Additional Ways of Showing Children Respect
Following are several ways that parents must show children love and respect. Remember, showing respect means to place the value upon another person that is proper and due them.
(1) Train them. Do not merely teach them. A child that is brought to Sunday School, where he is taught famous Bible stories and lectured on good behavior, should not be considered a trained child. He is merely an educated child. There is a vast difference between training a child and teaching a child. The Proverbs says, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6). It did not say "teach a child" but "train up a child." Unfortunately, this promise is not to those who merely teach their children or take them to Sunday School or make them follow long lists of religious rules, but to those who actually train their children. Training them means to gently but forcefully channel them into the way they should go. It means not allowing them to go in the way they should not go. And it means doing this in such a way that the child himself actually understands and agrees to the training. Here are several areas in which training, not teaching, is necessary:
- Give them a daily routine or schedule and do not deviate from it except in actual emergencies. Remember, the whole life of a child is to be under the control of the parent. This means that the parent controls everything: when, where, and how the child eats, sleeps, plays, studies, works, visits, relaxes, etc.
- Compel them to have personal devotions each morning before they eat breakfast or do anything else. Teach them how to read and study the Bible, and provide them with Bible study and devotional aids that they can understand, according to their ages and levels. Then require them to share what they have learned with the rest of the family.
- Give them household chores (even as toddlers), and when older, find them some kind of job with which they can make money and buy their own stuff. But force them to save money in the bank, give money to God's cause, share with their parents and others, and live by a budget as much as possible. Do not allow them to buy just any and everything, but watch over and monitor their purchases.
- Because the input must be controlled if you want to produce a certain output, control and limit children’s communications with people outside the family. This was once a very easy thing to control, simply by limiting and monitoring their phone and letter-writing privileges: who they talked to, how long they talked, how often they talked to them, what they talked about, etc. But now, with personal cell phones, text messaging, pagers, smart phones, email, chat rooms, instant messaging, Facebook, MySpace, and a host of other current and yet-to-be-invented methods of communication, controlling and monitoring your children’s communications with others outside of your sphere of influence is extremely difficult.
Still, it must be tackled. Each communication device can be a great and beneficial tool used for good, but each can also easily be used for evil. Too many young people are addicted to these various communication devices, and it is not usually edifying or helpful to them at all. A lot of talk is usually not too good. "In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin" (Prov. 10:19). So all of these privileges must be controlled and closely monitored, and some must be absolutely forbidden, depending on the age and maturity of the child.
But just think about this: When we were young people, most Christian parents wanted to know who their children were writing letters to and phone calling, how much they were communicating with them, what they were talking about, etc. Back then, no way would a mother want her thirteen-year-old daughter spending hours on the phone with some teenage boy of any age or endlessly writing letters to him. But now with all of the various electronic communication methods, the girl can secretly communicate without limit. She can also waste endless hours “chatting” with her girlfriends. She can even begin a relationship with an adult man, all right under the nose of her parents! Very little of this is productive, some is downright dangerous, and all of it is very distracting to living a purposeful life.
- Train children to be able to control themselves by scheduling regular rest periods. Some kids cannot be still in church or school because they never have to be still at home or anywhere else. Any toddler can be trained to sit down in one spot and remain there quietly until his parents permit him to get up. You train a toddler to do this the same way you train your pet dog to “sit:” Set them down, command them to “sit,” and tap their little legs with a switch (a little twig from a woody tree, for you who don’t know) every time they move from that spot. Show them lots of love when they obey. This method, if consistently and lovingly applied, will work even for children with a tendency towards hyperactivity. This is because all human behavior is a combination of heredity and environment, meaning that no matter what a child’s genetic make-up may be, he or she can still learn to control themselves if the home environment includes loving, consistent, and strict behavioral training and expectations.
- Children must also be trained to be still and quiet within. One way to develop and cultivate inner quietness is through reading. When they are young, read to them often. Later, teach them how to read, then make them read wholesome books to themselves, even if they complain they don't like to read. After awhile, they will become avid readers, thus opening up their minds to new worlds of knowledge and vicarious experiences. Plus, they learn how to be still, calm, and attentive for long periods of time. In today's hyperactive world, aggravated by constant media stimulation changing images every few seconds, this is a critical but rare skill to develop.
- Don't give them too many choices too early in life. This is completely contrary to the philosophy of the world, which tells parents to allow even two-year-olds to reason and make important decisions. Too much emphasis is placed on what the child wants or doesn’t want to do. The truth is, young children have not even developed the mental and emotional ability to reason well and make lots of adult-like choices based on the given input. They tend to make choices based on their feelings and desires alone. So the parent should decide what is best for the child to do, and make him do it. For example, there is no reason in the world for a five year old to have the right to choose whether or not she wants to eat the healthy vegetables on her plate or go to sleep at bedtime. There is no reason in the world for a twelve year old to get to choose not to go to church. There is no reason in the world for a sixteen year old to get to choose not to finish high school. These choices are made even before the children are born, and all they have left to do is to fall into line and go along with the program, whether they want to or not. It is the parents' job to push him "in the way he should go." Children will do what you let them do.
(2) Develop free and easy communication with them. The old adage that "children are to be seen, not heard" is not a proper attitude for the Christian home. They are not to impolitely interrupt or interject themselves into conversations between adults, but children's ideas, opinions, and desires should certainly be considered and respected. Communication must be free and open. A parent should correct and explain, not ridicule, anything his child comes up with that is a little off. The child should not be afraid to speak or talk about anything with either parent. However, expressing their anger and displeasure with the parents should never be done in a disrespectful manner.
(3) Raise them on a balanced spiritual doctrine. Raising a family in an atmosphere ruled by fanatical doctrines shows a lack of respect. Fanaticism is inconsiderate and inflexible. But balanced doctrine takes into consideration the feelings and the emotional, spiritual, and social needs of everyone involved. Fanatical teachings legalistically and unwisely disregard real people in order to preserve the sanctity of the "rules." It is the same harsh spirit that was behind the inflexible, legalistic, inconsiderate Pharisees, who wanted Jesus to ignore the real needs of real people in order to preserve their Sabbath. Children raised in an environment that lacks spiritual balance usually rebel and turn away from their parents and from God, often deliberately going to the opposite extremes. Some may return, but often only after making many mistakes, suffering much heartache, and undergoing much emotional and spiritual trauma. But most children raised in fanatical Christian homes are permanently scarred and driven away from the church and, unfortunately, from God, because they associate the two together.
Therefore, only balanced teaching should be promoted in the Christian home. Nothing should be taught to your children merely because it is a church teaching, but because it is sound and sensible, based on actual correctly-interpreted scriptures you can show them. Time should be taken with the children to explain in a balanced manner exactly why they are being trained the way they are, why they cannot do the things that are forbidden, why their lives must be lived so conscientiously and dedicated to God, etc. But all teaching must be balanced, however. If it does not make sense, do not force it on your kids. They are smart enough to question and see through unsound and inconsistent teachings. They will grow resentful as teenagers or adults, then reject you and your illogical doctrines.
If you want them to follow some rule for which you have no strong biblical support, be honest with them and tell them that "we prefer to follow this rule, not necessarily because it is mandated by the Bible, but because we feel like it is best under the circumstances." But do not resort to grabbing a bunch of unrelated scriptures and sticking them together with “spiritual crazy glue.” It will be sure to backfire one of these days.
(4) Give them a Christian education. It shows a lack of respect and concern when Christians professing holiness allow their children to be raised by the corrupt public school system. Anything short of a proper Christian education does irreparable damage to Christian children. It is unbelievable how many Christian parents, including ministers, still cannot see this. Some of them insist on arguing against Christian education, while all the time many of their own public school-raised kids are in jail, on drugs, having illegitimate babies, unsaved, and generally unproductive.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 provides the basis for Christian education. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart; you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
This sets the home, under the authority of the father and mother, as the source of proper education for every member in that home, especially the children. This education is to be both formal and informal, a “24/7” thing, consistently God-based, not a situation where one thing is taught in the home and another outside of the home. It is to cover everything necessary for life. And it is not to be delegated to secular strangers and outsiders, those without a real interest or personal responsibility to see that the child’s education is done right from God’s perspective. Only the parents have that responsibility, and handing their children over to someone else to be educated does not relieve the parents of that responsibility.
Thus, parents should know that: (1) The school they delegate to help to educate their children is actually a servant of their home, i.e., the school merely performs a service for the home, and (2) if that service performed is not according to the parents’ vision and moral, spiritual, and academic standards they have for their children, then that school should be removed from the equation. This is both the parents’ right and responsibility. For this reason, many Christian parents have resorted to Christian-schooling or home-schooling their children. Sometimes that is the only way to do it right.
The benefits of Christian education are numerous:
- It teaches academics from the perspective of Him who created all things. What better or more accurate way to learn about the world, the people in it, and everything concerning it, than to learn it from the Great Manufacturer Himself.
- The result is that children learn a Christian worldview. Everything is seen from and through the eyes of God. Everything is learned with its original purpose in mind. Thus, any human violations of those purposes is discovered and seen for what they really are. For example, when evolution is taught in Christian education, it is discovered to be the humanistic fraud that it actually is, not the unchallengeable truth the public schools purport it to be. World history from God’s perspective cannot possibly ignore the lives of great missionaries and religious influences that have actually determined the course of world history. Great literature is not nearly so great if it is discovered to always point away from and never point toward God. Christian education is actually the true education because it takes into account a reality that the world refuses to accept..
- Christian education is more easily individualized, thus allowing for major differences in the students’ learning abilities. No two children are alike; no two children learn alike or at the same pace. Christian education can more easily respect the needs of each individual. The public school concept of academic mass production allows a huge number of children to fall between the cracks in the system and become social failures. It is obvious that by creating people with so many differences and variety, God never meant for one size to fit all. He deals with people individually. Trying to homogenize everything never lifts people to the highest standards, but tends to bring them all down to the lowest common denominator—academically, morally, and socially. This explains why public school teachers are forced to teach to their average student, leaving the below-average student behind and holding the above-average student back. It also explains why every few years the college entrance exams and other achievement tests must be revamped: the standards are perpetually getting lower each generation.
- One of the main objectives of Christian education is the development of good character. Good character, not intelligence, physical talents, and social or economic status, is what is most important in this world and should be most valued. Not much else really counts. Our society is suffering greatly because of a widespread lack of good moral character. Everywhere we look we see that political leaders are lustful and corrupt, business leaders are greedy and dishonest, religious leaders are immoral and opportunistic, and the common person is untrustworthy. A lack of character is actually behind the academic failures of our public school system: One cannot teach a child until he can control him. Because most children are undisciplined and out of control, the schools cannot teach them.
- Christian education enables Christian parents to maintain at school the same training and environment their children receive at home. It becomes an extension rather than an enemy of the home. This is done seamlessly, with no break in moral or behavioral standards. There is no difficult moral dichotomy to overcome, where children live one way at home but another, opposite way at school. Home, school, and the church present one united front in the training of the children. This is of enormous benefit, because it is our belief that this dichotomy—the morality in the school being so vastly different from or even opposite to the morality in the home—that causes most Christian children eventually to be lost to the world.
By allowing your children to be educated by the public schools you harm them in several ways:
- They rub shoulders with the ungodly and learn the "way of the heathen" (Jeremiah 10:2). What exactly is the “way of the heathen?” The “way of the heathen” is the manner of living and the value system that results from having and serving a god other than Jehovah of the Bible. An individual, a family, and a nation are all greatly affected by whatever god they believe in. The god or thing worshiped determines a person’s value system, which influences everything else in his life. And the god of the public school system is not the God of heaven. "Don't be deceived," Paul warned, "evil communications [associations] corrupt good manners [morals, behavior, and character]" (1 Corinthians 15:33 various translations). Or, as the Revised version states, "Bad company ruins good morals."
Very, very few Christian children successfully share their faith and "win" converts in the public schools. Ninety-nine percent of the time it is the Christian children who are corrupted. Exposing them to the evil so that they will learn how to cope is a risky and unwise philosophy. Children should be shielded from the evils of the world, nurtured and built up in the "admonition of the Lord," and merely taught about (but not forced to experience) society's evils, until they are (1) truly ready and strong enough to resist evil, and (2) old enough to have lost some of their appetite for the evil or too old to learn it well. It is true that children should not be overly sheltered, as some parents believe Christian schools do, but neither should they be dumped indiscriminately into society's cesspools.
- They grow accustomed to the many evils and outrageous behaviors of the world, thus losing their sensitivity to what is right and wrong. Many learn to detest what is of true and eternal value, ridiculing and disparaging what is right and good as being too unsophisticated, old-fashioned, and embarrassing. They especially lose sight of what it means to be respectful and honorable, because the public schools are characterized by gross disrespect, an absence of authority, and dishonorable (and what was once outrageous) behavior. That environment is something parents should not want their children to grow accustomed to. “Remember Lot’s wife” and children (Luke 17:32; Genesis 19).
- They usually become quite mixed up in their priorities, having seen wrong and misplaced values emphasized for so long. They learn a secular, not Christian, worldview. They imbibe secular, not godly, ambitions. This stuff is very hard to unlearn, and traces of it stay in the mind forever. Because our education system has been dominated by humanistic philosophies for so long, most of today's parents, who were raised under this system, remain secular humanists even after they become Christians.
By no means are we saying that all Christian schools and homeschools are wonderful, because many of them are seriously deficient, both academically and spiritually. Nor can we say that it is a sin to send your children to a public school. However, no parent should fail to recognize that school is just about the biggest influence in their children's lives. No parent should be surprised if they discover undesirable traits and mentalities that their children have picked in their public school environments. We send our kids down to "Egypt" to be educated six hours per day for thirteen years then wonder what in the world happened when they reject the church's practices and teachings, God's moral standards, the Lord's priorities, and the Holy Spirit's sensitivities. The answer should be obvious.
(5) Protect them from the evil influences of relatives and neighbors. While we are discussing the avoidance of "evil communications" (associations), we should talk a little about the neighborhood children are raised in. It is just as important to prevent evil associations and regulate children's friends in the neighborhood as it is in the public schools. Many Christian kids have been ruined in the house next door. Many parents have unwisely allowed their children lots of freedom with the neighbors' children because it was close to home, but really, the neighbors' values, practices, and beliefs can be a million miles away from Christian values. Therefore, Christian children should be kept away from such neighbors even if it seems somewhat cold. Remember, "evil associations corrupt good manners," and what is permitted as input into a child determines the output from that child. A parent who respects his children's welfare will do all within his power and control to make sure that the only things going into his children are the things that will produce what he desires to come out of his children.
But the neighbor's children are not the only families that parents must carefully watch and sometimes avoid. Parents must be careful of the families of their own brothers, sisters, cousins, and other relatives. Not everybody raises their children with godly standards. Just because certain families are relatives does not mean that it is safe or wise to send your children to their homes for frequent, indiscriminate associating. Children can be ruined by cousins, aunts, and uncles who don't know how to raise their own children and who let anything happen in their homes. Lots of contact with these families should be avoided.
Unfortunately, it is also often necessary to avoid certain church families whose standards are far below yours. Children can even be ruined in the church, associating with other church children who are out of control or whose parents do not practice holy wisdom in child rearing. Parents must limit the contact their children have with any family—fellow church members, relatives, or otherwise—in which there are frequent, uncontrolled use of the TV, violent video games, the internet, or other media; too much physical contact, familiarity, and immodesty; unsaved adults or older children who are untrustworthy; lack of close and alert parental supervision; lack of godly standards in speech, dress, attitudes, daily activities, and habits; and other such negative conditions.
The principle is: Any home in which worldly selfishness in attitude and practice prevails is not a suitable environment for your children. "Don't be tricked… Evil company does damage to good behavior," no matter who it may involve. And notice: Paul said “Don’t be tricked or deceived…” He said this because there is something about people—young and old—that makes them think that, although they can see the danger in certain associations and it could affect somebody, they themselves will be an exception to this rule and nothing will happen to them. Paul is saying, “Don’t be such a fool.”
(6) Protect them from the media. This being the case, it is also necessary to talk about the media. The media include everything used to carry messages: television, radio, movies, videos, the internet, books, magazines, newspapers, video games, music, tapes and CD's, even the telephone. Although each of these media can be used for both good and evil purposes, because of mankind's natural depravity most of the messages carried by these media are corrupt, filled with sex, violence, off-color comedy, foolishness, promotion of selfishness and worldliness, deprecation of wholesome values and standards, and other negative messages.
Therefore, parents must exercise extreme caution when dealing with any of today's media. All of the above media must be wisely and carefully controlled, and some of it is so hard to control it should be eliminated from the home or forbidden all together. The messages carried by most of today's media is not fit for human consumption, let alone Christian consumption.
Still, it is sometimes shocking and surprising to see some of the books and magazines many Christian parents (and their children) have in their houses. It is surprising to hear some of the popular music that many Christian children are allowed to listen to. Some of these Christian families are supposedly very traditional in their theology and beliefs. It is just as surprising (and puzzling) to see certain videos and movies in the homes of many who refuse to have a TV. This is not the way to give children a truly Christian upbringing.
Below are some of the deleterious effects of indiscriminate, uncontrolled use of the above media. It:
- destroys spiritual sensitivities;
- defiles consciences;
- confuses understanding of right and wrong;
- redefines and replaces moral values;
- desensitizes minds to violence, immorality, and outrageous behaviors;
- creates a craving for constant excitement, thus making wholesome activities "boring;"
- shortens attention spans;
- develops addictions to watch or indulge in that medium;
- destroys productivity by wasting a prodigious amount of valuable time;
- does not spiritually edify ("build up"); and, most importantly,
- destroys or prevents a keen, steady awareness of the presence of God.
(7) Get them involved in the life of the Body of Christ. While we have been talking about what children should not get involved with, it is necessary to suggest what they should get involved with. Christian families should make the local Body of Christ an integral part of their social lives as well as their spiritual lives. Attending church on Sunday and prayer meeting night is great, but there should be other contact with the members of the Body throughout the week. This is another advantage of attending a Christian school: it gets children involved in Christian social activities other than worship services. Remember, the early church was "daily in the temple, and in every house" (Acts 5:42), thus implying that their entire lives—spiritually, socially, physically, and emotionally—were wrapped up in the life of the local congregation.
First of all, it is the responsibility of the church to get children directly involved in the worship services. But it should also involve them in regular social activities, programs, opportunities to minister, and other events targeted for youth. A church without a strong ministry to its youth is flagrantly failing its Christian families. It should be obvious that you cannot keep kids interested in the church if almost every aspect of their lives is lived outside of the church. Children grow up loving the people and things they socially interact with the most, and a child who spends most of his time, energy, and interests outside of the church will find little reason to hang around the church after he has grown up.
Thus, if the church leadership is lax concerning its youth, it is the responsibility of the parents to insure that their children are closely socially involved with the other families of the Body on a regular basis. If your church is doing little or nothing for your children, then either start something yourself or take them somewhere where they can have their social and spiritual needs fulfilled in a wholesome environment with other Christian families. This topic will be discussed in more depth later.
(8) Help keep their priorities straight: Don't push them into materialism. We are inconsiderate of our children when we push and prod them to join the rat race in a relentless drive for the almighty dollar. We tell them to "be somebody," and when they get to be, we are real proud of them. But actually, when we look at things from God's perspective, most of them are wasting their lives. If we really respect our children, we will spend more time and effort developing their spirituality. We will dedicate them to God as babies for His service, then begin training and preparing them in every area of their lives for service to God. We will get them to define success as how much they yield to God, not how much money or how many earthly accolades they have earned. If we really respect them, we will succeed in causing their life philosophy to be, "Only one life; it will soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last."
(9) Prepare them for independent living. It is a lack of respect and consideration for our children when we let them grow up spoiled, dependent, and unprepared for the harsh realities of life. Children need to know how to work, how to endure hardships, how to cope with the uncertainties of life. They need hands-on training and practice—not mere education and pep talks—on how to manage their own homes and what to expect in raising their own children. If you don’t make them independent, they might be on your hands and in your house for life! So don’t cripple your children; that is a lack of love and respect.
Girls should be trained how to cook, clean, get up early in the morning, shop, manage money, manage a household, and do other things that will one day be their duty and obligation. They should be taught and prepared to accept the fact that they will eventually have to play the role of mother, caretaker, nurturer, supporter, etc. Boys should be trained to work hard, manage money, acquire a special skill or academic ability, and discipline themselves to sacrifice for their families. They should be taught to accept the fact they will have to be providers, leaders, emotional supporters of their wives and children, etc. Of course, there is nothing wrong with teaching both your boys and girls how to cook, clean, fix the car, cut the grass, etc., but they should be aware that when the harsh realities of everyday family life really kick in, they will probably end up filling a traditional role.
Even in our modern society, which refuses to acknowledge that these traditional roles are critical and insists on believing that they are optional and interchangeable, the roles women and men fulfill in the family still basically remain the same: Somebody has to got to bear and take care of children, somebody has got to cook so that everybody else can eat, somebody has got to make enough money to provide for the family's needs, somebody has got to sacrifice mightily to keep life going and everybody emotionally and spiritually fulfilled. Nobody is going to be able to—or even want to—eat out everyday for the next thirty years, nor get by without working hard!
Furthermore, raising a family the right way is such a monumental task that it is entirely too much for one person to do. It takes two, as God designed, so the job will have to be split up into distinct roles for each partner to play, according to what they are most suited for, physically, emotionally, and socially. And so the traditional roles will be played out whether we like it or not. Role switching has not really worked in America, nor is it ever going to work. Millions of women may be out in the work force trying to make a living, but they quickly discover that they still cannot get away from their homemaking duties. So they really end up being stressed out with double responsibilities. When it is all said and done, women are going to do what women have done for thousands of years, and men are going to play the role that they have always played. Children need to be taught, trained, prepared, and given the mental, physical, and social skills for the roles they are going to fulfill in their future families.
One interesting, exciting, and usually very enlightening thing to do is to give your teenager a chance to run or manage the entire household for a month. Make him or her responsible to shop, plan menus, make meals, manage the household budget, manage the household chores, delegate responsibilities to the rest of the family, etc. Eat what they cook, when they cook it, and how they cook it. Let them experience how it feels to realize that absolutely nothing in the home happens unless they make it happen. Let them feel the ire and hear the complaints of the other children about the decisions your teenager is making as he or she runs the house. Let them experience the other children fussing about the menus.
Try this for both your girls and boys. Not only will they learn better how to manage things; they will also learn how to appreciate the job their parents have been doing in keeping the house running so smoothly for so long. And what is surprising is this: You will find your teenager starting to imitate some of your methods, taking on some of your attitudes, and even planning menus and buying foods that they once complained about, simply because they now realize that those foods were the most economical and nutritious!
(10) Don't let them grow up too fast, especially romantically. Just as we stated above that it is important to prepare children for life's realities, it is also important for them not to grow up too fast in certain areas of life. This is especially true regarding romance. Romance is not for kids. It is only for those who are mature enough—spiritually, emotionally, physically, and financially—to seriously be considering marriage. It is not to be engaged in merely for the pleasure and fun of "going with" a member of the opposite sex, experimentally trying out various girls or boys for compatibility. Dating should be discouraged except in group settings or when a couple is convinced that God is definitely directing them toward each other. Choosing one's lifetime companion should be the sole reason for romantic attachments. Anything short of this is nothing more than trifling, which, when one really studies it out, has its source and motivation in the spirit of fornication so prevalent in our world today. Furthermore, today’s dating scene is fraught with danger and characterized by continual break-ups, broken hearts, and the resultant emotional callousness and inability to love and commit.
Parents should be very careful about teasing or tempting their children in this area, or being too permissive. Romantic attachments made are usually hard and always hurtful to break. Parental guidance and influence in this area is critical, and so is formal premarital counseling, because a person's romantic behavior and attachments often determine where he or she spends eternity. It makes no sense at all for parents to spend twenty years carefully, prayerfully, and painfully raising children, only to watch them ruin their lives by "falling in love" with the wrong person.
(11) Win them to the Lord at an early age and keep them encouraged. Christians are involved in winning souls to the Lord. But the most important souls they must win and cannot afford to lose are their own children. How ironic it is for Christians to win the whole world and lose their own children! If there are any souls that they have every opportunity to win, the foremost responsibility to win, and the easiest chance to influence for God, they are their own children. If they cannot win their own children, there is something lacking somewhere about their convictions, wisdom, home practices, or ministry, whether they want to admit it or not.
A serious breakdown occurs when a Christian's children do not accept his way of life and when they work against all that he stands for. Sooner or later, children get too old and rebel against the iron fist that may have been forcing them to stay in the church. Therefore Christian parents must start early and do everything within their power to win and keep their children on the Lord’s side. This is done by keeping the children on the parents’ side. They cannot afford to fail in this endeavor because failure could spell disaster for their family and the possible collapse of all they hold dear.
On the other hand, respectful children eventually pick up the torch of their godly parents and carry it on. They sincerely believe in what their parents have stood for. They are not simply repeating and reciting their parents' beliefs and opinions. They actually see what the parents see and feel what the parents feel. They are not merely waiting until they "turn 18" so they can leave the church, their parents, and other godly influences, seldom to be seen again.
The Bible contains specific statements regarding ministers’ families, but these principles should apply to all Christian families. Although it is not usually emphasized today, the New Testament actually teaches that the minister's children should be believers. Paul makes this one of the qualifications for a bishop or pastor in Titus 1:6 (KJV): "If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot and unruly..." This phrase, "having faithful children," is translated "his children are believers" in almost every translation but the King James Version. The Greek itself literally means "children having faith."
Of course, parents cannot force faith upon their children, but the principle here makes it clear that the parents are supposed to have built up, throughout their lives, enough influence with their children that those children will grow up loving and following the Lord. It is pretty obvious from this verse that the normal expectation is that the minister's children and all Christian children will be saved young people. Something has gone wrong when they are not.
Below is a summarization of the principles that will lead to having saved children who love the Lord and who do not go astray when they get grown. There is no iron-clad guarantee—children are still capable of turning against the Lord at any time, but the odds are against them going astray if these correct principles are diligently and consistently followed during their upbringing:
- Control and manipulate their environment from day one. What goes in will definitely come out some day. So only the best, the wholesome, and the moral should be allowed to go into the child. As much as possible, consistently keep them from “tasting” the unwholesome, immoral, and carnal pleasantries of the world before they are mature enough to handle what goes on around them. A child that has been spoiled and corrupted by the things of the world is harder to keep on the Lord’s side. This means that you will almost never use a TV in the home; it won’t hurt if you do not even own one. This is the suggestion of many child experts in our society, and is not merely the opinion of some religious fanatic. If you own a DVD player, use it sparingly to watch only wholesome videos, and watch them together as a family. Never use it as a baby-sitter or pacifier for unruliness. If you need some more ideas in this area, read Fifty Practical Ways to Take Our Kids Back from the World, by Michael J. Manus, or Keeping Your Kids Christian, edited by Marshall Shelley. And there are many other such books.
- Control their temperaments. A child that is allowed to be resentful and bitter, vindictive, rebellious, selfish, spoiled, self-promoting, disobedient, sly, loud and overly self-asserting, will find it extremely difficult to bring himself under submission and obedience to God. He will also have lots of trouble adjusting to society and having wholesome relationships with other people. He will spend quite a bit of time and energy fighting and struggling with himself, with others, and with God. Cultivate joy and a positive spirit within your children.
- Control their desires. A child is born with simple but selfish desires: the desire to center all attention on himself and the desire to do what he wants to do when he wants to do it. These desires must be curbed, not encouraged by the world to develop into a huge mass of wants and wishes that cannot be controlled later. Do not cater to children’s selfishness, but train them out of it, starting when they are babies. A spoiled child who has always gotten his way will find it extremely difficult to do what Jesus Christ said every disciple must do: “Deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Teach them submission early on.
- Love them unconditionally. This is the most important input. Make them love you. Become their hero and role model, so they will want to please you. They will then accept your teaching and values, and later, your God, not because you crammed Him down their throats but because they love and trust you. So fill their “love tanks” with love and security so that they are not forced to resort to selfish attempts to get the love and acceptance all people crave. An emotionally insecure child, with unfulfilled cravings for love and affection, will be driven by those cravings into self-destructive and non-productive behaviors that are always selfish and fleshly and never godly. They may have been warned extensively against such behaviors, but they will be literally driven by an internal force and vulnerability that they cannot control.
- Begin their moral and spiritual training while they are in the crib. Children are never too young to learn what is right. Our oldest son demonstrated some obvious evidence of rebellion at four months old, so that is when his mother began training it out of him. Train children morally, i.e., build character into them. Character is the ability to do what is right even when the opportunity to do the wrong arises. Train them spiritually, i.e., introduce them to know God for themselves. Read them Bible stories. Teach them Bible verses; it exercises their minds and memories early, and young children are much smarter than most parents think. Our children could quote several passages of Scripture at two-years-old. Teach them to pray. Teach them to sing.
But most of all, when they can understand and start asking questions, teach them what it means to be saved and lead them to Christ. Thereafter, encourage and never discourage them, no matter how many childish mistakes they make. Train and require them to have personal devotions daily (in addition to family devotions). Provide spiritual reading and study materials appropriate to their ages, and teach them how to use it. Pray extensively for them and with them.
One of the best ways to saturate your children with the word of God is to buy them a set of The Bible In Living Sound, a group of 450 exciting dramatized reenactments of Bible stories on 75 CDs or tapes, and the collection is continually growing. Besides providing countless hours of character-building and interesting fun, the principles and details contained in these tapes will almost insure that your children will win every Bible quiz or trivia game for the rest of their lives! The CDs and accompanying activity books can be ordered from The Bible In Living Sound at Box 234, Nordland, WA 98358-0234. Or reach them at 1-800-634-0234 or http://www.bibleinlivingsound.org/.
- Take them to a balanced, Bible-believing church from the beginning. Get them involved in the life of the church—indeed, build their lives around God and the service of God. Help them build connections and relationships from within the circle of fellow Christians and friends. See to it that they are given something to do for God, for the church, and for others, so that they will grow up assuming, desiring, and expecting that their lives are incomplete if they do not do some kind of ministry for God. Train them to never be satisfied doing nothing for God. Don’t wait until they are teenagers to start their service to God; that’s way too late. Model doing God’s service before them.
Make sure their church involvement is filled with enjoyable experiences, but you must still use all of the unpleasant experiences as moral lessons. No matter what happens, never let them keep negative attitudes about God, the church, or the people in it. Of course, you will have to avoid having negative attitudes yourself, because children reflect their parents’ feelings like mirrors that never lie.
Make sure you give them balanced moral teaching. Any teaching not completely supported by the Bible may cause them to be tempted to rebel when they get old enough to discover that it’s not sound. Do not provide them that opportunity. So be prepared to give sound and sensible answers to all of their questions and challenges. If you do not know the answers, then find a preacher who knows. If he doesn’t know, then don’t just blindly defend him and the church: research the matter yourself with your children. You will all be benefited immensely.
One last piece of advice on this topic: Always train your children to be loyal to God Himself, not to the church alone. Teach them to place their greatest trust in God, not the church. What happens if the church collapses or goes through some crisis, like multitudes of churches do? What happens when the church omits certain critical ministries like youth ministry, evangelistic or service opportunities, etc.? The church involves human beings, the best of whom are prone to error and selfishness. Thus, anyone whose ultimate trust or loyalty is placed in a church is vulnerable and open to betrayal, disillusionment, burn-out, potential loss of faith, and missing pieces of discipleship. God never fails, but churches often do. So point your children to God, not merely to the church—any church.
The Main Goal
Through all of this, the main goal is to keep children consistently under the tutelage of an external morality until they obtain a real, living relationship with God and He gives them an internal morality. In other words, fiercely protect and lovingly nurture them spiritually until the “light comes on” within them (2 Peter 1:19). With this internal morality, the child is now operating on his own spiritual experience, independent of his parents. The child is then doing his deeds and living his life morally because of the drive he now possesses within himself. He is no longer just trying to please “Mom and Dad,” but God, his heavenly Father. You will then have successfully transferred him from your moral care to God’s moral care. Truly, he or she is now God’s child. For more on this subject, read "Respecting the Children" in an earlier chapter of this book.
© 2008 Philip & Segatha Matthews