What is your child’s attitude like? Is he generally a happy and joyful child? Or is he moody and unhappy? Does he honor Dad and Mom?
God is building family government through the physical family as a type of what He is ultimately building spiritually. We as parents have the sobering responsibility of rearing our children to love God’s way and to prepare them for their awesome future as part of God’s Family. A child is a wonderful blessing from God (Psalm 128:3).
We must shape the human spirit in our children so God can work with them as adults. As parents, we have our work cut out for us because of the carnal nature in man (Romans 8:7).
Let’s examine three basic ways to properly develop a child’s attitude.
Love them first as 1 John 4:19 says, “We love him, because he first loved us.” The Father loves us first. It follows that we as parents have to love our children first. You cannot force your child to love you. It is done by loving him first.
As fathers and mothers, do we lead the family by developing a strong bond with our children? There has to be a loving bond between the child and his parents in order to have a successful family relationship.
1 Peter 3 says a wife can win her unconverted husband just by her conduct. And so it is with a child. Your child’s heart can only begin to turn toward you if you love him or her first. The attitude we develop in our child, whether good or bad, will come back to us in the future.
The Bible prophesied of an end-time Elijah whose job was to turn the hearts of fathers and children toward one another: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:5-6). That is a beautiful goal for our families.
If all you do as a parent is discipline your child without love, then you will raise a hostile child who, when grown, will not be turned to Dad and Mom. If the father leads the family in love, then the children are more likely to return that love.
Our children truly belong to God (Psalm 127:3). God has given most of us the privilege of having children. He expects us to raise them so they will turn to Him spiritually when they are grown. To do this, we must make it easy for our children to love us. It all gets back to a loving family relationship, just like the love God the Father and Jesus Christ have for us. This does not mean being permissive. Real love is always based on God’s law. That means government.
In loving our children the same way we are loved, we teach them to look forward to the wonderful World Tomorrow and the marvelous opportunities in store for them (Psalm 45:16). Are we teaching our children about God’s incredible plan for them?
The second way to properly develop a child’s attitude is by teaching through example and instruction.
For instance, when we as adults have a problem, we should go to God and ask for help, seek the answer, and then take action, fervently putting the answer into practice. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7). Your children receive an excellent example to emulate when they see you take a problem directly to God and ask for His intervention. The biggest problem is when parents won’t seek God’s guidance. How can we expect our children to seek guidance if they don’t see us doing it? Fathers must lead the way in this area.
Do our children see us pray and study every day? Do they see the father as the head of the family with the mother fully supporting her husband? Children can immediately spot hypocrisy. If we set the proper example early, our children will, in most cases, follow in our footsteps. Parents who are most successful in rearing children are those who are closest to God.
“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them” (2 Timothy 3:14). If a problem arises in our child’s life, he should be taught first and foremost to take it to God in prayer. Soon it will become automatic.
“Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:32). Do we teach our children to respect the elderly? Do the older children stand up when an elderly person walks into the room? This is even a lost art for adults today! Our Western society has deteriorated to such a dreadful state that our elderly are pushed aside, shamefully treated and ignored by young people. This should not be so among our children. This world idolizes youth when it should be greatly esteeming the elderly! If our children are taught to respect the elderly, the elderly can share much wisdom and give advice to them.
What about guests, relatives and friends with whom we come into contact? Our children should respect all adults. We need to teach our children to respect authority whether it be a teacher, a policeman or a neighbor. Obviously, if a child is being mistreated by someone in an authoritative position, that is a different situation which may require us to intervene. But more often than not, in this immoral and permissive society, parents intervene when they should not—they “stick up” for their children even when these children have done something terrible. It used to be that if a kid got in trouble at school, he also got in trouble when he returned home that night. Yet today, teachers and other public officials are afraid to properly discipline children for fear of how parents will react. Parents in God’s Church should stand behind and support other authority figures in our children’s lives.
Our children are bombarded with numerous negative influences from our evil society (Galatians 1:4); it’s much worse than when we were growing up. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). When we teach our children, we should teach the how and why of our instruction so they will thoroughly understand it. Rear your children so they will want to choose God’s way.
Placing your children in certain school activities, such as sports or music for example, will help make them well rounded. Find out what your children’s talents and abilities are and then guide them in that direction, as long as it does not violate God’s laws.
When our children are involved in games or sports activities, what is their attitude like if they lose? Character means being a good sport. Certainly we should teach our children to strive to win and do the very best they can. Win or lose, they should have a good attitude about it. Then, as our children begin to succeed, they will become motivated and will continue to seek success later in life.
Teach your children the five most important words of the Bible for them: “Honor your father and mother.” Notice Ephesians 6:1-4: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Tragically, we don’t see this in Western society today. Rather, civilization is falling apart because families are falling apart. Many children speak evil of their own parents and think nothing of it. When they have problems, they inevitably want to blame Dad and Mom. This should not be the case in God’s Church. If we do our part, our children should want to please us out of deep love and respect.
The third way to develop your child’s attitude is by correcting him or her. First, realize that correction, when done right, is love (Proverbs 13:24). So in that sense, this point overlaps with the first one. But correction deserves its own space because we need to know how to administer it to make sure that it is done in love.
When children are young, they should be taught the meaning of the word “No.” This simple two-letter word, in too many cases, is not properly adhered to. You should only have to say no once; if the child doesn’t obey, then that is your invitation to properly train and correct the child. If we fail to react, the child thinks no isn’t a word to fear. This could result in much more serious consequences than if we had punished the child for disobeying. If the child knows that no means no the first time, you may even save him from a life-threatening situation. If a child wanders away and begins running toward a busy intersection, “No!” may be the only thing that can save him. In that situation, the parent would be very thankful that the child had been reared to understand what no meant.
Consistency is the key. When you are inconsistent with following through on the no command, it only confuses the child and doesn’t dissuade him from disobeying because he knows Dad or Mom probably won’t follow through. This will also develop an attitude of resentment and rebellion because the child doesn’t have definite guidelines to follow. Children, like adults, respond better to definite limits, or boundaries.
Rebellion in a child requires you to bring him under the law. If you do not, the child, rather than the father, rules the household. When a child breaks a rule because he resents authority, that is a serious problem that must be dealt with. We live in an age where we see many parents openly challenged by their children. Our young people need parents who care enough to challenge them when their behavior might lead to tragic consequences. Parents have a God-given duty to provide their children the security of clearly established limits in behavior.
Every child will challenge his parents at some point. When he does, you must rise to meet the challenge. Otherwise, the child knows he has won, and the problems will be continuous and ongoing.
The thing to remember, and this is a common mistake, is not to spank for every infraction. Yes, the Bible endorses corporal punishment (Proverbs 29:15), and the main reason we spank is for rebellion—when a child deliberately disobeys the parent.
The so-called experts only report on spanking that is not administered properly. Too many parents, with their hectic lifestyles, are unwilling to take the time to first train their children in the right behavior they desire. Then, if they do spank, it is done in frustration or anger. This kind of punishment is harmful to the child’s development. But proper spanking, when combined with clear teaching and lots of love, is vital in proper child rearing.
We must always make sure the punishment fits the crime. After a child is punished for breaking a rule or disobeying a parent, he should be very repentant for what he did! If he is truly sorry, then you will soon see a happy child. If the child is not repentant after punishment occurs, we must stay with the correction until he does become repentant, no matter how long it takes. When a child’s attitude is still wrong after correction, that child’s attitude of rebellion has not been broken. There is resentment toward authority, either open or subtle, and it must be rooted out. If we can’t get our children to properly fear us quickly, we are in for a lifetime of needless pain and suffering.
Is your child under control? How does he behave at the dinner table? How does he act in other people’s homes? You won’t be invited out very often if your child is unruly. Does your child wear you out? If we have problems in these areas, the first thing we must do is take them to God.
What about silliness in our children? Obviously, we want our children to laugh and have a good time, but it should not get out of hand. When this begins to happen, the parent who is in tune with his child will say, “I want you to settle down.” The child should respond immediately.
“The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Proverbs 29:15). This scripture mentions mother, but it also brings shame on the family name, which is the father’s heritage.
Children left to run wild can also bring shame upon the Church, the mother of us all.
God has given His Church a wealth of instruction on this subject. Seek counsel from one of His true ministers. God has provided us with all the knowledge we need to do it right! Do we diligently seek after God’s knowledge, fully intent on applying it? Or, like so many in this world, are we experimenting with our children, hoping to find some method that will finally work?
We all have our strengths and weaknesses in child rearing. In addition, there may be other contributors to children misbehaving, like allergies or poor health. Other factors and personal weaknesses must not become excuses for our failures in properly rearing our children. As Herbert W. Armstrong said, there is cause and effect. There is a reason why children become rebellious.
Righteous character is the goal. We want to rear our children so they will embrace God’s way of life as they mature. To build holy, righteous character in a child takes diligent effort on the part of both parents. It takes time. “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul” (verse 17).
Rearing children is a challenging and lifelong process. We will make mistakes from time to time. Remember to punish for a wrong attitude—a rebellious spirit. If a child’s attitude is one of anger, pouting, moodiness, disrespect—then deal with it immediately. In 1 Samuel 15:23 we read that rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. Rebellion comes from Satan (John 8:44; Ephesians 2:2).
To have happy, well-adjusted children with a right attitude, remember to love them, teach by example, and discipline in love. It boils down to 85 percent love, 10 percent teaching by example, and 5 percent correction in love. None of us will ever do it perfectly 100 percent of the time, but it certainly is a goal that God wants each of us to attain.
We are God’s children. He is our Father. God is a Family. Let us strive to administer God’s loving family government in our own homes so that we—husband, wife and children—will acquire God’s own image and character.