I’m learning an important lesson about raising children
It’s taken me several years of fatherhood to learn an important lesson, but I think it’s finally sinking in.
Are you ready for this nugget of wisdom?
Okay, here we go.
Kids need to be taught everything.
That’s everything as in everything.
I know, I know. You probably had that figured out a long time ago. Maybe I’m a slow learner. I just didn’t realize before we had kids exactly how much teaching my wife and I would need to do.
Take table manners, for example. Apparently, children are born as total barbarians with no sense of etiquette. They’ll play with their food, talk with their mouths full, hit their brother, or interrupt adult conversation without giving it a second thought. It’s up to their mother and me to teach them some civilized habits.
Or take vocabulary as another example. Children need to be taught the meanings of even simple words that I use without thinking. And when I try to define a tricky word for them, I end up using synonyms they also don’t understand. It’s hard to boil some ideas down into words a five-year-old can grasp.
We also have practical skills, like bike riding, tooth brushing, hand shaking, clothes folding, and so many more. Kids aren’t born knowing how to do any of those things. They might learn some of them by watching us, but most we’ll need to teach.
And don’t forget general knowledge about the world around us! That provides the fodder for countless questions and conversations. Why do we stop at red lights? Does it cost money to run the water? It does? Why? Does everything cost money? (Yes.) What happens if we don’t brush our teeth? What’s poison ivy? Every day, from one topic to another, we’re teaching, teaching, teaching.
Then we come to the most important issues of all: character, virtue, and spiritual truths. Again, everything must be taught: why honesty matters, what obedience is and why it’s important, the importance of thinking of others and not just ourselves, why you shouldn’t hit your brother, how God expects us to live, why we need a Savior. Again, the list of topics goes on and on.
Because kids need to be taught everything.
And if that sounds like a huge job—one that will take an enormous amount of time, energy, creativity, patience, perseverance, wisdom, commitment, and divine help—well, that’s because it is and will.
Think about it. Raising our children isn’t the same as teaching an animal how to behave or do clever tricks. We’re teaching and training little people who have hearts and souls—little people who will grow up and replace us some day; little people who will impact others for good or bad; little people who will eventually spend eternity somewhere.
Shame on us if we don’t do our best to equip them for all God has for them to do. Shame on us if we neglect their education and don’t train them in the ways they should go.
With all of the above in mind, here are a few simple takeaways:
- Take responsibility! If we want our kids to know something, we need to take the lead. After all, God gave your children to you, and He also gave you the responsibility to teach them. Others might play supporting roles, but you carry the greatest burden.
- Teaching needs to happen again and again. We can’t expect our kids to “get it” after just one lesson on a given topic. As Tedd and Margy Tripp point out in their book Instructing a Child’s Heart, training is a process, not an event.
- We must focus on our children’s hearts, not just their behavior. (For more on that, check out Tedd and Margy Tripp’s book mentioned above, plus Tedd’s book Shepherding Your Child’s Heart.) Our goal isn’t simply to modify or manipulate behavior, but to shape and mold our children’s hearts (with God’s help, of course).
- This is a long-term process. Lessons learned at age five aren’t the same lessons that will need to be learned at age 15. The practical skills, general knowledge, and spiritual lessons will all be different. We have to be in this for the long haul.
Kids are born with virtually no knowledge, but a nearly limitless ability to learn and grow. They have curiosity. They have qualities to be shaped and honed. It’s up to us to take them as they are and teach them.
IFI Fall Banquet with Franklin Graham!
The early bird deadline is right around the corner. You do not want to miss this opportunity to get tickets to the IFI annual banquet as this year’s featured keynote speaker will be none other than Rev. Franklin Graham. This year’s event will be at the Tinley Park Convention Center on Nov. 1st.