1-3. (a) From what sources do destructive influences that threaten the family come? (b) What balance do parents need in protecting their family?
YOU are about to send your little boy to school, and it is pouring rain. How do you handle the situation? Do you let him go skipping out the door without any rain gear? Or do you pile on so many layers of protective clothing that he can hardly move? Of course, you do neither. You give him just what is needed to keep him dry.
2 In a similar way, parents must find a balanced way to protect their family from the destructive influences that rain down on them from many sources—the entertainment industry, the media, peers, and at times even the schools. Some parents do little or nothing to shield their family. Others, viewing nearly all outside influences as harmful, are so restrictive that the children feel as if they were suffocating. Is a balance possible?
3 Yes, it is. Being extreme is ineffective and can invite disaster. (Ecclesiastes 7:16, 17) But how do Christian parents find the right balance in protecting their family? Consider three areas: education, association, and recreation.
WHO WILL TEACH YOUR CHILDREN?
4. How should Christian parents view education?
4 Christian parents place a high value on education. They know that schooling helps children to read, write, and communicate, as well as to solve problems. It should also teach them how to learn. The skills children acquire in school can help them to succeed despite the challenges of today’s world. Additionally, a good education may help them to perform superior work.—Proverbs 22:29.
5, 6. How may children at school be exposed to distorted information on sexual matters?
5 However, school also brings children together with other children—many of whom have distorted views. For example, consider their views on sex and morals. In a secondary school in Nigeria, a sexually promiscuous girl used to advise her fellow students about sex. They listened to her eagerly, even though her ideas were full of nonsense that she had gleaned from pornographic literature. Some of the girls experimented with her advice. As a result, one girl got pregnant out of wedlock and died of a self-induced abortion.
6 Sad to say, some of the sexual misinformation at school comes, not from children, but from teachers. Many parents are dismayed when schools teach children about sex without presenting information on moral standards and responsibility. Said the mother of a 12-year-old girl: “We live in a very religious, conservative area, and yet right in the local high school, they’re handing out condoms to the kids!” She and her husband became concerned when they learned that their daughter was getting sexual propositions from boys her own age. How can parents protect their family from such wrong influences?
7. How may sexual misinformation be best countered?
7 Is it best to shield children from any mention of sexual matters? No. It is better to teach your children about sex yourself. (Proverbs 5:1) True, in parts of Europe and North America, many parents shy away from this subject. Similarly, in some African lands, parents rarely discuss sex with their children. “It’s not part of African culture to do so,” says a father in Sierra Leone. Some parents feel that to teach children about sex is to give them ideas that will lead them to commit immorality! But what is God’s view?
GOD’S VIEW OF SEX
8, 9. What fine information on sexual matters is found in the Bible?
8 The Bible makes it clear that there is nothing shameful about discussing sex in a proper context. In Israel, God’s people were told to gather together, including their “little ones,” to listen to the reading aloud of the Mosaic Law. (Deuteronomy 31:10-12; Joshua 8:35) The Law frankly mentioned a number of sexual matters, including menstruation, seminal emissions, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, incest, and bestiality. (Leviticus 15:16, 19; 18:6, 22, 23; Deuteronomy 22:22) After such readings parents no doubt had much to explain to their inquisitive youngsters.
9 There are passages in the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of Proverbs that convey loving parental counsel on the dangers of sexual immorality. These verses show that immorality may be tempting at times. (Proverbs 5:3; 6:24, 25; 7:14-21) But they teach that it is wrong and has disastrous consequences, and they offer guidance to help young people avoid immoral ways. (Proverbs 5:1-14, 21-23; 6:27-35; 7:22-27) Furthermore, immorality is contrasted with the satisfaction of sexual pleasure in its proper setting, within marriage. (Proverbs 5:15-20) What a fine model of teaching for parents to follow!
10. Why should giving children godly knowledge about sex not lead them to commit immorality?
10 Does such teaching lead children to commit immorality? On the contrary, the Bible teaches: “By knowledge are the righteous rescued.” (Proverbs 11:9) Do you not want to rescue your children from this world’s influences? One father said: “Ever since the children were very young, we’ve tried to be totally frank with them when it comes to sex. That way, when they hear other children talking about sex, they’re not curious. There’s no big mystery.”
11. How can children be taught progressively about the intimate matters of life?
11 As noted in earlier chapters, sex education should start early. When teaching little children to name body parts, do not skip over their private parts as if these were somehow shameful. Teach them the proper names for these. As time passes, lessons about privacy and boundaries are essential. Preferably both parents should teach the children that these parts of the body are special, generally not to be touched by or exposed to others, and are never to be discussed in a bad way. As children grow older, they should be informed as to how a man and a woman come together to conceive a child. By the time that their own bodies begin to enter puberty, they should already be well aware of the changes to be expected. As was discussed in Chapter 5, such education can also help to protect children from sexual abuse.—Proverbs 2:10-14.
HOMEWORK THAT PARENTS HAVE
12. What distorted views are often taught in schools?
12 Parents need to be ready to counteract other false ideas that may be taught at school—worldly philosophies such as evolution, nationalism, or the idea that no truths are absolute. (1 Corinthians 3:19; compare Genesis 1:27; Leviticus 26:1; John 4:24; 17:17.) Many sincere school officials attach undue importance to further education. While the matter of supplementary education is a personal choice, some teachers hold that it is the only route to any personal success. *—Psalm 146:3-6.
13. How can children attending school be protected from wrong ideas?
13 If parents are to counteract wrong or distorted teachings, they have to know just what instruction their children are receiving. So parents, remember that you have homework too! Show a genuine interest in your children’s schooling. Talk with them after school. Ask what they are learning, what they like most, what they find most challenging. Look over homework assignments, notes, and test results. Try to get to know their teachers. Let teachers know that you appreciate their work and that you want to be of help in any way you can.
YOUR CHILDREN’S FRIENDS
14. Why is it vital that godly children choose good friends?
14 “Where on earth did you learn that?” How many parents have asked that question, horrified at something that their child has said or done and that seems completely out of character? And how often does the answer involve some new friend at school or in the neighborhood? Yes, companions affect us profoundly, whether we are young or old. The apostle Paul warned: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33; Proverbs 13:20) Youths in particular are susceptible to peer pressure. They tend to be uncertain about themselves and may at times feel overwhelmed by a desire to please and impress their associates. How vital it is, then, that they choose good friends!
15. How can parents guide their children in choosing friends?
15 As every parent knows, children will not always choose well; they need some guidance. It is not a matter of choosing their friends for them. Rather, as they grow, teach them discernment and help them to see what qualities they should value in friends. The main quality is a love of Jehovah and of doing what is right in his eyes. (Mark 12:28-30) Teach them to love and respect those who possess honesty, kindness, generosity, diligence. During the family study, help children to recognize such qualities in Bible characters and then to find the same traits in others in the congregation. Set the example by using the same criteria in choosing your own friends.
16. How may parents watch their children’s choice of friends?
16 Do you know who your children’s friends are? Why not have your children bring them home so that you can meet them? You might also ask your children what other children think about these friends. Are they known for demonstrating personal integrity or for living a double life? If the latter is true, help your children to reason on why such association could hurt them. (Psalm 26:4, 5, 9-12) If you notice undesirable changes in your child’s behavior, dress, attitude, or speech, you may need to have a talk about his or her friends. Your child may be spending time with a friend who is exerting a negative influence.—Compare Genesis 34:1, 2.
17, 18. Besides warning against bad associates, what practical help can parents give?
17 Yet it is not enough simply to teach your children to avoid bad associates. Help them to find good ones. One father says: “We would always try to substitute. So when the school wanted our son on the football team, my wife and I sat down with him and discussed why that wouldn’t be a good idea—because of the new companions that would be involved. But then we suggested getting some of the other children in the congregation and taking all of them to the park to play ball. And that worked out fine.”
18 Wise parents help their children to find good friends and then to enjoy wholesome recreation with them. For many parents, though, this matter of recreation presents challenges of its own.
WHAT KIND OF RECREATION?
19. What Bible examples show that it is not sinful for families to have fun?
19 Does the Bible condemn having fun? Far from it! The Bible says that there is “a time to laugh . . . and a time to skip about.” * (Ecclesiastes 3:4) God’s people in ancient Israel enjoyed music and dancing, games, and riddles. Jesus Christ attended a large wedding feast and “a big reception feast” that Matthew Levi put on for him. (Luke 5:29; John 2:1, 2) Clearly, Jesus was no killjoy. May laughter and fun never be viewed as sins in your household!
20. What should parents bear in mind in providing recreation for the family?
20 Jehovah is “the happy God.” (1 Timothy 1:11) So worship of Jehovah should be a source of delight, not something that casts a shadow of joylessness over life. (Compare Deuteronomy 16:15.) Children are naturally exuberant and full of energy that can be released in play and recreation. Well-chosen recreation is more than fun. It is a way for a child to learn and mature. A family head is responsible to provide for his household’s needs in everything, including recreation. However, balance is required.
21. What pitfalls exist in recreation today?
21 In these troubled “last days,” human society is filled with people who are “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God,” just as was prophesied in the Bible. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) For many, recreation is the main thing in life. There is so much entertainment available that it can easily crowd out more important things. Further, much modern entertainment features sexual immorality, violence, drug abuse, and other grossly harmful practices. (Proverbs 3:31) What can be done to safeguard youngsters from harmful entertainment?
22. How can parents train their children to make wise decisions as to recreation?
22 Parents need to set boundaries and restrictions. But more than that, they need to teach their children how to judge what recreation is harmful and to know how much is too much. Such training takes time and effort. Consider an example. A father of two boys noticed that his older son was listening to a new radio station quite frequently. So while driving his truck to work one day, the father tuned in to the same station. Occasionally he stopped and jotted down the lyrics of certain songs. Later he sat down with his sons and discussed what he had heard. He asked viewpoint questions, beginning with “What do you think?” and listened patiently to their answers. After reasoning on the matter using the Bible, the boys agreed not to listen to that station.
23. How may parents protect their children from unwholesome entertainment?
23 Wise Christian parents check the music, TV programs, videotapes, comic books, video games, and movies that interest their children. They look at the art on the cover, the lyrics, and the packaging, and they read newspaper reviews and watch excerpts. Many are shocked at some of the “entertainment” directed at children today. Those who wish to protect their children from unclean influences sit down with the family and discuss the dangers, using the Bible and Bible-based publications, such as the book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work and articles in the Watchtower and Awake! magazines. * When parents set firm limits, being consistent and reasonable, they usually see good results.—Matthew 5:37; Philippians 4:5.
24, 25. What are some wholesome forms of recreation that families can enjoy together?
24 Of course, restricting harmful forms of recreation is only part of the battle. The bad must be countered by the good, otherwise children may drift into a wrong course. Many Christian families have countless warm and happy memories of enjoying recreation together—picnicking, hiking, camping, playing games and sports, traveling to visit relatives or friends. Some have found that simply reading aloud together for relaxation is a great source of pleasure and comfort. Others enjoy telling humorous or interesting stories. Still others have developed hobbies together, for example, woodworking and other crafts, as well as playing musical instruments, painting, or studying God’s creations. Children who learn to enjoy such diversions are protected from much unclean entertainment, and they learn that there is more to recreation than simply sitting passively and being entertained. Participating is often more fun than observing.
25 Social gatherings can also be a rewarding form of recreation. When they are well supervised and not outlandishly large or time-consuming, they can give your children more than just fun. They can help to deepen the bonds of love in the congregation.—Compare Luke 14:13, 14; Jude 12.
YOUR FAMILY CAN CONQUER THE WORLD
26. When it comes to protecting the family from unwholesome influences, what is the most important quality?
26 Without question, protecting your family from the world’s destructive influences requires much hard work. But there is one thing that, more than any other, will make success possible. It is love! Close, loving family bonds will make your home a safe haven and will promote communication, which is a great protection from bad influences. Further, cultivating another kind of love is even more important—love of Jehovah. When such love permeates the family, the children are more likely to grow up hating the very idea of displeasing God by succumbing to worldly influences. And parents who love Jehovah from the heart will seek to imitate his loving, reasonable, balanced personality. (Ephesians 5:1; James 3:17) If parents do that, their children will have no reason to view worship of Jehovah as just a list of things they are not allowed to do or as a way of life devoid of fun or laughter, from which they want to run away as soon as possible. Rather, they will see that worshiping God is the happiest, fullest way of life possible.
27. How can a family conquer the world?
27 Families that stay united in happy, balanced service to God, endeavoring wholeheartedly to remain “spotless and unblemished” from the corrupting influences of this world, are a source of joy to Jehovah. (2 Peter 3:14; Proverbs 27:11) Such families follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, who resisted every effort of Satan’s world to defile him. Near the end of his human life, Jesus was able to say: “I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33) May your family also conquer the world and enjoy life forever!
^ par. 12 For a discussion of supplementary education, see the brochure Jehovah’s Witnesses and Education, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., pages 4-7.
^ par. 19 The Hebrew word here rendered “to laugh” can, in other forms, be rendered “to play,” “to offer some amusement,” “to celebrate,” or even “to have fun.”
^ par. 23 Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.