Training Children Begins with Prayer
One of my constant prayers for our children comes from the heart of Jesus: “I pray not that You will take them out of the world, but that You will keep them from the evil that is in the world.” (John 17:15)
We recognize that our children will be exposed to ungodly ideas, thoughts, and behaviors. We cannot barricade them in our house forever. Plus, over-protecting can cripple instead of preparing them for life.
Granted, the choices parents make will influence the types of evil to which children are exposed. Yet, no place or activity is entirely free from the snares of the devil.
Jesus never asked that His disciples be removed from the world and its evils. His prayer was that they would be kept from the evil.
The only way to pray this prayer, and do our part, is to start when our children are young. No age is too early. Our children are not mature enough to recognize and combat evil on their own. Training our children is one of our jobs as parents.
Training Children Takes Effort
So, what can we do? How do we go about training children to know evil from good?
- Teach and model truth. Expose them to the Word of God and what He says about things like lying, stealing, cursing, or degrading. Live it out through words, actions, and deeds on a daily basis. They will copy our attitudes and learn by our example.
- Teach respect for those in authority: police, the mayor, teachers, principals, governors, the president, and ministers. The way we demonstrate respect is the way they will think it should be done regardless of our “rules”. Our personal behavior becomes a powerful tool for protecting our children from evil.
- Show discernment between right and wrong. Instead of fighting battles for children, help them learn and implement battle strategies. It will make them strong.
- Teach them that life is not fair. We cannot right all wrongs. Children need to learn to allow unfair things to make them better. It will help them develop empathy for others in unjust situations and inspire a Biblical response, especially when it is modeled.
- Explain the Biblical principles behind why we do, or do not do, something. Our children should know why we choose to dress modestly, why nobody touches our bodies, what is wrong about lying, or why retaliation is wrong.
- Help them learn there are consequences for wrong behavior. They will learn this well if we deal out consequences consistently to them.
Our Experiences in Training Children
Perhaps some of our own experiences will help you see how we used opportunities in training children in normal routines of our day. We attempted to model the above principles.
- Our five-year-old once disappeared. (He did not want to take a nap and hid from closet to closet for two hours.) We called the police; a search party was organized. Fortunately, we found him before the search was underway. Afterwards he and his father made a list of ten people who had come to look for him. The two of them then went to visit everyone on the list. Our son apologized to each person for his behavior, asked for forgiveness, and thanked each one for helping search for him.
- Another child admitted that he had cheated on a test in school. We made a visit to the school. He confessed to the teacher, received her forgiveness, and came home with a clear conscience.
- A foster child shoplifted at Wal-Mart. A visit to confess his deed and to pay for the item cleared his conscience and made him want to never (we hope) steal again.
- One child took small pieces of yarn from school after an art project. Later, he asked me if taking the yarn was stealing. Was it? True, the yarn was going to be thrown away, but he took it without permission. Dave went with him to show the teacher the pieces of yarn. “If you had asked me, I would have gladly given you the yarn,” his teacher said. “But you took it without asking, so it was stealing. I forgive you.”
- Our boys got bored while Dave was fixing fences, so they decided the farm-owned truck windshield would make a good sliding board. It did – but both wipers got broken in the process. For weeks, they did jobs at home and gave up their weekly ice cream treat at school to pay for the wipers. Sometimes when they were given a chore, I asked them if they thought this chore was worth the fun in sliding down the windshield!
- Our third-grader was distressed about the lack of control in his classroom. For days he came home and stomped upstairs to his room. I wanted to visit the school and give the teacher a piece of my mind! Dave reminded me that my response was unbiblical. He took our son to the Word and showed him the path for confrontation. Together, they came up with a plan for speaking to the teacher to find a solution. “After all,” Dave told him, “if you only have a complaint and no suggestions, you are just being a part of the problem.” The next day, he spoke to the teacher alone. She implemented his three suggestions and he came home a happy boy. How much better – and biblical – this was than to have one of us confront her! I almost showed him how to do it wrong!
Training Children Prepares Them for Life
A friend said, “The best way to protect our children is to educate them.” Sound advice, is it not?
If our children know what truth is, they will be able to differentiate the counterfeit. If they are so familiar with the right, they will recognize when they are tempted to do wrong. There is no guarantee that our children will always choose the right path. Giving them the proper armor is the best way to prepare them for any battle they will face in life. Teaching and training children is never-ending if we want them to recognize the evil around them.
We cannot totally shelter and protect our children. Yet, the spiritual preparation we give them is the best armor there is to keep them from the evil that is in the world.
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This article was first published in Daughters of Promise magazine. For more information about this magazine, click on this link.