Childhood: The Elementary Years (The Missing Dimension in Parenting, Part 6)

In this series we have covered the process of child development and parental responsibility for the periods from pre-conception to infancy. A good deal of time has been devoted to this due to the great importance of establishing the right foundation for the development of the child to successful, responsible adulthood.

As Pastor General Gerald Flurry has challenged all parents, “When you plan to have a child, do you think about it with God’s perspective?” (Royal Vision, May-June 2000). He has used the example of Hannah, the mother of Samuel the prophet. “She saw that if she had a son, what good would it do to rear him without God’s truth and let the devil have him? Hannah realized God gives you a physical child as a gift, so you can give the child back to Him spiritually! … Do you think about it with this vision?” (ibid).

Without that godly perspective, without that vision, your child may just be raised up to perish! (Proverbs 29:18). But armed with that vision, you will greatly enhance your child’s chances of gaining eternal life (Proverbs 22:6).

There are generally seven stages of development from conception to adulthood:

  1. Conception. Life begins the moment the male sperm penetrates and fuses with the female ovum.
  2. Embryo. The developmental phase from conception to the eighth week of pregnancy.
  3. Fetus. The term given to the new life during the subsequent 32 weeks, there being 40 weeks in a typical pregnancy.
  4. Infancy. Generally accepted as the period of development from birth to commencement of the seventh year.
  5. Childhood. From infancy to puberty—the elementary years.
  6. Adolescence. The period between childhood and adulthood, generally 13 years to 20 years.
  7. Adulthood. The age of maturity, or legal “majority,” traditionally; in Israelitish law, 21 years of age.

We now consider that time which is classically referred to as childhood. Childhood is the age during which children should be their most carefree and happy. At least we used to think so, before the family-wrecking impact of the liberal social engineers on Western society. It used to be that the interval between ages 7 and 12 was considered a time when the basic habits of acceptable behavior had already been inculcated into the child, through responsible teaching in the home, to the point where children would then, by age 6, go off to school, sit still for hours on end, and undergo elementary education.

This was the time when the rudiments of language and math, of the basic knowledge of the child’s heritage in terms of history, of the geography of their home country and planet Earth, of training in graphic representations of concepts and images on paper and other media were taught. In fact, there was a time when these various aspects of instruction were referred to as disciplines. But discipline is a dirty word in today’s educational systems. Rather than formal instruction in clearly defined disciplines of learning, all is sacrificed on the altar of “free expression.”

In too many schools, standards have dropped markedly from what they were 30 years ago, as “freedom of expression” has replaced disciplined learning. Those who impose their liberal-socialist ideas on our school systems are guilty of wasting our children’s minds! It is a fact that the mind is much more receptive and the memory much more retentive in the earlier years than later in life. This led Herbert W. Armstrong to muse, “I remember the events of those days at age 6 much better than I do those of age 56. The mind is much more receptive, and the memory far more retentive, in the earlier years.

“Believe it or not, every baby learns and retains more the very first year of life than any year thereafter. Each year we learn and retain a little less than the year before. Few, however, realize this fact. For each succeeding year, the total fund of knowledge increases. Knowledge accumulation is additive, that of each year is added to the fund of previous years” (Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong).

Having these facts in mind and realizing that our Western society’s standards of education at the elementary school level are slipping badly compared to the days of “reading, writing and arithmetic,” strong movements have been founded upon the concept of a return to core knowledge. These movements attempt to revive the interest of parents and educators in “old-style” elementary school curricula. Core knowledge embraces reading, writing, history, geography, math, science, music and visual arts. These subjects form the basis of a well-rounded elementary or primary education, establishing the foundation upon which more complex forms of education might follow at the secondary and tertiary levels.

We certainly counsel care in the choice of the elementary school that your child will attend. Choose a school that will maximize your child’s education in this core knowledge. If you elect to homeschool, there are a number of high-quality core knowledge curricula available, at a price, to help you structure the elementary schooling of your children.

A word of warning on homeschooling. Not every parent is equipped mentally, emotionally or educationally to teach children all that is necessary to educate them to acceptable standards. Seek advice and counsel on this if you are contemplating homeschooling your child. (We strongly urge our Church members to counsel with their minister before such an undertaking.) It will take a high energy level, a good deal of self-sacrifice, strict discipline and order in the home environment, and true devotion to this duty if you become a homeschooler of your children in addition to being a full-time parent and spouse!

Importance of Home and Family

As your children develop from infancy to adolescence, they will be exposed to many experiences that will contribute to molding their character and personality. It is important to realize, however, that above all other influences on them during the vital phase of childhood, it is the home and the family that will continue to exert the greatest influence on their behavior (Ephesians 6:1-4).

“It is certain that if our young people are to have total obedience to the laws of the land, a love for the orderly processes of government, and a desire for ethical forms of behavior, the strengthening effect of religious training which will instill a sense of moral responsibility becomes apparent. The place to start is in the family circle …. The home is the first great training school in behavior or misbehavior, and parents serve as the first teachers for the inspirational education of youth. In the home, the child learns that others besides himself have rights which he must respect. Here the spade work is laid for instilling in the child those values which will cause him to develop into an upright, law-abiding, wholesome citizen. He must learn respect for others, respect for property, courtesy, truthfulness and reliability. He must learn not only to manage his own affairs but also share in the responsibility for the affairs of the community. He must be taught to understand the necessity of obeying the laws of God” (J. Edgar Hoover, former fbi director, Committee Print, 81st Congress, Second Section, “Juvenile Delinquency”; emphasis added throughout). Times have changed dramatically since the late J. Edgar Hoover penned those words.

Herbert Armstrong frequently declared that the most educated of men are often the most foolish. Over 70 years ago, psychologists and behaviorists had proved that a child does not instinctively know right from wrong, good from bad—that a child has to be taught everything!

Notice this instruction from a 1928 text on child rearing: “Aren’t such activities as climbing, imitation, emulation and rivalry, pugnacity, anger, resentment, sympathy, fear, appropriation, acquisitiveness, kleptomania, constructiveness, play, curiosity, sociability, shyness, cleanliness, modesty, shame, love, jealousy, parental love, and all of those pure instincts which appear and run their course completely beyond the control of the parents? Surely, these things are not dependent upon the way I let my child grow up.

“Most of the older psychologists would agree with you. The behaviorist believed, too, when he began his work, that some of these acts would spring forth fully formed. But we waited for their appearance in vain.

“Now we are forced to believe from the study of facts that all of these forms of behavior are built in by the parents and by the environment which the parent allows the child to grow up in. There are no instincts. We build in at an early age everything that is later to appear” (John B. Watson, Psychological Care of Infant and Child).

That observation was made over 70 years ago. Yet psychologists and behaviorists today still base their “science” on the false and godless Darwinian doctrine of evolution—that man evolved from instinct-driven animal! Crazy? You bet! And this is the same mindset, of refusal to learn from the provable facts, that pervades our society’s leaders who persist in arguing over whether exposure to violence, mayhem and perversion negatively influence the behavior of children! “In spite of this accumulated evidence, broadcasters and scientists continue to debate the link between the viewing of tv violence and children’s aggressive behavior. Some broadcasters believe that there is not enough evidence to prove that tv violence is harmful” (American Psychological Association, Office of Public Affairs).

Contrast this with the facts. John K. Rosemond, writing for Hemispheres magazine, stated, “The most rapid rise in violence in the United States is taking place among children. The tip of the iceberg consists of a handful of very disturbed youngsters who commit violent crimes heinous enough to generate national media attention, but the larger problem is that the rate of child and adolescent violence has increased more than threefold since 1965” (August 2000).

Rosemond, author of the book Raising a Non-Violent Child, points to the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson who declared that a child’s character education should take priority over his academic education. The rabbi sensibly maintained that “all other educational efforts are basically meaningless unless built on a solid foundation of good character, which is a matter of manners and morals.” Psychologist Rosemond, developing this theme of the rabbi’s, explains, “Teaching proper manners is an important prerequisite to teaching proper morality, the essence of which is knowing the difference between right and wrong. Once again, the earlier this teaching begins, the better. Studies have shown that a child who has not acquired a working understanding of moral values by age 7 or 8 has considerably increased chances for antisocial and at-risk behavior during adolescence. Again, proper example and instruction from parents is crucial” (ibid).


One of the best times for family fellowship, instructional conversation and parental leadership, is mealtime. In the book endorsed by Herbert Armstrong, The Plain Truth About Child Rearing, the author declares that parents ought to teach their children to eat what is served to them. This is important if your child is to learn to acquire a taste for the wonderful, abundant variety of natural foods that God created for our consumption. But to teach a child to eat what is set before him or her, parents have to be at the table with their children!

John Rosemond stated, “In 1955, the typical family ate the evening meal together an average of six out of seven nights a week. Today, that number is around three nights a week, and the culprit is clearly children’s after-school activities. In many of today’s families, after-school activities dominate everyone’s discretionary time. The parents never seem to have time for themselves or their marriages, they frequently complain of exhaustion and stress, and the entire family seems to be in a constant state of ‘hurry-up-we-gotta-go.’

“I recommend no more than one activity per child at any given time and no activities that interfere with the family meal, which should be at home nearly every evening” (op cit). What better way to start the day than to have breakfast with your children? What better way to finish the day than to have father and mother at the meal table, with their children, reflecting on the day’s activities and drawing the lessons that have been learned from them?

Importance of Father

The false doctrine of political correctness has seriously damaged the God-given role of the father in the family. David Blankenhorn is president of the Institute for American Values and author of Fatherless America. He has found that “[b]y and large, children reared by single moms do not do as well on any measure as children raised in two-parent families. But a father’s mere presence in his children’s lives is not enough. To make a difference, he must be actively involved. Children who grow up with involved fathers tend to be more self-confident, well-behaved and achievement-oriented” (ibid).

Over the past 40 years, our feminized Western society has demonized men and boys. The God-given roles of father–husband, mother–wife, even the God-designed sexes, male and female, have been lumped together and denigrated as old-fashioned stereotypes. Confusion reigns. Sodom and Gomorrah rise up from the ashes to flaunt their perverse ways in music, entertainment, education and governmental administration. The result is sick, confused, immoral minds in charge of whole nations. As a godly parent, this is your war zone! You must fight for the protection, nurturing and teaching of the roles that God created for your son and your daughter at their various stages of development. Fight to assert true femininity as wife and mother! Fight to assert your God-given leadership role as husband and father. Fight to raise your boy as a strong, confident, masculine lad. Fight to preserve your daughter as a sweet, glowing, feminine lass. Fight to preserve your family unit!

The extent to which traditional, God-given roles are perverted at the elementary school level was startlingly revealed by the experiences of a British teacher. Alexander Wade reported those experiences in the British Spectator magazine. These are his startling observations during an assignment at a coed primary school in England: “What I was unprepared for was the large number of pupils registered as ‘special needs’ for behavioral reasons …. 24 percent of the children were registered as having special needs …. There were never any girls at the special-needs tables” (Sept. 2, 2000).

Why this phenomenon of almost a quarter of the total student population of this school being classified as having behavioral problems? Why no girls classified with these problems? Wade went on to observe, “As someone with experience of teaching at a boys’ prep school, and as the father of two small boys, these so-called ‘special needs’ children seemed to me, in the majority of cases, to be completely normal boys. Rowdy, given half a chance, but for a boy this is par for the course, not ‘special’” (ibid).

Then, he stumbled across the answer when, upon asking for directions to the male staff restroom, he is told by the headmistress that there are none! How come? There’s not one male member of staff at this coed school!

Feminine behavior is the model; it is the standard by which all children’s behavior is judged. And boys behave differently from girls—that’s just the way they are” (ibid).

No wonder it was always the boys who wanted to sit next to Wade when he entered their classroom. As the lads said, “We hardly ever have a man in the class!”

Alexander Wade’s concluding comment says it all: “These are worrying times to be a man …. Maleness, apparently, is stigmatized everywhere. But as adults fight over who should wear the trousers, spare a thought for the ranks of boys in coed primary schools who have no male role models, are expected to conform to a female environment, and who are routinely designated as problem children” (ibid).

Such is the war zone of many an elementary school. Is it any wonder we are producing a nation of feminized wimps? Ours is the generation of which the Prophet Ezekiel speaks—“They have blown the trumpet, even to make all ready, but none goeth to the battle” (Ezekiel 7:14).

Tune Out Violence

Man is generally ignorant of the fact that human behavior, just like the physical universe, is governed by immutable laws. There is a cause for every effect! There is a cause for child violence!

The American Psychological Association claims that psychological research has shown three major effects of seeing violence on television: a)children may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others; b) children may be more fearful of the world around them; c) children may be more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful ways toward others.

Their conclusions are endorsed by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in the following words: “Television can be a powerful influence in developing value systems and shaping behavior. Unfortunately, much of today’s television programming is violent. Hundreds of studies of the effects of tv violence on children and teenagers have found that children may a) become ‘immune’ to the horror of violence; b) gradually accept violence as a way to solve problems; c) imitate the violence they observe on television; and d) identify with certain characters, victims and/or victimizers.”

Four years after the cable tv industry paid for a study that proved a connection between television violence and negative behavior in children, the sole result is that the industry has cranked up the violence level in the programming!

There is a general outcry about this state of affairs, but to what avail in an election year when the music and tv industry together stand to contribute over $30 million to campaign funds? Surely we live in times when God cries out to us through the ancient proverb, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” And why? Because the law is slacked (Habakuk 1:4).

When the guardians of God’s law let down, whole nations suffer! But as this proverb goes on to explain, “he that keepeth the law, happy is he” (Proverbs 29:18). Yes, peace and contentment radiate from a happy child’s face, one who has had his bounds set! One who has been taught from the earliest age of infancy to love God’s law!

Until Jesus Christ returns to impose this law of love on mankind, you are the guardian of God’s law in your home! You, the parent, are responsible for it being taught and administered in your human family! Are you fulfilling that responsibility?

It took the lives of 15 teenagers, slaughtered in a crazed shooting by two fellow classmates in Littleton, Colorado, last year, to stir the U.S. government into calling for a study into the reasons for the rise in child and teenage violence. And what did they find? The same as has been found in countless studies on the subject over the past 40 years—tv and video game violence leads to child violence!

That’s how this rotten, carnal society works—first the catastrophe, then they ask why? God’s method of dealing with human behavior is the total opposite! He explains in His Word what behavior will lead to catastrophe, and how to avoid it! That is godly parenting in action! The whole history of ancient Israel is a testimony to this simple formula (Deuteronomy 4:23-26).

Prime-time tv programs average five violent acts per hour. Compare this to children’s weekend morning programs, which average 20 to 25 violent acts per hour! Draw your own conclusions—garbage in, garbage out! The same goes for the unbelievable levels of profane language and overt obscenity available on film, tv, video and the Internet.

“Some three decades ago it became the consensus that obscene behavior is acceptable because everybody has the right to freedom of expression. … It is part of the universal abrogation of standards, respect and responsibility prevalent throughout the so-called civilized world” (Finest Hour, Summer 2000).

Cause and effect! That’s virtually what the editor of Finest Hour, Richard M. Langworth, is maintaining in his editorial.

Reverting to the theme of his opening statement in the Hemispheres article, John Rosemond asked, “You wouldn’t let your children consume dirty food, would you? Then don’t allow them to consume profanity, ‘adult content,’ and violence in the media” (op cit). Simple, sage and sound advice!

Rosemond drew the line at five hours per week maximum screen time for the average child—tv, video and Internet included. He clearly pointed out that a child who is allowed a personal tv or computer in his or her bedroom is just encouraged to isolate himself or herself in that room, without parental supervision. This risks stunting the child’s social development and opening his or her mind to the plethora of perversion and confusion flooding the airwaves.

If you are wisely intent on maximizing your child’s balanced growth and development within the elementary childhood years, that child will have little desire for wasting time staring at a video or computer screen. His time will be effectively taken up with healthy, challenging pursuits that develop the body, the mind, the personality and character of the child.

The elementary school years, between ages 7 and 12, are the years during which you have the time to build into your child a deeply ingrained sense of who they are, why they are, where they’ve come from, and where they are headed, before they reach the challenge of adolescence. Use this time to build responsible character in your child. Teach them their role as children, no longer an infant to be babied, not yet a youth to be treated as such. Treat them as what they are—children. By all means don’t baby them, but also never force them into roles which they are too young to bear. The advertising industry, music, fashion and film exert tremendous influence on our society to force the maturity of children before their due time. Resist this! Your child is a child and needs to know that and to be supervised and directed as such.

Raising your child from the threshold of childhood, the elementary schooling years, to the wonder of the age of puberty can be a most joyful experience. In our concluding part to this series on the godly parenting of children, we shall dwell on the five principle areas of development that are so vital to oversee during the ages 7 to 12.