Question: Please give us a lesson on how to raise our children and teach and train them.
Answer: In Psalm 127:3-5 we read, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.”
God ordained that the man (Adam) and the woman (Eve) which He created would be joined together in holy wedlock and that they should produce children (offspring) and bring forth fruit unto God. This first pair was the pattern for all succeeding generations. God adds children to a marriage as one major means of blessing the parents, enriching their lives and giving luster, cheer and pleasure to the home and family. In these verses He teaches that the children are a valuable asset to the parents and are a source of strength and support to them.
We need first of all to recognize the value and importance of our children in God’s sight. They should be precious and of prime importance in our sight also. They are a blessing from God and are the heritage of the parents from Him. In Genesis 33:5 Jacob referred to the children which God had graciously given Him. In Genesis 48:9 Joseph said unto his father, “…They are my sons, whom God hath given me in this place….”
God, however, gives children to parents for a specific purpose beyond what has yet been mentioned. Within those little bodies are souls that Christ died for and are precious in God’s sight. He has intrusted those souls to the care of parents that they might train, teach and nurture them in the ways of the Lord, and so beget within them a desire for salvation and to love and serve Him. He wants to increase the population of heaven, and the size of His own family with those souls, and has strictly charged the parents to whom He intrusted those souls to do all in their power to take good care of them so they may be returned to Him as redeemed souls at the end. Every set of parents has a good missionary project in their own home.
In Psalm 48:12-13 we read, “Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generations following.” Psalm 102:18 says, “This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord.” We see, then, that God values our children as much as us and He wants them to be saved the same as us. He expects us to bring them up knowing the same truth that we know and believing in the same God. He charges all parents with the responsibility of teaching and training their children in a way that they will know what salvation is and how to get it. We will be held accountable to God for failing to do this as much as we will be held accountable for failure to do God’s will on any other line. Please read in connection with this Deuteronomy 4:9-10, 8:6-9, 11:18-21, to see how diligently God commands His people to continually have these truths before their children.
Adam Clarke, commenting on Deuteronomy 6:7, says that the Hebrew word used here (diligently) means to repeat or do a thing again. He further says at this place, “God’s testimonies must be taught to our children, and the utmost diligence must be used to make them understand them. This is a most difficult task; and it requires much patience, much prudence, much judgment and much piety in the parents, to enable them to do this good, this most important work, in the best and most effectual manner.”
If we want our children to really get a firm hold on the truths of God’s Word, we must diligently teach them in a spiritual way, not just like a school class or teach the Bible like a school book, but we must be very spiritual ourselves and teach them in that atmosphere by example as well as precept. I was told that Bro. Willie Murphey used to instruct his boys when they were growing up, “Boys, you watch me, and anything you see me do will be all right for you to do. If you don’t see me do it, you better not do it.” I would say that is good solid teaching and training. We must be obeying and practicing God’s Word ourselves and let our children see it in actuality as it is being taught to them. In other words, teach them the truths and principles of God’s Word and then tell them, “Now just watch me and I will show you how to do it and how it works out in everyday living.” If we can’t do this, we are totally defeated to start with.
This is the way Jesus taught His disciples and us. I Peter 2:21-23 says that Christ left us an example that we should follow in His steps. In John 13:15 Jesus said, “…I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done…” That is the way He taught His disciples and us, and that is the way we must teach our children if we want them to really get it. If you want to really confuse your children and discourage them, then just try the old “Don’t do as I do; but do as I say” theory. II Timothy 2:6 says, “The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.” This will apply to you teaching your children as well as your pastor teaching you. This is of extreme importance.
If you teach your children to love God above all else and put Him first in their life, then let them see you putting Him first in your life and loving Him supremely. If you teach your children to be unselfish and to share, then let them see no selfishness in you and see you sharing with one another and with them. If you teach your children that they must not strive, nor quarrel among themselves, then let them never, never hear you, their parents, striving, quarreling, speaking harsh, sharp, cutting words one to another nor arguing between yourselves. If you teach them to be humble and submissive one to another and to you, their parents, then let them see you manifesting a lot of humility and submission one to another in the fear of God. Especially let them see their mother humbly and graciously submitting herself to their father as the Word of God instructs her to do. If you teach them to live in peace among themselves, make sure that they see you living in peace between yourselves. If you teach your children to deny themselves and never contend for their own way, then let them never hear either of their parents contending for their own way, but let them see them both denying themselves and submitting one to another.
I here insert another quote from Adam Clarke’s commentary. “He who understands the way of God should carefully instruct his household in that way: and he who is the father of a family should pray to God to teach him, that he may teach his household. His ignorance of God and salvation can be no excuse for his neglecting his family: it is his indispensable duty to teach them; and God will teach him, if he earnestly seek it, that he may be able to discharge this duty to his family. Reader, if thy children or servants perish through thy neglect, God will judge thee for it in the great day.”
Abraham faithfully taught his household, which included Lot, the principles of upright living and righteousness; also the entertaining of strangers and hospitality to travelers. This paid off good dividends in later years with Lot and his family. When the angels came to Sodom at evening, Lot, looking for opportunities to show hospitality to strangers and travelers, and help to the needy as he had been taught by precept and the example of his Uncle Abraham, went right out and urged the men to come under his roof for the night. This proved to be the saving of his life as well as his two daughters’ lives. Way over in the New Testament, reference is made to this in Hebrews 13:2, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” The principles of righteousness and upright living continued to direct Lot’s life so that he was not drawn into the evil, corrupt way of life which was prevalent all around him, but it was obnoxious and vexatious to him. He had been taught better than that. Peter referred to him in II Peter 2:7-8, “And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds.)”
I insert here still another quote from Adam Clarke in regard to Lot. “He and his family…alone were free from the pollution of this accursed people. How powerful are the effects of a religious education, enforced by pious example! It is one of God’s special means of grace. Let a man only do justice to his family by bringing them up in the fear of God, and He will crown it with His blessing…. This is your work that is the Lord’s. If through your neglect of precept and example, they perish, what an awful account must you give to the judge of the quick and the dead. It was the sentiment of a great man, that should the worst of times arrive, and magistracy and ministry both fail, yet, if parents would just be faithful to their trust, pure religion would be handed down to posterity, both in its form and in its power.”
Before passing on from the discussion of Abraham and Lot and his family and the relationship between them, let me point out and emphasize this point. Abraham was a man that lived very close to God, and God was well pleased with him, and his sacrifices were acceptable to God. Consequently, he stood in a place with God where God would and could accept his plea in behalf of his kinsmen (Lot and his family) as the hour of destruction approached for the city in which they dwelt. It seems that in the narrative related in the 18th and 19th chapters of Genesis that the Lord himself and the two angels with Him appeared in the form of men to Abraham and he entertained them. After they had eaten the meal that was prepared hastily for them the two angels went on their way, but the Lord tarried and made known unto him what He was going to do in the destruction of Sodom. He knew that Abraham had kinsmen down there and he would not carry out His purpose to destroy the city without letting him know about it. Then Abraham began to plead with the Lord to spare the city if 50 righteous people could be found in it. The Lord agreed to that. Then Abraham asked that if 50 couldn’t be found if He would spare it for 45; then 40, then 30, then 20 and finally 10 and the Lord accepted his petition all the way, step by step, and agreed to spare the city if 10 righteous people could be found there. That would surely cover Lot and his family. Abraham was pleading for their lives and the Lord knew it, but the Lord was pleased with his life and faithfulness and his sacrifice was acceptable to God, so he was qualified to plead in their behalf. But, alas, all of them had not maintained righteousness, so there were not enough to save the city. But watch it now. The two angels spent the night in Lot’s home and in the morning told him to go to his married children and tell them and their families to get out quickly because the destruction of the city was imminent. They would not go, so the angels took Lot and his wife and their two daughters and told them to hurry and get out of there because they could not do a thing until they had gone out of the city. (Genesis 19:22.) Abraham had made an acceptable plea for the lives of Lot and his family, and the angels made certain that Lot got the message and was gone from there before the destruction fell. This can all be traced to the acceptability of Abraham’s life and his sacrifices before God.
Ah, parents, grasp the urgency and the importance of our own lives being well pleasing to God and our sacrifices acceptable to Him. It is very important that we have a good relationship with God and a life well pleasing to Him so that our sacrifices will be acceptable in defense of our children and in behalf of their salvation.
I am fully aware of the fact that we are somewhat at a disadvantage, even legally, in disciplining our children. The legislators have taken hold of the matter of “child abuse,” and in some cases have enacted laws that prohibit parents from using a paddle or switch on their children. I have read where there have been attempts in our congress to enact laws to permit children to bring suit against their parents in court if they do not like the way they have been disciplined. I understand this has been hotly contested and debated on the floors, and in the chambers of congress, but so far as I know has never gotten through, even in any modified form, and I hope it never will. Such would just open the door wide to outright rebellion and anarchy through our children and younger set, and the courts would be hopelessly flooded with such cases because “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child;…” (Proverbs 22:15.) Children don’t like discipline of any kind at any time. None of them do. They want to be at liberty to go their own way and do their own thing all the time and do not like restraint, especially if they are a strong-willed child. You will be at loggerheads with him or her anytime you try to restrain them in something they want to do.
Notwithstanding all this, saints have God’s Word to go by in training their children, and we can count on God backing us up in it if we pray earnestly to Him, follow His instructions and employ His way in dealing with them. In Proverbs 19:18 we read, “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” This verse seems to teach us that there is a time or period of their lives when our chastening will be to their profit, and we are admonished to not pass that time up, for when it is past there will be no more hope of helping them by that means. Again in Proverbs 13:24 it says, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” It is a perverted sense of love we express when we are so sympathetic and “loving” toward our children that we cannot stand to hurt them and hear them cry over a chastisement we are administering to them. The word betimes seems in my mind to mean when it is necessary, administer the discipline and when it is not necessary, don’t do it. Proverbs 22:15 says, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” This verse makes it clear that it is common to all children to have foolishness bound up in their hearts, but God Himself has designed that the rod of correction in the hand of a wise and good parent shall be a means of helping to guide them out of their foolishness. Again in Proverbs 29:17 we read, “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.”
Now this is God’s instructions for dealing with and training our children, and He will surely back us up in doing this when it is done in the proper way. But let it be hoped that among the saints when it is necessary to chastise our children that we will have them sufficiently under control, and ourselves sufficiently under control, that we won’t get into trouble with the authorities and fall under a charge of “child abuse” or unnecessary brutality over the way we did it. There are some cases, and perhaps we all know some, where the parents need to discipline themselves and get themselves well in hand before they even start in on disciplining and correcting their children. The same God who inspired Solomon to write these texts of instruction in the Scriptures in regard to our chastising and correcting our children, also inspired the Apostle Paul to write this warning and admonition in the Holy Scriptures: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4. “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” Colossians 3:21. Ah, fathers and mothers, let us seek God earnestly to enable us to more clearly and deeply understand the extent and depth of our responsibility and authority with our children, that when it is necessary to chastise them, we may do so in the meekness and gentleness of Christ and not in severity and sharpness.
Adam Clarke says in regard to provoking to anger, “If a father punishes his child in severity and sharpness, the child will only be hardened in his sin.” One man was whipping his boy in severity and harshness and asked the boy if he knew why he was doing this, and the boy said, “Yes, it is because you are mad and you are bigger than I am.” Here is a fair example of a child being hardened in his resentment through his punishment. Sternness and severity seldom work any good purpose with children. There must be a lot of meekness and love in our chastisements and corrections if they are to be effective.
I remember a time when my own two boys had been guilty of what to me was a heinous crime of misbehaving and making a disturbance in the worship service at the chapel. I took them both down to the bedroom and talked with them a little about how bad a thing that was and how desecrating that was to the worship and service of God, and that I could not by any means pass over a thing like that. I prayed with them and then soundly spanked them. As soon as I finished with that, I just dropped down between them, and broke out crying and sobbing. Both those boys began to love and pat me and say, “Oh, Daddy, don’t do that. Don’t cry, Daddy. It’s all right, we’re going to be good boys.” Perhaps that little episode did more good for those boys than any other correction I ever gave them.
I can remember my father’s dealings with me in the matter of chastisements. He never jumped at me in an agitated way nor approached me harshly or sternly. Sometimes he would pray over it for two or three days. Then he would take me down to the barn and talk to me and pray with me a while; then he would give me a genuinely sound switching. All the time he was just as calm as if we were eating ice cream. There was no trace of agitation, sternness or harshness. I can never remember a time when my father would chastise me that I did not feel closer drawn to him than before.
As your children grow older, be a pal with them. As they show interests and tendencies to certain activities hunting, fishing, playing ball, etc. provide them with the essentials and equipment for those activities they are interested in. Provide time, on your part, to go with them occasionally on outings for hunting, fishing, camping, playing, etc. Let them lead the way in this, for if you don’t you may be planning things for them which they have no interest in and do not like. You may not enjoy the particular thing your boy or girl does, but that is just one among many points in which you may need to deny yourself and your own likes and dislikes in order to be a good parent to your children.
This is something I did not do enough of. I found out later, when it was too late to bless the lives of my children, how much I should have done this to keep a hold on my children. Anytime I would come along where my boys were playing ball and enter in and throw a few balls or catch a few, no matter who or how many other boys were around, my boys would just pull out and start playing ball with me as they did not get to do this very often. That manifested the hunger they had for Daddy to share their activities with them. I did not, at the time, realize the importance of this, but now give this kind of advice and counsel to all parents with young children. In fact, since my children have all been grown and established in homes of their own, I have talked with all of them and acknowledged that I had not been the father to them that I should when they were growing up, in that I did not spend enough time with them and participate enough with them in the activities they were the most interested in, and asked forgiveness for this shortcoming.
In schools they have a “Father and Son” banquet, and other “Father and Son” activities. They expect the boys to bring their fathers on these occasions. When your boy comes to you and lets you know one of these times is coming up on a certain date, it will make him stand tall and help to create a closer relationship between you and him if you will just say, “All right, son, you can count on me. I will cancel all plans I have for that evening and be available to you.” It makes your son feel important and adds dignity to his life.
Now to use a phrase from the world’s vernacular, “Learn to roll with the punches.” Change your tactics as your children get older. You cannot deal with them in the same way you could when they were smaller. They are developing and you must develop too if you are to maintain a close relationship with them and keep your hold on them through that period of their lives when they need you the most. Study out different methods of dealing with them, and note carefully which are the most effective. This is the time when you need to develop as close a pal relationship with them as possible. Go places with them, do things with them as much as possible. Above all else, maintain a good, close relationship with God. Pray much and earnestly for God to give you courage, ability, wisdom, grace and faith to be able to pilot your children through this very difficult and important time of their youth.