RULES of childrearing:
(4) Teach your children absolutely everything they need to know!
Think of their little minds as clay. You can literally mold them into whatever you choose—good or bad. The greatest gift you can give to your child is to train him in God’s Way. Recall from earlier: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).
After your 18 to 20 years of good stewardship, your children will produce positive fruit!
Preparing Your Children for Success
God has permitted you to have children as a gift of stewardship. True Christians, those called out of the world and led by the Holy Spirit, know that children could one day experience the same. At the end of your stewardship, God will take back your children. When the time comes to offer them salvation, and for them to receive His Spirit, following repentance and conversion, your record will have largely been written. The efforts of your stewardship—your childrearing today—will have made God’s job tomorrow either harder or easier.
Grasp this. You hold far more authority in this process than you know!
Jesus explained that the Christian walk is difficult. Here is what He told His disciples to expect: “Enter you in at the strait [difficult] gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait [again, hard] is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13-14).
God has high standards. It is the Christian parent’s task to sow a bountiful crop—it is God’s plan to reap it in those children.
Perhaps the single most powerful tool to teach your children is your example—the way you live.
All children, but particularly small ones, automatically look up to parents. For younger children, you are the center of their expanding world, and your example affects them more deeply than anything you could teach them.
Will you apply the laws of success in your life? Will you live the way of “give” and follow what you are learning about the true God of the Bible?
The success of your children hinges on your answers!
Do you want your children to regularly pray and study God’s Word? Then show them how—study and pray with them. Do you want them to save and spend money wisely? Then do the same. Do you want them to spend less time watching television and to pursue worthwhile things—books, hobbies, sports, etc.? Set the example.
Too many parents, in effect, unconsciously tell their children, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Be careful. Your children might be unable to hear what you are saying because of what you are doing.
Think for a moment about all the things that people pursue in search of success and happiness—money, possessions, power, fame, education, skills, beauty, youth and strength. None of these eternally benefit the person who has them. Literally, there is not one of them that “you can take with you.” Those who obtain any or even all of these are doomed to see them fade even before death, with no possibility of taking them past the grave.
Now, if you were told that there is one thing that you can teach your children that is spiritual—therefore eternal, indestructible and perfect—what would you say it is?
The answer is character, once referred to as virtue, the term used in the Bible. Almost no one today values or even talks about character. Yet this topic speaks to the supreme purpose for which every human being who has ever lived was born.
Sadly, it is also true that very few have any idea why they exist—why God gave them life and put them on Earth. (Read my book The Awesome Potential of Man to understand truths beyond your imagination. Find out why you, and your children, were born. You will find that whole new vistas of understanding lie before you.)
You must come to understand—to deeply grasp—why you exist—why you are here—or you will never be able to teach this supreme truth to your children. Once this is clear in your mind, two things will happen: not only will you find it easier to teach them, but you will also be more eager to fulfill this duty!
The best definition for character I have ever heard comes from Herbert W. Armstrong, the man who taught me much of what I teach you now: “What is perfect character? It is the ability, in a separate entity with free moral agency, to come to the knowledge of the right from the wrong—the true from the false—and to choose the right, and possess the will to enforce self-discipline to do the right and resist the wrong” (The Incredible Human Potential).
It is your responsibility—your duty—to teach your children the absolutely vital, all-important, lifelong pursuit of character development. Character forms the greatest defense a human being can have against every conceivable pitfall, threat, roadblock and hurdle that life can throw at him.
Guide Toward the Pursuit of Excellence
Strive to instill within your children the desire to reach their potential, to go above and beyond what is expected of them—to learn how they can do much more than they ever thought possible. Teach the principle of Ecclesiastes 9:10: “Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.”
Any goal or thing of worth requires hard work—one must pay the price. Most today are no longer willing to pay that price and will happily settle for second best, or less.
Teaching your children to persevere will give them the inner strength needed to achieve their goals. This will have implications in not just their goals and desires but in every aspect of their lives! Teach your children to never give up—even in the face of hardship—and you will virtually ensure their success.
Inspire your children with the knowledge that life rewards those who go the extra mile: “See you a man diligent in his business [NKJV: “who excels in his work”]? He shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean [inferior] men” (Prov. 22:29).
Most people today are not interested in going above and beyond, preferring instead to do as little as possible. Many are now perfectly willing to do sloppy, slipshod work, no matter the waste or cost to the company, because they are in a hurry to finish—with so many always looking ahead to the next thing that will be “fun.”
Not only should your children be willing to go the extra mile, but they should always be willing to do it with joy, zeal and enthusiasm—from the heart!
Help Your Children Discover Their Talents
Some people live their entire lives unaware of what their strengths are, or worse, believing that they have none. Most often, this has been because no one helped them discover these talents, and they did not know how to do this themselves.
While this Personal can only scratch the surface of the subject, it should at least inspire you to see that you can greatly encourage and inspire your children if you help them see the natural talents that they were born with. If tapped, apart from the importance of their relationship with God, these qualities offer them the greatest chance for fulfillment and happiness.
Think of it this way: almost every human being has strengths and weaknesses. There are virtually no exceptions to having some talents and absolutely no exceptions to having certain weaknesses. One of your tasks is to help your child discover his or her God-given abilities, talents and interests. For instance, your child may be extremely gifted in a particular area or way, and this gift could be something that has never before appeared in your family.
Be on the lookout for such gifts and do not squash them when you see them simply because you have never seen these particular talents or abilities before, or because they are not your strengths. On the other hand, do not decide that you see talents that are not really there. Be careful that you do not try to remake your child in your own image. You are a unique human being, unlike any other person on the face of the Earth. So is your child!
What if your parents, teachers, coaches or employers had never taken an interest in your potential, or worse, actively sought to quash these interests? What if you had never been able to discover and develop them? How different would your life have been? Would you be in the same career or even close to the level of happiness that you have been able to enjoy? The answer is almost certainly not.
The other side of the coin is that it is possible that your mentors did not encourage you to develop your strengths, and to become all that you could have. If this is the case, avoid doing the same with your children.
Helping your children realize their talents and successfully develop them—especially if you never had the opportunity yourself—will be a REWARD unlike any other a parent can enjoy!
Make Clear the Importance of Setting Goals
Do your children have an interest in music, art, science, mathematics, sports, horticulture, animals, reading, rock-climbing or a host of other things? Strive as hard as you possibly can to recognize and nurture these interests.
ASK your children what they enjoy. Observe and talk to them. Try to discern where they may and may not be naturally talented and where their interests lie. Try to be supportive in a balanced way, also not allowing them to quit simply because the early going in a particular sport or activity is tough, which is always the case in any new endeavor.
Teach your children to read books—and to perhaps write book reports (my grandfather paid me one dollar for every book report that I wrote and read to him over the phone, as long as it had over 300 words).
Encourage them to take up hobbies such as building model ships or airplanes, or collecting coins, stamps or postcards. Guide them to participate in sports such as basketball, soccer, tennis or swimming.
Encourage them to learn a musical instrument, such as the flute, guitar or piano. They can learn to skate, build and fly a kite, keep a journal, make watercolor or oil paintings, model with clay, keep a garden, and many more things—the list is endless.
Help your children expand their minds and explore their talents. They have untapped gifts just waiting to be discovered. But they need your guidance to do this.
Teach your children to write down their goals. Over time, they will learn which goals can be reached, which should be amended and which should be dropped. Then teach them how to take steps toward the goals, and to be able to measure their progress along the way. Be sure to remind them often that the Proverbs teach, “The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul” (13:19).
Teach Your Children Constantly!
Parents, do not allow your children to merely stumble into adulthood. Just as God teaches you, so you must teach them. This has been God’s Way from the very beginning: “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” (Deut. 6:6-7).
Be prepared to teach your children all the time—on every occasion—the proverbial morning, noon and night. Your responsibility is to instruct them in all the values they need in order to succeed.
God designed children to be like sponges—they were literally created to learn. Your children are unconsciously looking to you to teach them how to navigate the increasingly complex maze of today’s world—again, of its perfect storm of factors and conditions arrayed against them.
As parents, you possess immense power. You have the authority—coupled with a tremendous amount of revealed spiritual knowledge—to give your children the maximum opportunity to discover their strengths, to achieve right goals, to learn about the true God and to build His righteous character, to develop their extraordinary human potential, and to lead lives filled with success, productivity and service to others, which will lead to the supreme happiness and joy that all long for.
Seek God and ask for the crucial wisdom and constant guidance that you need. Then go fulfill your potential as parents by helping your children fulfill theirs.
They are counting on you!
To learn more, read—and study—my thorough, free book Train Your Children God’s Way.