Oct 9, 2008, 5:25 AM
When brothers Esau and Jacob met after several years of separation, Jacob introduced his children to his brother as “…the children God has graciously given your servant.” (Genesis 33:5) Indeed, children are a gift to us and we must treat them as such. It is therefore our responsibility to take care of them. We read in Proverbs chapter 22 verse 6; “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn away from it.”
We are all guilty of pointing a finger at society for the way our children have gone and for what they have become, forgetting that we have a primary responsibility for bringing them up. Unfortunately, when we should have been present to raise them up, we had chosen to delegate that responsibility to grandmothers, maids and helpers.
Catch them early
Children are like young green twigs, easy to bend, amenable to being shaped. Their tender years offer the most appropriate season for moulding and shaping them. No sooner they become brittle do we have a problem in our hands; for then they would have been set in their ways - the ways we did not have time to inculcate in them. Since we did not put anything into their heads they will fill the vacuum with all sorts of vain notions and theories that will influence their thought patterns and their value systems. That precious time we left them on their own, we can no longer salvage. God commands: “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.” (verse 18) The point I want to get to is this; “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 11:19) All of this can be summed up into; always teach your children about me. We must teach our children about God as the supreme authority in our lives and theirs. “Come, my children … I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” (Psalm 34:11) Such a teaching must be first hand, from within the walls of the home and not by a third party. A child who has the fear of the Lord in him or her at an early age can understand the tricks of the devil and will be able to rely not on his/her strength but on that of the Lord who assured us that He would never leave us nor forsake us; otherwise s/he will “... follow the stubbornness of their hearts.” (Jeremiah 9:14) and become easy prey for Satan and his cohorts. He will have no standards and no bearings. He will be groping in broad daylight. “Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.” (Proverbs 20:11)
It is our bound and duty to give to our children the requisite upbringing that will enable them be in this world and not be a part of it. They ought to know that the world is governed by certain entrenched principles as taught in Scripture. This is an evil world and we cannot just throw them into it without teaching them the basic defense mechanisms for survival; methods by which to confront its ups and downs. We ought to give them the tools with which to face these obstacles when they come.
Long before the days of radio and television, I longed for the late evening story-telling sessions when mother would tell us folktales. Each tale had a morale that taught us how to react in given situations -- imaginary though they were. It was not story-telling for sheer story-telling sake. We learnt a lot from it. These sessions have today been replaced by television that is cramming our children’s heads with nothing but rubbish that is a basis for disillusionment rather than instructions for living. We are supposed to “... know how to give good gifts to y(our) children..” (Matthew 7:11) as parents and guardians.
Spare the rod, spoil the child
One area in which we have faltered as parents is in disciplining our children. Our children must be made to realise that discipline is part of the process of upbringing and we must not spare them in any way. We must not be afraid to discipline them either. Children, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? And if you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.” (Hebrews 12:7-8) Because we are afraid to discipline our children, we do not help them to face reality and they leave our homes thinking that everyone owes them a living. They do not know how to address elders, they want to ride rough-shod over everybody, they must be the ones to be heard always. “Do not withhold punishment from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.”(Proverbs 23:13)
Unfortunately, because we are absent from our homes much of the time and the helpers have not been given the mandate to punish at will, our children are left to their own whims and fancies. They develop a two-faced kind of behaviour -- when the parents are around and when they are on their own. If our house helps, teachers and drivers were to paint pictures of what our kids are capable of doing, we will straight away accuse them of mistaken identity. “Discipline your son (daughter), for in that there is hope; do not be willing party to his death.” (Proverbs 19:18) “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him. (Proverbs 22:15)
Growing up as boys, I can recall being flogged a lot by our parents for wanting to do things our way. Reviewing our strict upbringing with my elder brother in our early adulthood one day in
Where there is a will, there is a way
The “... rod of correction imparts wisdom but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.” (Proverbs 29:15) The more time we spend with them and serve as role models, the better it will be for our children tomorrow. However busy our schedules may be, time spent with our children is worth its weight in gold. Let us therefore stop hiding behind the excuse of not having time enough.