Perhaps the most quoted Bible verse when talking about responsible parenthood is, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverb 22:6). It is certainly a piece of great advice to all of us who are blessed to be parents, and to anyone thinking about starting their home shortly.
The world today, with all its technological advances, offers many opportunities to distract us from doing such important work. Many parents, as long as they have a moment of silence, give cell phones or tablets to their children so that they “do not disturb”. It does not matter the age of the child, because even when they are just babies, their parents put a screen in front of their car seat to “entertain them”. At the time when this writer was a child, TV was considered “a good nanny” but never usurped the place of a good mother. Today, that title has been given to those portable screens, which, although we call them “smart”, only have some intelligence when their user uses them wisely.
I recently read this phrase shared by my friend and brother Mark Nichols Posey, “You either live in Philippians 1:21 or Philippians 2:21.” Let us go to the biblical text and see what these passages say.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”Philippians 1:21.
“For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s”Philippians 2:21.
As God-fearing parents, which of these two lifestyles are we teaching our children? We need to understand that “children are children” and as such require the guidance and discipline of their parents. They do not rule themselves – let us not let the world make us believe that. They need us. Giving in to the customs of the world in this type of upbringing is only a postponement of problems that according to us “we avoid”. When one of our little ones throws a “tantrum” because he “demands” that we give him the tablet or cell phone, God has let us know that we have the authority to correct that attitude. The same wise man who wrote Proverbs 22:6 also wrote, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes”(Proverbs 13:24), and “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying”(Proverbs 19:18). We can see clearly that violence is not authorized but a way of discipline in which our children understand that what we want is to correct a bad attitude or action because we love them and we want them to grow well, to learn good works, to put them into practice, and to persevere. Certainly, in this way, we help them so that when they reach old age, they do not depart from the path that God has prepared for everyone, according to His word.
Let us not be fearful when it is the time to educate and discipline our children, even the world will thank us afterward. They will be God-fearing men and women, respectful of His word, and doers of good works. They will be responsible not only in their studies but also in their professions and in the homes they will make. They will be good examples not only to society but also to their children and grandchildren. However, let us remember that they do what they see. If they do not see this behavior in their parents, no matter how much their parents command, educate, and correct them, they are not going to do it because they are just seeing an act of total “hypocrisy.”
Many times we have heard testimonies, both from men and women, who say, “I am not going to be like my parents, I am going to be a good one,” or, “I did not get to know my father, but my son will know his,” or, “my son will have everything I did not have.” The last statement is perhaps the best known, and sadly it is probably the main reason for the problem we face today regarding responsible parenthood. Since “I” did not have the best toys as a child, my son is going to have them. Since “I” could not travel the world, my son is going to. As “I” traveled by bus or on foot, my son will never go through that stage, he will always ride in comfortable cars. And many more examples may be cited. Each country has its word for the term “spoiled”, which, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “to impair the disposition or character of by overindulgence or excessive praise [emphasis added]”. Note the emphasis this author places on that definition. Is there anything wrong with taking my kids to see a movie at the movies? Or in going to eat some ice cream? Or to buy him a toy that he likes so much? No, there is nothing wrong with it, the problem is in the excessive indulgence that impairs their character.
We cooperate in badly educating our children when we tell them “if you do not eat … then I do not buy you …”, “if you do not do your chores then I do not take you to …”; “if you do not do your homework then I won’t let you…”. Nowadays children seem to be the ones in control of the home. How many times should the mother ask her daughter to fix the bed? How many times should the father ask his son to take out the trash? How many times … [fill in the blank]? The son or daughter may not have heard their parents’ request on the first or second occasion, but, many of these are daily tasks, recurring things, actions that form their character, and they should not be constantly reminded about the importance of doing them, they are part of their responsibility. We keep “spoiling” (and this time I mean it as “to damage seriously”) them because since they do not do it, we do it for them. Our children are not going to get sick or die for a day that they do not fix their room, but nothing will happen to them for a day without a cell phone, video game console, or internet. We must react and notice the damage we are causing our children. The famous cliché “the children of today are the men and women of tomorrow” makes a lot of sense here. We must encourage our children to be good men and women, not for a simple reward that pleases a temporary whim (they will always want more, and not only more, but bigger), but a reward that gives them a life lesson and how to overcome any obstacle that may arise.
A beloved brother once told us how, upon seeing his newborn son, he could see God’s perfection, how this little one came into the world, sinless (yes, sinless, please read Ezekiel 18:20), to be part of his home, and how he, at that moment, understood that this baby is a loan from God. In the same state that God gives us our children, He expects them back. It is our responsibility to instruct them in God’s way, to prepare them so they can make the greatest choice of their lives, obey the gospel, and serve Him. Let us strive for them to seek God from a young age, to be interested in serving Him, pleasing Him, and thanking Him, to get to old age and keep walking on such a wonderful path.
Beloved brethren and friends, let us think about our children. Without any doubt, the best thing we can give them in this life is to teach them to be diligent servants of God, to live a godly life, according to the will of the Father, understanding the importance of the Gospel, and of presenting themselves as a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God through their obedience (and ours) to His word. Let us not conform to what this world offers, but let us transform ourselves into what God expects of us (see Romans 12:1-2), and He makes it known to us through the Bible, His word, that inerrant guide to eternal life.
“My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth”Proverbs 3:11-12.
God bless us and our homes every day of our lives.