“LOOK! Sons are an inheritance from Jehovah; the fruitage of the belly is a reward,” states the Bible. (Psalm 127:3) It is a joyful time for parents when a child is born.
In addition to joy, the new parents also have important responsibilities. They need to give the child good food each day so that he can grow up to be a healthy adult. But to have a strong relationship with Jehovah, he also needs training and guidance from his parents. They have to teach him principles from God’s Word. (Proverbs 1:8) When should they begin teaching their child, and what should they teach him?
PARENTS NEED INSTRUCTION
The Bible tells us of a man named Manoah, who lived in the town of Zorah in Israel. Manoah and his wife had no children, but Jehovah’s angel told his wife that they would soon have a son. (Judges 13:2, 3) Even though Manoah and his wife were very happy to hear the news, they also wondered how they could do their best in raising their child. So Manoah prayed: “Excuse me, Jehovah. The man of the true God that you just sent, let him, please, come again to us and instruct us as to what we ought to do to the child that will be born.” (Judges 13:8) Manoah and his wife taught their son, Samson, about God’s law, and he accepted what he learned. The Bible tells us that Jehovah’s holy spirit helped Samson to do powerful things as one of the judges of Israel.
When should parents start to train their children? Timothy was taught about Jehovah “from infancy” by his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother Lois. (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15) So they started to train Timothy early in his childhood.
It is wise for Christian parents to pray for direction and to plan ahead so that they can begin to train their child “from infancy.” “The plans of the diligent one surely make for advantage,” states Proverbs 21:5. Before the arrival of their baby, the parents will no doubt prepare carefully. They may even make a list of all the things they will need for the baby. But it is also important for them to plan how they will teach their baby about Jehovah. Their goal should be to begin teaching the baby very soon after the baby is born.
For a child to have a strong relationship with Jehovah, he needs training and guidance from his parents
A book that explains how children develop into adults says that the months right after a baby is born are a time when his brain is making new connections very quickly. So it is very important for parents to use this time to teach their child about Jehovah and his standards!
One mother who is also a regular pioneer said about her young daughter: ‘I have been taking her along with me in the ministry since she was only one month old. Although she could not understand what was going on, I believe that she benefited from being in the ministry with me. By the time she was two years old, she was confidently offering tracts to those we met in the field service.’
Parents can have very good results from training their children from infancy. But parents also know that it is not always easy to do so.
‘BUY OUT THE OPPORTUNE TIME’
Since children get distracted very easily, it can be difficult for parents to teach them. Children are curious and are trying to learn about the world around them. How can parents help their child to pay attention to what they teach him?
Think about what Moses said. Deuteronomy 6:6, 7 states: “These words that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart; and you must inculcate them in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” What does it mean for parents to “inculcate” God’s standards into their child? It means that they must frequently repeat what they teach him. A small child is like a young tree that needs a little bit of water frequently. Just as adults learn more easily when they hear an idea repeated several times, so also children learn more easily when ideas are repeated to them.
It takes time for parents to teach their children about God’s truth. But this can be difficult because parents are often very busy. The apostle Paul recommends that Christians ‘buy out the opportune time’ for important things. (Ephesians 5:15, 16) How can parents do this? One brother who is an elder and whose wife is very busy as a regular pioneer has to plan carefully to spend the right amount of time training their child and the right amount of time supporting the congregation and doing secular work. How do they make time to train their daughter? The father says: ‘Every morning before I go to work, my wife and I read to her from My Book of Bible Stories or the booklet Examining the Scriptures Daily. In the evening, we make sure that we read to her before she goes to bed, and when we go in the ministry, we take her with us. We do not want to miss the opportunity to train her at an early age.’
‘SONS ARE LIKE ARROWS’
We want our children to grow up to become responsible adults, but the most important reason for training them is so that they learn to love God in their heart.
Psalm 127:4 says: “Like arrows in the hand of a mighty man, so are the sons of youth.” The Bible compares our children to arrows that should be carefully aimed at the target. An archer has the arrow for only a short time and cannot take it back once it has left his bow. In a similar way, parents have their children with them for only a short time before they become adults. That is why it is so important that they use that time to teach their children to follow and love God’s laws.
The apostle John wrote about the people he had helped become worshippers of Jehovah. John said: “No greater cause for thankfulness do I have than these things, that I should be hearing that my children go on walking in the truth.” (3 John 4) Christian parents too are thankful when they see their children “go on walking in the truth.”