When EJ was born, my wife and I received several free subscriptions to parenting magazines, and of course, we read several books on parenting as well. Nearly every one of those books and magazines, even the Christian ones, advocated allowing children to explore their character to the fullest. This was why so many of them were opposed to parents telling their children, “No.” Saying “no” to a young child discourages him from exploring and learning about the aspect of his character that the parent objects to.
This philosophy, however, ignores the fact that God expects parents to train their children to serve Him. When we consider this fact, the child’s honest openness about his own character becomes an invaluable tool to help parents in this task. This openness allows the parents to easily identify flaws in the character of their child and to take appropriate measures to correct those flaws. Simply adopting God’s philosophy of training children to serve Him gives a completely different view of this characteristic.
God has given each child a love for things that are fun.
I always find myself cringing a little bit whenever someone asks my son what he likes to do. I know that, at some point, he’s going to make the mistake that I made and tell someone that he likes to study. Then the inevitable question will come. “But what do you do for fun?” The first time that I was asked that question, I was somewhat dumbfounded. I thought: “I just told you what I do for fun. Why are you asking me again?”
Since then, I’ve learned that most people view having fun as a reward unto itself, but in reality, God gave children the desire to have fun not so that they can simply have fun for its own sake, but rather so that parents would have another tool to aid them in training their children. When a parent uses his child’s love of fun as a tool for training, he will discover that his child actually enjoys the same training that other children detest.
God has made every child sociable.
Most children are naturally sociable as you can tell by the fact that most parents have to teach their children not to talk to strangers. The world often teaches that this sociability should be nurtured by allowing the child to have as many friends as possible. This is especially noticeable when parents make the decision to homeschool their child. This decision is always accompanied by condescension from other parents who are concerned that the poor homeschooled child will not have the same social life as other children (as if that weren’t the point of homeschooling in the first place).
What these parents are overlooking is that sociability has a much greater value than they realize. This characteristic of childhood is what allows children to accept instruction from the people around them. Most learning occurs when the pupil trusts the teacher. If children were not naturally trusting and sociable, they would be greatly hampered in their ability to learn.
God has given each child the ability to be easily convinced.
The same thing could be said about the child’s ability to be easily convinced of the truth of a particular claim. Richard Dawkins, one of the leading atheists of our day, is known for expressing his opinion that parents should be prevented from telling their children what is right and what is wrong. He thinks that children should be allowed to make up their own minds, and he is convinced that a child’s innocent ability to be easily convinced will enable him to always recognize the truth. This has become a prevalent philosophy in the American educational system, and many teachers are trained to promote an objective classroom environment in which the students are given all the information and allowed to make up their own minds about which course of action is correct. However, when we view this characteristic of childhood as a tool given by God to aid us in training our children, we can see that He made children with an ability to be easily convinced so that they will more readily believe what they are taught by their parents.
God has made each child with a desire for rewards.
How many times have you seen a parent give in to a child’s cajoling or even to a tantrum by giving the child exactly what he wanted? How many times have you done this? Every parent knows that his child has an innate desire for getting things that he does not already have. What most parents do not realize is that this desire is a gift from God which will make training much easier. The child who throws a tantrum in the supermarket has already calculated the pros and cons of his actions and concluded that the risk of making a public spectacle of himself is worth the reward of getting the toy that he desires. In other words, the child has considered the consequences of his actions and acted accordingly. As the Bible puts it, “he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.” This is a valuable characteristic of childhood that should be used as a tool to teach children to think of the eternal effect of their decisions and to act in a way that will receive rewards from God.
Can you see what I meant when I said that the secret is not in what we do but rather in why we do it? When you have a biblical perspective of childhood, knowing what to do in various situations is often as simple as asking why a given option should be taken. If your purpose for taking a particular action would be anything other than training your child to better serve the Lord, then that’s probably not something that you should do. Instead of thinking that your child is only young once, you should remember that you only get to train him once; and you don’t want them to grow up before that training is complete.