“You should know well the appearance of your flock.”
1, 2. (a) What were some of the responsibilities of an Israelite shepherd? (b) How are parents similar to shepherds?
IN ANCIENT Israel, the life of shepherds was very hard. They had to work outside in both hot and cold weather, and they had to protect their sheep from wild animals and thieves. Shepherds regularly examined each sheep and treated the ones that were either sick or hurt. They gave special attention to the lambs because they were weaker than adult sheep.
2 Christian parents must show qualities similar to those of shepherds. Parents have the responsibility to raise their children according to Jehovah’s standards. (Ephesians 6:4) Is that always easy? No! Children are constantly attacked by ideas that Satan promotes. Added to that, children have their own imperfect tendencies. (2 Timothy 2:22; 1 John 2:16) How can you help your children? Let us discuss three things you can do to shepherd your children: (1) know them, (2) feed them, and (3) guide them.
KNOW YOUR CHILDREN
3. How can parents get to know their children well?
3 A good shepherd carefully examines each sheep because he wants to make sure that it is healthy. The Bible says: “Know well the appearance of your flock.” (Proverbs 27:23) As a parent, you want to know “your flock,” your children, well. To do this, you must notice your children’s actions and know their thoughts and feelings. How can you do that? You must talk with your children often.
You must talk with your children often
4, 5. (a) What practical suggestions may help children openly discuss their thoughts and feelings? (See opening picture.) (b) What have you done to make it easier for your children to talk to you?
4 Some parents have found that communication is more difficult when their children become teenagers. Teens may not want to discuss their thoughts and feelings. If this is true of your children, what can you do? Do not feel that you must have long, serious discussions with them. Instead, try to talk to them in a relaxed setting. (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7) Spend time together. Go for a walk with them. Invite them to play games with you or to work on projects around the house. When your children are relaxed, they may feel more comfortable discussing their thoughts and feelings.
Your children need to know that their problems are important to you
5 What if your child still does not want to talk? Try something else. For example, instead of asking your daughter how her day went, tell her how your day was. Then she may feel comfortable talking about her day. Or to find out how she feels about a subject, ask questions about the matter itself, not about her. You could ask how her friends feel about the subject. Then you could ask her what advice she would give her friends.
6. How can your children feel that you have time for them and that you are easy to talk to?
6 Your children will be more willing to communicate with you if they feel that you are available and that you are easy to talk to. If you always seem to be too busy to spend time with them, your children will not tell you their problems. How can you be sure that you are easy to talk to? Do more than just say the words, “You can talk to me anytime.” Your teens need to know that you will not overreact to what they say. They also need to know that their problems are important to you. Kayla, who is nineteen years old, says: “I can talk to my dad about anything. He doesn’t interrupt, and he doesn’t judge; he just listens. Then he always gives me the best advice.”
Be patient and kindly listen to your child
7. (a) How can a parent be balanced when discussing such a subject as dating? (b) How might parents irritate their children?
7 At times, you will need to discuss with your children subjects that are difficult to talk about, such as dating. When you do, make sure that you teach them the correct way to handle the matter. For example, suppose you went to a restaurant and found that the menu contained only warnings about food poisoning. You would likely leave the place and go to another restaurant. A similar thing may happen with your children. If your advice to them contains only warnings, your children may become irritated and stop asking for your advice. (Read Colossians 3:21.) Instead, try to be balanced. A young sister named Emily says: “When my parents talk to me about dating, they don’t make the subject seem negative. They emphasize the joy of getting to know someone and finding a marriage mate. This has helped me to feel comfortable talking to them about it. In fact, I want to involve them in any relationship I have rather than hide it from them.”
8, 9. (a) What benefits come from being patient and listening without interrupting? (b) What success have you had in listening to your children?
8 Be patient and kindly listen to your child. This will show that you are easy to talk to. (Read James 1:19.) A single mother named Katia says: “In the past, I was very impatient with my daughter. I didn’t give her a chance to finish what she was saying. I was either too tired to listen or just didn’t want to be bothered. Now that I have changed my behavior, my daughter has changed hers. She has become much more cooperative.”
9 A father named Ronald had a similar experience with his teenage daughter. “When she told me that she was in love with a boy at school, at first I was very angry,” he says. “But when I reflected on how Jehovah is patient and reasonable with his servants, I thought that it would be better for me to give my daughter a chance to express her feelings before I tried to correct her. I’m glad I did! For the first time, I understood my daughter’s feelings. When she finished, I found it easier to speak to her in a loving way. Surprisingly, she was very receptive to my counsel. She expressed a sincere desire to change her behavior.” Frequently talking with your children helps you to really know what they think and feel. As a result, you will be more involved in the decisions they make. *
FEED YOUR CHILDREN
10, 11. How can you help your children to stay in the truth?
10 A good shepherd knows that sheep can stray. A sheep may start eating grass that is a short distance away from the flock. Little by little, it moves farther away until it is separated from the flock. The same can happen to children. They can slowly begin to leave the truth. Perhaps they are tempted by bad associations or harmful entertainment. (Proverbs 13:20) How can you help to prevent such a situation from happening?
11 In teaching your children, do not delay in helping them when you see areas where they may need to improve. Also help them to strengthen the good qualities they have. (2 Peter 1:5-8) Family worship is an excellent time for you to do that. The October 2008 Kingdom Ministry stated: “Family heads are encouraged to shoulder their responsibility before Jehovah to ensure that a meaningful, regular program of family Bible study is followed.” Are you using this time wisely in order to shepherd your children? Be confident that your children really appreciate the efforts you make to help them.
12. (a) How have young people benefited from regular family worship? (See also the box “They Appreciate It.”) (b) How have you personally benefited from family worship?
12 A teenager named Carissa and her family have benefited from their Family Worship program. She says: “I like that we can all sit down together and talk. As we do this, we are bonding and creating good memories. My dad is consistent with our Family Worship program. It’s encouraging to see that he takes it seriously
GUIDE YOUR CHILDREN
13. How can a child be motivated to serve Jehovah?
13 A good shepherd uses a rod to guide and protect his flock. His main goal is to guide his sheep to “a good pasture.” (Ezekiel 34:13, 14) As a parent, you have a similar goal. You want to guide your children to serve Jehovah. You want your children to feel as the psalmist did who wrote: “To do your will, O my God, is my delight, and your law is deep within me.” (Psalm 40:8) When your children truly feel this way, they will want to dedicate their life to Jehovah and get baptized. They must have enough understanding to make this important decision, and they must really want to serve Jehovah.
14, 15. (a) What should be the goal of parents? (b) Why might a teenager have doubts about the truth?
14 Perhaps your children do not seem to be growing in their relationship with Jehovah. They may even doubt that what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe is actually the truth. What will you do? Work hard to reason with your children, and help them to love Jehovah from the heart. Teach them to appreciate all that God has done for them. (Revelation 4:11) Then, when they are ready, they can decide for themselves to worship Jehovah.
Work hard to reason with your children, and help them to love Jehovah from the heart
15 If your children have doubts about the truth, be patient and try to guide them. Help them to understand that serving Jehovah is the best way of life and has lasting benefits. Also, try to find out the real reasons for their doubts. For example, does your son really disagree with what the Bible says, or is he just afraid to preach to other children? Does your daughter really doubt whether God’s commands are wise, or does she just feel lonely and rejected by others?
16, 17. In what ways might parents help their children have their own relationship with Jehovah?
16 How can you help your children overcome their doubts about the truth? Many parents have successfully helped their children by asking them the following questions: “Do you find it easy or difficult to be a Christian? What do you think are the benefits of being a Christian? What are the costs? How do you feel about the benefits we receive now and will receive in the future? Are they greater than the costs?” Be sure to ask these questions in your own words and in a sincere, kind, interested way. Do not make your children feel that you are accusing them. During the conversation, you may want to discuss Mark 10:29, 30. Some young ones may want to make two lists, one list of the benefits of being a Christian and another of the costs. This may help you and your children to identify problems they are experiencing and to find solutions to these problems. If we need to study the Bible Teach and “God’s Love” books with interested ones, how much more so with our own children! Are you doing that?
Parents, be good shepherds and patiently guide your children
17 As they grow up, your children must decide for themselves whether they will serve Jehovah. They will not automatically do so simply because you have made that choice for yourself. Your children must have their own relationship with Jehovah. (Proverbs 3:1, 2) What if your child is having trouble getting close to God? Encourage him to examine his beliefs by asking himself questions such as: ‘How do I know that God exists? How do I know that Jehovah really cares about me? Do I truly believe that obeying God’s commands will benefit me?’ Parents, be good shepherds and patiently guide your children. Help them to prove to themselves that serving Jehovah is the best way of life. * (See footnote.)
18. How can parents imitate Jehovah, the Great Shepherd?
18 All true Christians want to imitate the Great Shepherd, Jehovah. (Ephesians 5:1; 1 Peter 2:25) Parents especially need to know their flock, their own precious children. Parents need to guide their children so that they may enjoy the lasting benefits God promises. Yes, do all you can to shepherd your children and raise them to love Jehovah!