On our recent visit with our son and daughter in law, we had a good talk about the difficulties of raising children in a culture that seems obsessed with violence. They have tried hard to keep their 3 year old son from playing with guns and acting out any form of aggressive behavior. The problem comes from the fact that he attends a wonderful preschool program where there are children whose parents are not so inclined. This is not a new predicament. As long as the sin nature has existed in the heart of man, there has been a bent towards all kinds of evil in this world. With the advent of video games, more violent and morally bankrupt T.V. shows, and movies that leave nothing to the imagination, it is difficult to escape the influence on our children. Certainly, we cannot take our children and hide them in an isolation bubble, though we may wish to, but we can go on the offensive with a weapon stronger than all these negative influences combined....the Bible. It is the Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). When our children are taught the Word of God at an early age, it will stay with them for a lifetime.
As parents, we are given the God commanded directive to train up our children in the way they should go. Then, when they are old, they will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). In Deuteronomy, the Lord confirms this responsibility in chapter 11:19-21 speaking about the commandments: "You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them." From the very beginning, parental instruction was a key to living a God honoring life. A verse closely related to this instruction is one found in Ephesians 6:4: "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." With all this in mind, what are some of the ways we can help our children become strong in the Lord?
One of the chief ways we can model our faith for our children is through home worship as well as church worship. We must demonstrate a prayer life with and in front of our children. They need to see us reading the Bible. Some families have devotions in the home on a regular basis. This is a safe place for children to ask questions and receive instruction. They also must see us in regular church attendance not skipping out to go fishing, or play golf. Little ones learn by observation what is important to us. If God has first place in our lives, they will make Him first place in theirs.
Another way to teach our children is through example. If we are watching violent programs, playing violent video games or in any way doing what we have instructed them not to do, it takes all the authority out of our words. I know some will say this is not fair. However, when God gives to us the gift of children, He also brings us into account for their training. We do have to give up some things unless we do not care that they will one day do just what we are doing. There are two things to consider here. Perhaps what we are watching, playing, or participating in is not glorifying to Christ. Therefore, letting go of it as a sacrifice of love to the Lord and for the good of our home will result in a closer walk with God. When I home educated our four children, I had to give up many things in order to be with them and teach them. I could not have a full time job and also teach them nor could I attend clubs and civic activities. However, these activities would always be there, but our children would not. Both my husband and I felt it was more important to pour our lives into training our children educationally and spiritually. I have never had any regrets that we spent this time with them.
In addition to bedtime prayers, grace at meals and evening devotions, another important way to train up our children is through the use of the catechism. Even young children can be taught the simple questions and answers of the catechism if you find the right material. Amazon has a series of workbooks by Caroline Weerstra (she has a webpage at Amazon) taken from the Westminster shorter catechism and designed to explain our faith in very simple child like terms along with Bible verses. At present, there are four workbooks including one for special needs children. Why is this important? A catechism is a summary of the major beliefs or tenants of our faith written in a simple form with Bible verses to back them up. We cannot assume that our children will get all they need at church alone. Remember, it is the parent's responsibility to train up the children. Our fellowship in the church is crucial for the preaching of the Word and the sacraments, but to ignore the opportunity for home instruction is to bypass a powerful influence in the heart of a child. These catechism workbooks are one of many ways a child can begin learning the essentials of the faith. The link to these workbooks is: http://www.amazon.com/Caroline-Weerstra/e/B005TBTDZI/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0 .
I welcome your thoughts and insights here. What have you used that has helped you train up your children?