Our Children at Home

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Anyone who has experienced the birth and subsequent homecoming of a newborn baby can quickly call to mind that particular memory in rich detail. The deep emotions, the immense gratitude to God, the intense caring of all those we know, the broad smiles of happy grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters, are all easily recalled. Perhaps even more easily felt in looking back, is the new love the parents feel for this tiny helpless creature. There is nothing comparable to the love parents feel for their children.

Soon the pressing reality of parental responsibility begins to make its mark on the young couple and the daily routine becomes exhausting. Thus, it is imperative for expectant mothers and fathers in the truth to have a carefully thought out child development plan in place before their baby is born. The first step and most effective part of that plan should be prayer. We have been given a 'pearl of great price' - that priceless gift of knowing the Truth. If we value that pearl as we should, we will do whatever it takes to pass that most valuable possession to our children. More than anything, we should want our children to have a part in God's kingdom. This is how we truly demonstrate our love for our children. This is our ultimate goal in the child-rearing process. Psalm 78:4-9 tells us, We will not hide them (the commandments of God) from their children, showing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.

Is it ever too early to arise and declare the things of the kingdom to our little ones? Modern child development experts all agree that reading to very young babies is advisable for language development. There are also many books available, written in the simplest language to teach Bible stories. There are also books, without added text, where Mom and Dad can add their own words. Babies are great imitators and will soon add God, Jesus, Moses, Goliath, etc. to their word list.

We have scriptural examples of children who were well schooled before they reached the age of five. Think of Moses, whose mother, Jochebed, was hired to nurse him until he was old enough to be weaned and go to live in Pharaoh's palace. His parents must have spent every waking hour teaching that child the Truth so that when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter...Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward (Hebrews 11:24,26).

Another example is Samuel. Hannah prayed for and was given a son. She promised that she would give that child to the Lord all the days of his life. 1 Samuel 1:24 tells us, And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her... and brought him unto the house of the Lord in Shiloh: and the child was young. Hannah faithfully kept her promise and left this very young child with the high priest Eli. Sadly, Eli was known for not restraining his own sons who were already astray at this time. Yet Hannah had prepared Samuel for his life in the temple and did not wait to start teaching him the Truth.

We can look at other young people in scripture whose parents must have diligently taught them the words of the law when they sat in their houses, when they walked in the way, when they laid down and when they rose up. The captive little maid, who is not given a name, had faith to proclaim the man of God to Naaman. Daniel was taken away captive, probably as a teenager, and refused to eat the king's meat. Joseph knew well the commandments of the Lord and was not seduced by Potiphar's wife.

As children grow and expand their knowledge, it behooves us to increase our knowledge also. The questions will come faster and increase in difficulty. We must cultivate our own love for learning the scripture along with them. This will afford them the added benefit of seeing their parents reading and studying the word. Young children are excellent imitators and will mirror to us all our best and worst characteristics and traits. With this in mind, we need to be always attentive to our words and behavior. We need to imitate our Lord Jesus and seek to develop the fruit of the Spirit in ourselves so our children will copy that.

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him (Proverbs 22:15). Discipline is one of the most difficult parts of the child-rearing process. Many parents will disagree on the subject. Children are born with a sinful human nature and will test their boundaries over and over. They will not be perfect and will never cease to surprise and embarrass with their actions. However, consistent discipline, and as they get older, a clear explanation of God's requirements, will teach children self-discipline and respect for God's laws. They must understand that bad behavior is simply not acceptable. Proverbs 29:17 tells us, Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.

Children are quick to notice a flaw or hypocrisy, but teenagers are especially adept at it. Accordingly, we cannot over emphasize the power of example. We need to be ever aware of the model we project to our children. We must show them enthusiastic support for the ecclesia. They need to see us reading and praying and sharing the word with others. They need to see the Truth at work in our lives. We must be careful in our classes and discussions amongst brethren not to continuously dwell on controversial subjects lest our children think that is all there is to the Truth and become discouraged. The most effective teachers are those who show enthusiasm for the subject they teach. The same is true for parents teaching the Truth to their offspring.

The world around us is tightening its grip on our young people. They no longer need to leave the house to be enticed by its allure. The television and its adjuncts (especially the internet) have brought their particular enticements directly into our homes, by our invitation. In and of themselves they are harmless, until they are turned on. All the new technology can be used for great benefit, but what vigilance is needed to protect our very susceptible children and teenagers. Children can be induced, often with our tacit approval, to worship the gods of movies, music, sports, education, and ambition. How often do we come across a Sunday school student who can recite all the statistics of their favorite baseball player, but has difficulty reciting the books of the Bible? What "instant" message are we sending to our children when we skip the daily Bible readings to watch a movie or spend a whole evening shopping on-line? We must redouble our efforts to set the proper example and to monitor what our children are watching and doing with the technology they have.

As our teenagers begin to mature into adults, they enter a most difficult but exciting phase in their lives; the dating years. The sole purpose of dating should be to find a life mate. Hence, dating is not for young teenagers, but for those who are of marriageable age. Throughout the child's life, the principle of "only in the Lord" should be emphasized. They hopefully will gravitate to those who are also spiritually minded in choosing their friends and then choosing their mate. This is the time when all our fears for our children are heightened. It feels like the test of how well we have taught them and carried out our plan. Suddenly, we see them as adults, separate from us, who need to make their own decisions and choices without our help. Will they behave properly with a person of the opposite sex? Can they see what the future will be like with this person? Questions arise that our own experience can answer but which they must answer for themselves. It is so hard to strike a balance between guidance and interference.

Recalling those memories of the new baby, is there any more joyful or gratifying an experience for a parent than witnessing the rebirth of that child in the waters of baptism? The years of praying and teaching and disciplining and praying again and again are rewarded in this one small act. Add to that the subsequent marriage in the Lord, the birth of grandchildren and then watching your son or daughter teach that new generation the law of the Lord. This is no small delight, for what greater joy could there ever be than one of our small gems being chosen when the Lord comes to make up his jewels?

Ralph and Nancy Diliberto, Burdett, NY