Children Will Listen
Dr. Elizabeth Achtemeier shares some advice she received while she was completing her studies. She was pregnant for the first time. Her concern was grades but her professor told her, “Betty, your kids come first. if you don’t do a good job with them, you haven’t done anything.”
Children in Distress
Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, they gobble their food, they terrorize their teachers.
This sounds like a modern observation. Yet Socrates wrote this more than 2300 years ago. “Gobbling food” is the least of our problems with children today! Modern children are distressed, evidenced by the fact that suicide is a leading cause of death among our young people, with AIDS now second. Today’s Scripture contains a rule upon which parents and grandparents may learn to do their very best to raise godly, well-adjusted children—children of hope, not despair. The verse is so familiar most know it by heart. It’s
Proverbs 22:6: Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
Now look back at
Proverbs 22:5 In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, but he who guards his soul stays far from them.
Train the child in the ways of your faith early, then sometime later the adult will revert, if need be, to those ways. The child who has had an education in godliness will know to stay “far from the thorns and snares” that infest the shoulders of the righteous pathway. Undisciplined children always get caught in the snares of Satan; they must learn early to avoid pitfalls. We must teach them.
I love the song Children Will Listen by Stephen Sondheim. Here are some of the words:
Careful the things you say, children will listen. Careful the things you do, children will see and learn.
Children may not obey but children will listen. Children will look to you for which way to turn: to learn what to be.
Careful before you say, “Listen to me.” Children will listen.
Guide them but step away, children will glisten. Temper with what is true and children will turn, if just to be free.
Careful before you say, “Listen to me.” Children will listen, children will listen, children will listen.
Marriage and the Prime Directive
Listen to me. What’s the purpose for marriage? To love and cherish? To procreate? Neither. Marriage was instituted as a means for doing ministry. We know this to be a time of unprecedented permissiveness and danger. The Judaic moral ethic has been carelessly discarded and our children are suffering the effects. The primary ministry for you parents and guardians isn’t diapers and braces, but reaching children’s hearts for the Kingdom, insofar as this is possible, insofar as you are able. This is why parents and sponsors must renounce evil when their children are baptized.
Careful the things you say, children will listen. Careful the things you do, children will see and learn.
If you are evil, only a miracle of grace may save your child. Expect a miracle.
Dr. Elizabeth Achtemeier shares some advice she received while she was completing her studies. She was pregnant for the first time. Her concern was grades but her professor told her, “Betty, your kids come first. if you don’t do a good job with them, you haven’t done anything.” He went on to explain that G-d allows us to share in creation by shaping lives with which we’ve been entrusted. We are to “do a good job” for G-d, even if that’s all we can do for them. However they do turn out, we may have a clear conscience knowing we have done our best.
Children Are Like Mirrors
Children are gifts of Yahweh’s grace. They are the frosting on the wedding cake. They are the arrows in the quiver. What a blessing they can be! They can bless us by mirroring our own special gifts, traits and behaviors. They can also mirror our shortcomings. We see our imperfections in them: anger, impatience or fatigue; they acquire our sins if we are sinful in our guidance.
Parents also find in the mirror of their children that they are good examples in many ways. How much sleep, time and money has been sacrificed for them? We show love when they are unlovely; we teach them by giving ourselves away for them, yet still claiming a return of joy. Sacrificial child raising confirms one of Jesus’ great promises, that “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” It is for Jesus the Christ’s sake and for the sake of our race’s future that we “lose ourselves” for our posterity.
What is Discipline
Your sacrifice demands your discipline. Proverbs 29:17 says: “Discipline your children and they will give you rest; they will give your heart delight.” We must become disciplined in order to discipline. To discipline does not mean to punish. Disciplining means making disciples. It means praying with them at home and getting them to church. It means modeling right living, good judgment, healthy habits and clean language. Parents who do so will delight in their children’s spiritual progress.
By the way, a kid running around the church is a problem that requires a simple solution. Discipline. You church leaders have a good chance to model right behavior when there’s a kid on the run. You’ve had a lot of experience with children. I’m sure no parent would object to your asking the kid if he will sit with you and keep you company. Such would be a sincere act of evangelism you might even enjoy.
Reasons for Not Disciplining the Kids
Some parents just aren’t mentally, spiritually or physically capable of disciplining children. Such parents are off the hook. But among the capable, I hear about four reasons why they don’t.
(1) Parents sometimes neglect giving Christian or moral instruction, saying, “We want them to choose their own faith when they grow old enough.” Time after time I’ve heard this. The last time I heard it was as a response from Bill and Hillary Clinton in regards to Chelsea’s religious upbringing. To allow children to choose is politically correct but it’s spiritual suicide. It means that an immature child must grope along to find her own way through a morass of deceptive falsehood on a fastway to disaster. Christian professionals call it “spiritual negligence.” Proverbs 13:24b admonishes, “Whoever loves the child is diligent in discipline.” Parents who are capable but neglect the religious discipline of their children on the grounds of being good democrats actually have an ulterior motive, like love-laziness.
(2) Some parents believe they are honoring their children’s personalities if they don’t impose spiritual views and moral values. But they are really abandoning their children to lives lacking structure, fulfillment, boundaries, limits or depth. They are also abandoning them to Satan. Children are not expert in what’s right and wrong. They are easily deceived by a wrong wrapped in the skin of a right. The adults who don’t tell them to go find themselves tell them to get lost! Either way, children with great potential may grow up to be unfulfilled and irresponsible parents. Professionals call this “noninterference.”
Another type of noninterference: there are parents who believe that if they teach their ways, their children will make the same mistakes they did. But, you see, it’s not our ways that we teach; we teach “the discipline and instruction of Yahweh” (Eph 6:4). Scripture tells us not to provoke our children by passing on our fears, hatreds and prejudices. While we teach them Yahshua’s ways, we also teach ourselves his ways. As we practice his presence for our children, we discover our long-held prejudices, passed down from our parents, dissolving into a sea of forgiveness and forgetfulness.
(3) (manipulation) Some parents expect children to fulfill their lost dreams or affirm their prejudiced views. Some parents live their lives out through their children or make them into little models of themselves. We all know such parents: the mother who constantly interferes in her adult daughter’s affairs; the father who demands his son follow in his footsteps; the parent who smothers or manipulates in the name of love; the father who manipulates through silence. But standing above our ways Yahshua’s ways; all that we do may be weighed in comparison with His character, charity, compassion and action. We owe our children holiness.
(4) Some parents surrender their responsibility all together, expecting the grandparents, government, school, day care center or church to provide moral or spiritual upbringing. Professionals call this abdication. Abdicators always complain about the terrible job the school or church or grandparent is doing. It’s no wonder that, “instead of asking us where they came from, kids today tell us where to go!” A member of the British royal family stated: “The thing that impresses me most about America is the way parents obey their children.” Abdicating responsibility makes a mess of a child and the parent will lay blame. But these children will blame us when they become adults.
We know we’ve made mistakes. We know we’ve exposed our children to our shortcomings. We know we’ve taught them prejudice and modeled laxity. This is part of the human struggle. The good news is that the wrong we’ve taught may yet be exposed and corrected. And it’s never too late!
It’s not too late to begin reaching out. Helen Keller stated: “I believe every child has hidden away somewhere in his being noble capacities which may be quickened and developed.” To discipline means to reach down into the child and discover noble capacities, draw them out, empower them for righteousness’ sake. Parents and grandparents have a g-d-given anointing to reach whatever little piece of “the mind of Christ” is dormant in their children. How do we? Reach your children by leading them into the experience of being
(1) born again into the image and likeness of the compassionate Yahshua Messiah. This experience is a supernatural work of grace that requires an action from the parent and response from the child. Lead them to be
(2) baptized. This holy sacrament protects them from evil and brings them into the mystical Body of Christ. Lead them into
(3) The Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Pray with them for the Gifts of the Spirit. Encourage the development of the Fruit of the Spirit. Nobody will ever be able to steal gifts and fruit from your children. Get them theirs while they are open and responsive to the Spirit! Involve your family in a
(4) covenant community of faith. It is only through fellowship that children will learn who they really are in the Spirit (Deu 31:10-13; John 1). Youth programs in church are wonderful. But youth programs demanded of the church is a form of abdication. A child’s spiritual upbringing is ultimately the responsibility of the parent, not of the church. For a thriving youth program, you’ll need to get involved.
This brings us to teaching. If you don’t know how to lead others into spiritual experiences, you’re in the majority! You can learn how. That’s why you hire a pastor and remain in a denomination. Learning opportunities abound! Your child’s spiritual welfare is your duty, as is showing your child how to use gifts and talents for good, how to love others, how to forgive and when to help. Teach your child
(1) the Ten Commandments so that they will know how a believer is to act in relationship to Yahweh and others (Deu 6:7; 11:18-19). Teach them
(2) salvation history, including the great stories of the faith, the life of Jesus, the aftermath of his resurrection and the great hope of his return. Teach them Yahweh’s purpose for creating the world and his purpose in recreating them in the likeness of Jesus (Deu 4:9-10; 6:20-25; Ps. 78:1-4). Teach them
(3) how to pray. Prayer changes things. “We have not because we ask amiss.” Give them the opportunity to learn more than “G-d bless the food” and “G-d bless Mom and Dad.” Teach them the height and depth of conversing with the Almighty and pray with them daily. Teach them
(4) godly conversation and correct them when they swear or act in an ungodly or disrespectful manner (Isa 49:15; 66:13). Finally, teach your children
(5) biblical compassion based on the sayings of Jesus (Matthew 5 - 7). Teach them to be peacemakers, to be inclusive, to make a difference. Children will listen to you.
Disciplining also means modeling; parents must act out their teaching.
A mother and her 3-year-old were driving home from church when suddenly the girl put her head on mother’s chest. “What are you doing?” Mom asked. “I’m listening for Jesus in your heart,” the girl said. “Well what do you hear?” The child looked up and said, “Sounds like he’s making coffee!”
Children thrive in grace when their parents’ godliness is evident! Once I was at the hospital praying with a lady just before her mother went into surgery. She had children of her own. Here’s exactly what she told me – I wrote it down immediately after:
“Father (I was wearing a clerical collar), I know how important it is to see that our children are in church. I try to get them there every Sunday. They complain because their father and I don’t go to church, but I tell them they have to go anyway. I’m trying to teach them that children need church though parents can’t go much because they’re so busy.”
This attitude is typical. Her children are rebelling against a double standard. “Do as I say but not as I do” is often good advice but a poor example for instruction. One pundit quirked, “Children are natural mimics - they act like their parents in spite of every attempt to teach them good manners.” It’s never too late to start teaching children righteousness by being consistent in your life and witness.
Our Children Are On Loan From God
As the writer of Proverbs witnessed, one’s commitment to discipline for children eventually brings delight to the family, rest from worry and freedom from fear for their futures. Discipline your children in righteousness now. They’ll thank you for it later. Remember, our children are not ours. Like Rush Limbaugh’s talent, our children are “on loan from G-d.” They are our blessing and spiritual responsibility, even after they’ve grown and gone. Let us start today in reaching them, teaching them, and modeling our g-dliness for them, for our sakes, for their sakes, and for the sake of a Kingdom that they may rule and judge. Children will listen.
I’ll lend to you for a little time, a child of mine, He said, For you to love the while he lives and mourn for when he’s dead.
It may be six or seven years or twenty-two or three, but will you, till he comes back home, take care of him for me?
I cannot promise he will stay since all from earth return. But there are lessons taught down there I want this child to learn.
I’ve looked this whole world over in my search for teachers true. And in the crowds that throng life’s land, I have selected you.
Now will you give him all your love— not think the labor vain, nor hate me when the angel calls to take him back again?”
It seems to me I heard them say, “Dear Lord, Thy will be done. For all the joys thy child shall bring, the risk of grief we’ll run.
We’ll teach him of the things of G-d and of the things above. We’ll model godly ways and true, then discipline with love,
We’ll shelter him with tenderness, and lead him while we may, and for the happiness we’ll share, forever grateful stay....”
Jackson Snyder, January 2, 2001