Teach Your Children to Love Jehovah
“Like arrows in the hand of a mighty man, so are the sons of youth.”—PSALM 127:4.
1, 2. How are children like “arrows in the hand of a mighty man”?
AN ARCHER prepares to shoot an arrow at a target. He carefully places it against the bowstring, and with flexed muscles he bends his bow. Despite the strain, he takes time to aim the arrow. Then he lets it fly! Will the arrow hit the target? Several factors determine the answer, including the skill of the archer, the effect of the wind, and the condition of the arrow.
2 King Solomon likened children to “arrows in the hand of a mighty man.” (Psalm 127:4) Consider how this illustration might be applied. An archer has the arrow in his bow for only a relatively short time. To hit the target, he must quickly let it go. Likewise, parents have only a relatively short period of time to develop in their children heartfelt love for Jehovah. After what seems to be just a few short years, the children grow up and leave home. (Matthew 19:5) Will they hit the target—that is, will the children continue to love and serve God after they leave home? Numerous factors influence the answer. Three of them are the skill of the parent, the environment in which the children are raised, and the way the ‘arrow,’ or child, responds to the training he or she receives. Let us examine each of these factors in more detail. First, we will consider some of the traits of a skillful parent.
Skillful Parents Set a Good Example
3. Why must a parent’s words be backed up by actions?
3 Jesus set the example for parents in that he practiced what he preached. (John 13:15) On the other hand, he condemned the Pharisees, who would “say” but “not perform.” (Matthew 23:3) In order to motivate their children to love Jehovah, the parents’ words and actions must work together. Words that are not backed up by actions are just as ineffective as a bow without a bowstring.—1 John 3:18.
4. What questions do parents do well to ask themselves, and why?
4 Why is parental example so important? Just as adults can learn to love God by looking at Jesus’ example, children can learn to love Jehovah by following their parents’ good example. A child’s associates can either strengthen the child or “spoil useful habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) For much of a child’s life, and certainly during the important formative years, the closest, most influential associates a child has are his parents. Therefore, parents do well to ask themselves: ‘What sort of associate am I? Does my example encourage my child to develop useful habits? What example am I setting in the vital areas of prayer and Bible study?’
Skillful Parents Pray With Their Children
5. What can children learn from a parent’s prayers?
5 Your children can learn much about Jehovah by listening to your prayers. If they hear you give thanks to God at mealtimes and offer prayers at Bible study sessions, what conclusions might they draw? They will likely learn that Jehovah supplies our physical needs—for which he should be thanked—and that he teaches us spiritual truths. These are valuable lessons.—James 1:17.
6. How can parents help children to feel that Jehovah is interested in them as individuals?
6 However, if you pray with your family at times other than meals and family Bible studies and if you discuss specific matters that affect you and your children, you will accomplish even more. You will help your children to feel that Jehovah is part of your family, that he cares deeply about you individually. (Ephesians 6:18; 1 Peter 5:6, 7) One father says: “From the time our daughter was born, we prayed with her. As she grew older, we prayed about relationship issues and other matters that affected her. Until she left home to marry, not a day went by that we did not pray together with her.” Could you also pray with your children each day? Could you help them view Jehovah as a Friend, who not only provides their physical and spiritual necessities but also cares about their emotional needs?—Philippians 4:6, 7.
7. To make their prayers specific, what do parents need to know?
7 Of course, for you to make your prayers specific, you need to know what is happening in your child’s life. Note the comments of one father who raised two children: “At the end of each week, I asked myself two questions: ‘What things were of concern to my children this week? And what good things happened in their world?’” Parents, can you ask yourselves such questions and then incorporate some of the answers into the prayers you say with your children? If you do, you will be teaching them not only to pray to Jehovah—the Hearer of prayer—but also to love him.—Psalm 65:2.
Skillful Parents Encourage Good Study Habits
8. Why must parents help their children to acquire the habit of studying God’s Word?
8 How can a parent’s attitude toward Bible study influence a child’s relationship with God? For any relationship to grow and survive, the individuals involved must not only talk to each other but also listen. One of the ways we listen to Jehovah is by studying the Bible with the aid of publications supplied by ‘the faithful slave.’ (Matthew 24:45-47; Proverbs 4:1, 2) Therefore, to help their children develop a lasting, loving relationship with Jehovah, parents do well to encourage them to develop the habit of studying God’s Word.
9. How can children be helped to develop good study habits?
9 How can children be helped to develop good study habits? Again, a parent’s example teaches best. Do your children regularly see you enjoying personal Bible reading or study? True, you are likely very busy caring for your children, and you may wonder when you can find time to read and study. But ask yourself, ‘Do my children regularly see me watching television?’ If so, could you use some of that time to set a good example for them regarding personal study?
10, 11. Why should parents have regular family Bible discussions?
10 Another practical way parents can teach children to listen to Jehovah is by having regular family Bible discussions. (Isaiah 30:21) Some may wonder, though, ‘Why do children need a family study if their parents regularly take them to congregation meetings?’ There are several good reasons. Jehovah entrusts parents with the primary responsibility to teach their children. (Proverbs 1:8; Ephesians 6:4) Family Bible study teaches children that worship is, not a formal ritual observed only in public, but part of the family’s private life.—Deuteronomy 6:6-9.
11 In addition, a well-conducted family study can provide parents with a window into their children’s thinking on spiritual and moral matters. For instance, when children are young, parents can use such publications as Learn From the Great Teacher. * In almost every paragraph of this Bible study aid, children are asked to express their opinion on the subjects discussed. By reasoning on the scriptures mentioned in the book, parents may be able to help children to develop their perceptive powers “to distinguish both right and wrong.”—Hebrews 5:14.
12. How might parents adapt the family study to a child’s needs, and what have you found to be effective in this regard?
12 As your children grow, adapt the study to their needs. Note the way one couple helped their teenage children to reason on a request to attend a school dance. The father says: “We told our children that during a portion of the next family study, my wife and I would play the part of the children, and our girls could pretend to be the parents. Either child could assume the role of Father or Mother, but the children had to work together to research the subject and to give direction about school dances.” What was the result? “We were amazed at how responsible our daughters (in their role as the parents) were when explaining to us (as the children) their Bible-based reasons why it would be unwise to go to the dance,” the father continues. “What further impressed us were the suggestions they came up with as acceptable alternatives to this activity. These gave us valuable insight into their thinking and desires.” True, it requires perseverance and imagination to keep a family study regular and relevant, but the rewards are worth the effort.—Proverbs 23:15.
Create a Peaceful Environment
13, 14. (a) How can parents create a peaceful home environment? (b) What can be the beneficial result when a parent admits to having made a mistake?
13 An arrow is more likely to hit the target if the archer aims and releases it in calm conditions. Similarly, children are more likely to learn to love Jehovah if parents create a peaceful home environment. “The fruit of righteousness has its seed sown under peaceful conditions for those who are making peace,” wrote James. (James 3:18) How can parents create a peaceful environment at home? A married couple needs to maintain a strong marital bond. A husband and wife who love and respect each other have a better chance of teaching their children to love and respect others, including Jehovah. (Galatians 6:7; Ephesians 5:33) Love and respect promote peace. And a couple who are at peace with each other are better able to deal with conflicts that may arise within the family.
14 Of course, just as there are no perfect marriages, there are no perfect families on earth at present. Parents may at times fail to display the fruitage of the spirit when dealing with their children. (Galatians 5:22, 23) When that happens, what should parents do? If they admit to making a mistake, will it lessen a child’s respect for them? Consider the apostle Paul’s example. He was like a spiritual father to many. (1 Corinthians 4:15) Yet, he openly admitted that he made mistakes. (Romans 7:21-25) Even so, his humility and honesty raise our respect for him rather than diminish it. Despite his shortcomings, Paul could confidently write to the congregation in Corinth: “Become imitators of me, even as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) If you too admit your mistakes, your children will likely overlook your failings.
15, 16. Why should parents train their children to love their Christian brothers and sisters, and how can this be done?
15 What else can parents do to create an environment where their children can grow to love Jehovah? The apostle John wrote: “If anyone makes the statement: ‘I love God,’ and yet is hating his brother, he is a liar. For he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot be loving God, whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20, 21) Therefore, when you train your children to love their Christian brothers and sisters, you are teaching them to love God. Parents do well to ask themselves, ‘Is the dominant tone of my conversations about the congregation encouraging or critical?’ How can you know? Listen closely to the way your children speak about the meetings and the members of the congregation. You are likely to hear your thoughts echoed in their comments.
16 What can parents do to help their children to love their spiritual brothers? Peter, a father of two teenage boys, says: “Since our boys were young, we have regularly had spiritually mature ones over to eat with us and spend time with us in our home, and we’ve had a lot of fun doing it. Our boys have grown up rubbing shoulders with people who love Jehovah, and they now see that serving God is an enjoyable way of life.” Dennis, a father of five girls, says, “We encouraged our girls to befriend the older pioneers in the congregation, and whenever possible we showed hospitality to traveling overseers and their wives.” Can you also take the initiative to help your children to view the congregation as an extension of your family?—Mark 10:29, 30.
A Child’s Responsibility
17. What decision do children eventually have to make?
17 Consider again the illustration of the archer. Although he may be skilled, he is unlikely to hit the target if the arrow he shoots has become bent or warped. Of course, parents will try hard to straighten the bent arrow, so to speak, by striving to adjust a child’s wrong thinking. But children must eventually decide for themselves whether to let this world bend them to its will or to allow Jehovah to make their “paths straight.”—Proverbs 3:5, 6; Romans 12:2.
18. What effect can a child’s choice have on others?
18 While parents have a weighty responsibility to raise their children in “the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah,” the final decision as to what a child will grow up to become rests with the child himself. (Ephesians 6:4) Therefore, children, ask yourselves, ‘Will I accept the loving training my parents provide?’ If you do, you will be choosing the best possible way of life. You will make your parents very happy. Most important, you will make Jehovah’s heart rejoice.—Proverbs 27:11.
^ par. 11 Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Do You Recall?
• How can parents set a good example with regard to prayer and Bible study?
• How can parents create a peaceful home environment?
• What choice do children face, and how will the choice they make affect others?
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Do you set a good example for your child in personal study?
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A peaceful family environment contributes to happiness