Teaching Our Children

When, What, Why, How

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The beginning years of a child’s life contain many firsts: first smile, first words, first steps and many others. We parents often anxiously watch our children as they achieve these physical milestones.

Choosing to impart godly wisdom to our children must be among our top priorities.

As our children enter the preschool years, we then turn our focus to their educational milestones. We monitor how they recognize their ABCs, numbers and colors. As they grow, we teach them to read and do mathematics. We eagerly anticipate the attaining of these emotional, physical and educational achievements. As they learn new information and master new skills with excitement, we note the delight in their eyes.

While conquering the ABCs and 123s is a rewarding accomplishment, we most importantly yearn for the spiritual milestones that demonstrate a growing relationship with God and understanding of His way of life. We desire to observe our child’s head knowingly bowed in prayer. We want to hear our child’s precious prayers offered sincerely in thanksgiving. We desire to witness our child’s rightful recognition of God as the perfect Creator. A parent’s heart treasures the unique blessing of these spiritual milestones.

Sharing in those spiritual milestones requires a steadfast commitment from every parent. We are given a relatively short amount of time to educate and train our children. Choosing to impart godly wisdom to our children must be among our top priorities.

When to start

Every Christian parent asks the same basic questions:

When do I start teaching my child about God?
How do I teach my child about God?
What do I need to teach my child about God?

The enormity of these questions has the ability to paralyze a parent if we allow it to, but remember that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7) .

We see in Scripture that it is never too early to start guiding our children in God’s truth. Young Samuel obeyed Eli with quick and respectful obedience (1 Samuel 3:1-17) . Jesus at age 12 could converse with the men of the temple, and He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52) . As a young child, Timothy received instruction from his mother and grandmother who taught him the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15) .

We parents must fully seize this prime opportunity to lead our children and their soft, teachable hearts to God the Father.

Children have an innocence and openness that makes them very teachable. Illustrating this important point, Jesus Christ desired the little children to come to Him (Matthew 18:2-3; 19:13-14) . We parents must fully seize this prime opportunity to lead our children and their soft, teachable hearts to God the Father.

Wisdom and foolishness

As we work with our children in formal and informal teaching situations, we should lead them to understand that the Scriptures depict two distinct responses to God’s authority in one’s life. One can choose to fear the Lord and become wise, or one can choose self-governance and become a fool. Psalm 111:10 reveals, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments.” Contrast this with Psalm 14:1 : “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Teaching discernment between wisdom and foolishness is a major responsibility for every parent (Proverbs 4).

Ecclesiastes 2 provides an extensive account of the results of foolish pursuits. No amount of sensual pleasures, accomplishments or wealth can fill the void of a life absent of God (verse 11) .

In contrast, abundant rewards are granted to the wise who recognize and yield to God’s authority. The pursuit of true wisdom leads them to embrace the authority of God and know His will (Proverbs 2:1-5; Romans 12:2) . So wisdom further reveals our glorious God and renews us in the process. Lead your children into a rich appreciation of God that they may delight in Him (Psalm 37:4) .

Providing deliberate, consistent instruction will help to guard their hearts from exchanging God’s truth for a lie.

As your children grow and progress in their understanding, you will need to contrast wisdom and foolishness over and over again in their daily lives. Providing deliberate, consistent instruction will help to guard their hearts from exchanging God’s truth for a lie (Proverbs 2:10-12; Romans 1:25) .

Blessings on those who fear God first

One of the most powerful tools that we can employ in training our children is our personal example. Serving God with our whole hearts transforms our lives and impacts our children positively. Our children witness our commitment of serving God and learn to do the same (Joshua 24:15) . Setting an example of being wholeheartedly devoted to God is vital in teaching our children to fear God.

The Scriptures are full of blessings that God desires to heap upon those who earnestly strive to fear Him (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10;   14:27) . It is a great comfort knowing that God wants the very best for our children— even more than we do! Consider some of the blessings waiting for our children when they choose and exercise godly wisdom:

Spiritual understanding

“Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:9-10) . Our children have a remarkably unique blessing and opportunity to know the Holy One now. They will grow in spiritual discernment and understanding each and every time we set God’s truths before them (Deuteronomy 6).

Godly standards

“The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether” (Psalm 19:9) . There are innumerable jewels of wisdom in the Bible that, if our children live by them, will provide unadulterated guidance for living an upright life. The wisdom of God guides us, providing light to our path (Psalm 119:105) . Just as the law of gravity applies to everyone on earth, God’s standards benefit all who apply them in their individual lives.

Long life as faithful servants

“The fear of the LORD prolongs days, but the years of the wicked will be shortened” (Proverbs 10:27) . We desire that our children have long, satisfying lives devoted to loving and obeying God. We desire them to become productive individuals, have successful marriages and shepherd the next generations in God’s way. Just such a full blessing exists for those who fear the Lord (Psalm 128).

Being set apart from the world

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2) . Even though we must live in the world, we are instructed to not be of the world (Romans 12:2) . It is a challenging task to stand apart from world. Therefore, as parents we must continually provide godly instruction and standards as we work with our children to discern the wise from the foolish.

Forgiveness and mercy

“If You, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared” (Psalm 130:3-4). Guiding and leading our children in establishing a personal relationship with the Father is essential. By working with our children to acknowledge their sins and seek forgiveness now, we are laying the crucial foundation for future repentance (Acts 2:38-39) .

“And His mercy is on those who fear Him, from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50) . God promises His mercy to those who keep his commandments (Deuteronomy 7: 9) . Diligently describe God as a source of strength, comfort and aid.

KEYS TO TEACHING

The following are some powerful keys to teaching that will assist you in your parenting journey.

Pray for God’s guidance and direction

Teaching our children is a monumental responsibility as well as an opportunity. We must rely on God’s guidance if we are to be successful in leading our children to Him. We must pray fervently for the heart, the commitment, and the knowledge to teach our children (James 1:5) . We can have complete confidence that God will hear and respond to our prayers.

At night, discuss the day and how God has guided and blessed the family.

Cultivate meaningful communication

In Deuteronomy 6:7 , we are instructed to teach “when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” We should strive to include references and praise of God in the ebb and flow of everyday life. We might ask, What is the best thing we can do today to serve God? We can remark about the power that God has placed in the sun to give us light and life. At night, discuss the day and how God has guided and blessed the family. It might seem unnatural at first, but with practice it will become part of your family’s daily dialogue.

Encourage your children to ask you questions. It is important to understand the thought processes of our children so we can guide them more effectively. Our answers might require some study, but it is important for our children to express their questions and concerns (Deuteronomy 6:20-24) .

On the flip side, you can ask your children questions. Asking questions may generate important conversations. It is rewarding to see into the minds of our children through the answers given back to us. We can guide their thought processes better if we know what they are thinking!

If we use God’s Word to berate and criticize our children, the fruit will be disappointment and disillusionment with you, and worse, with God.

Instruct in love

Our teaching must flow out a deep love and concern for our children, just as the Father does with us (Proverbs 3:12) . Although God alone will ultimately draw our children to Him (John 6:44) , we must be mindful that our instruction is one of the instruments He will use for this purpose (Deuteronomy 32:46-47) .

Bring God’s Word to your children with care and compassion. If we use God’s Word to berate and criticize our children, the fruit will be disappointment and disillusionment with you, and worse, with God (Ephesians 6:4) .

Acknowledge the supremacy of God's Word

The Bible was written for our instruction (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11) . One cannot understand or be wise about things one does not know, so we must apply ourselves diligently to studying and teaching our children all that the Bible contains.

Everything must be taught from the foundation of God’s Word. This provides us with multiple opportunities for application. Whether we are teaching our children to read or to clean their rooms, the Bible contains principles that can be applied (2 Timothy 3:16-17) .

Set realistic goals

Making a plan with realistic goals can help keep us moving forward in teaching our children God’s truth (Proverbs 22:6; 1 Corinthians 14:40) . Having a written plan can help ease your mind and provide clear direction. Setting long-term goals can reduce stress and be a motivational tool. Your goals might look like this:

Choose and memorize 12 verses from the Memorizing Scripture suggestions.

Choose and apply one character trait from the Shepherding the Heart section.

Choose and study four Bible topics—one for each Sabbath this month—from the Word of God section.

Set up a Bible reading plan for the Sabbath.

Start small and adjust your family’s plan as needed.

Teach with joy and creativity!

The knowledge and understanding of God’s truth is a pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45-46) . Express your genuine joy and excitement as you reveal this precious treasure to your children. Espousing the benefits of living God’s way will influence your child’s desire to serve God fully.

God uniquely created each of us. Each child’s individual learning style combined with his or her distinctive personality is an amazing creation. Consider the many learning styles children (and adults) exhibit:

Auditory—they hear it

Visual—they see it

Kinesthetic—they must do it

Print—they read it

Social—they relate the material in context of others

With these various ways of learning in mind, be creative and tailor the materials within this Manual to best fit your child and family situation.

In teaching a memory scripture, for example, a parent could use one of the many techniques found in Section 5 of the Manual. The “Methods” portion contains ideas such as: repeating the scripture many times to each other (auditory); making a poster with the scripture (visual and print); adding hand motions for the words (kinesthetic); copying the scripture in careful handwriting (kinesthetic and print); and focusing on the application of the scripture in social settings (social).

FINAL THOUGHTS

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. —Ephesians 5:15-16

So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. —Psalm 90:12

Many things compete for our time and attention. After our personal connection with God through prayer and study, nothing is more important than working with our children to integrate God’s way into their hearts and minds. We must not allow the mundane things of everyday life to crowd out the truly important things. The time we have with our children from birth to adulthood is all too short.

The spiritual training that we provide to our children will resonate for generations to come. Drawing upon the knowledge of the Scriptures, we can equip our children with a foundation for an abundant life (John 10:10) . We can continue to move our children along the path of righteousness by consistently and persistently implementing God’s ways into our family’s daily life. We are parents (or grandparents or guardians) and therefore teachers. Remember, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) .

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