If I Were a Young Parent
by Gardner Hall
It is God's will that young married couples be parents if possible.
"I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully" (I Timothy 5:14).
"Not withstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with soberity" (I Timothy 2: 15).
"Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is His reward, as arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of thy youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them" (Psalns 127:3-5).
A young woman is not permitted to be a church leader or public proclaimer. If she behaves well, her duty is fulfilled in being a Christian, a mother, and a homemaker.
There is some similarity between marriage and parenthood. A good marriage is a source of great happiness, or it may be the cause of great sorrow and regret. So with being parents. Good children bring the utmost happiness to parents; but wild, disobedient children almost make life unbearable, "A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bear him" (Proverbs 17:25).
So it behooves young parents to give much thought and prayer to the rearing o their children.
So, what would I do if I were a young parent? Some readers will probably consider some of my views extreme. Some are based on human judgment. But I do hope age, experience and observation have qualified me to offer worthwhile suggestions. I certainly make no claims of infallibility.
I Would Take the Responsibility Seriously
So many take it lightly. I would think much upon the question the neighbors asked about little baby John. "What manner of child shall this be?" (Luke 1:66).
I would reflect: Here is a child that will either be an asset to the world, a blessing to society, or he will be a curse. The world will be better because he lived, or he will contribute to the moral pollution,
Another: This child will live in heaven and be happy for all eternity, or this child will spend eternity in hell with the devil and his angels.
The responsibility does belong to parents. It is not the responsibility of the school, the church, or the Boy Scouts. God did not blame Eli's failure on society, any parents take it for granted their children will be good at all times. It never seems to occur to them that they need careful guidance, training, teaching. They think they can turn them loose with absolutely no worry. But the Bible says,
"Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child" (Proverbs 22:15).
"A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame" (Proverbs 29:15).
"Train up a child in the way he should go" (Proverbs 22: 6).
Many parents have no greater concern than that their children stay out of trouble. An elderly man said to me repeatedly: "I have six boys and not one of them has ever been in jail." I knew one of his sons who had become a physician, moved into a city, and there joined a popular denomination. This seemed not to concern his elderly father.
I Would Pray for Wisdom
We are taught in James 1: 5-7 that if anyone lacks wisdom he should ask wisdom of God. This includes the wisdom needed for any responsibility. So it should certainly include needed wisdom for rearing one's children.
I Would Have Bible Reading and Prayer with Them
Surely this suggestion is not in the realm of opinion or judgment.
"And ye fathers provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nuture and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4).
"And these words which I conmand thee this day, shall be upon thy heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children" (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
Perhaps you have heard the story of the family which had prayer every night about 9. A young nan left that hone and was engaged in a distant city. He was on his way with other boys to a place of sin. But as they walked, he heard a clock strike 9. This awakened his conscience and he excused himself and went back to his room. The thought that his father would be praying for him at that time turned him back from defiling himself.
But sometimes in our home some of our weaknesses show through and we are ashamed to lead our family in spiritual devotions. This should be a great incentive to fight and overcome our weaknesses. But when a father errs he should have the courage to apologize to his family and ask them to help him live better. This will not only please God, but it will enhance the family's confidence in him. All good people have sympathy for others who have problems as long as they believe they are fighting temptation and striving to overcome. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise" (Psalms 51:17). When sin sticks out like a sore thumb and one pretends great piety - that destroys everyone's confidence.
I Would Begin My Training Early
The very first lesson a child needs to learn is respect for, and submission to, authority. He needs to learn that he can't have everything he wants or always have his own way. And the best time to teach this is in infancy, even before one is a year old. The child needs to learn that temper tantrums don't get anything at all except punishment. If one learns that fits of temper are rewarded with humoring and petting - maybe by grandparents- and getting what he wants, he will keep such up through his childhood, teenage years, and into adulthood, Woe unto the girl who marries such a spoiled man, or to a man who marries such a spoiled girl. "It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house" (Proverbs 21:9) That will work, either way.
I was in a store and at the checkout counter, a small boy picked up a pound bag of candy and wanted his mother to buy it. She said, "No", he yelled, stamped his feet and so embarrassed the woman that she hastily produced the money and bought the candy. Boys and girls need wiser mothers than that one is.
Parents are the first authority children know, and it is their responsibility to teach them submission to authority. If they learn it when small, they will be a joy to their parents, their teachers, companions in marriage, employers, and in every other relationship. They will respect and obey civil authorities, the elders of the church, and God.
If Some Responsible Person Reported Misconduct, I Would Take Action
By responsible person, I mean a teacher, school principal, Bible school teacher, elder of the church, or preacher. My parents used to tell us that if we got a whipping at school, we would get another one when we got home.
I certainly would not depend on the child's testimony alone. I would investigate as thoroughly as possible. He needs to teach children what is right and emphasize that God's word is the standard of right, but we should still be watchful. Some parents apparently pay no attention to the children in the worship services. They take it for granted that their children will behave. I have seen children of such parents misbehave. I think parents should sit where they can observe their children.
I Would Show My Children Lots of Affection
I would do lots of hugging, romping, and playing with them. We would play ball, fly kites, go on picnics, go to the parks or the mountains, and places of clean entertainment. We would do these things as a family.
The children would rarely be left with a babysitter. There wouldn't be much going to places where they couldn't go. They would be made to feel that their companionship was valued above that of any others. I heard of a great lawyer who was famous for writing a book by the title: "The Law of Trusts." But his son committed a crime and stood before a stern judge. "Do you remember your father," the judge asked? "I remember him well," the boy answered. "What do you remember best about your wonderful father?" "I remember, sir, that when I went to my father for advice he would look up from his book and say, "Run along, boy, I'm busy." I remember when I went to him for companionship and he turned me away with "Run away boy; this book must be finished." You remember my father as a successful lawyer and a great author; I remember him as a lost friend." Then the judge muttered to himself, "Ah, yes, finished the book but lost the boy."
I Would Be Active in All Work and Worship in the Church
We would attend all services: all services on the Lord's day, midweek services, gospel meetings, ancl singings. We would attend a singing school conducted for the improvement of the singing of the congregation. The children would participate in every activity designed to train them in the Lord's work.
We would supervise the preparation of Bible lessons. Children will forget such things and neglect them. So parents should remind them to study the lessons assigned; also, go over the lessons with them and see that they are well prepared. This would add considerable knowledge for parents themselves.
We would talk and dwell on the importance of reverence and respect for the worship of God. The children would be warned concerning disregard for this teaching. Misbehavior simply would not be tolerated. Part of this reverence would be shown by being on time for every service. Do you think tardiness shows due reverence for the worship? I don't.
We would attend meetings of other congregations in the area. The children would attend with us. If the whole family attends games, is that more important than attending gospel meetings in reach of us? If we all go here and there to games but we don't attend gospel meetings in other communities, will our children not see that we attach more importance to the pleasures of the world? Children of Christian parents should never see parents put a pleasure -- a worldly event of some kind - ahead of the work of the Lord.
A church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. engaged in a study of the problem: Why are we losing our young people? They contacted congregations throughout the nation. Over the years they found that they had been losing about 38% of the young people. The loss figure was one year as great as 74%. They found that where both parents were faithful and active in attendance, work, and support, 93% of their children continue faithful and active in attendance and work of the church. Where only one parent was faithful and active, 74% of the children remained faithful and were active. Where parents were reasonably faithful in attendance in Bible study and worship, but inactive in work, 54% of their children continued their relationship with the church. But where parents only attend occasionally, the children remained faithful in only 62% of the cases. These figures should concern parents who neglect their duty to the Lord.
I Would Require the Children to Help with the Work
I know boys who were brought up on farms the old-fashioned hard way. They knew what it was to work hard from early till late and still not have much income. Those who later found opportunities to work a "public works," as we were wont to say, made good employees. They appreciated these opportunities to enjoy better incomes while working shorter hours. They were not constantly complaining about trivialities, boredom, or mistreatment. Then I knew of another generation that grew up, many of them not knowing what hard work means. They grew up to want not a job, but a position. They had known little but a life of ease, idleness, seeking amusements wherever they could find them. How they feel abused unless they have money to live in luxury, or if they are required to do some unpleasant task or something a little bit out of line with their specialty. They do complain about boredom-- eight hours of boredom, the pay for which may be quite good.
I am not merely expressing an opinion here. Paul wrote: "For godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us therewith be content" (I Timothy 6:6-8).
He also wrote: "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as unto Christ; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as unto the Lord, and not to men. Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall be received of the Lord, whether he be bond or free" (Ephesians 6:5-8). Children brought up in idleness will never learn this lesson. So the dishwashing, cleaning, cooking, gardening, etc. should not be done by the parents while the children sleep or amuse themselves.
I Would Curtail the Entertainment
Hour upon hour before a TV simply would not be tolerated, nor listening to love songs that depict illicit or erotic love. These are often played from radio stations and are readily obtained in record shops. Things are written and sung now that would never have been mentioned in a mixed company a few years ago and are not discussed among faithful Christians, mixed or unmixed. The air is polluted with dirty songs and pictures. If I had young children, TV or radio and stereo would be played only under strict supervision. I really believe TV should be eliminated from the home, I used to preach against movies and my brethren approved. I was somewhat shocked to see nearly all of them bring them into their living rooms. The same caution would be used concerning books and magazines permitted in the home.
When our children were small, a radio show featured a smart-aleck boy who always had the "perfect squelch" for whatever his parents said to him. It was amusing and interesting. But we forbade it in our family. When I was a young child, a record showed up in our home; the title was The Bully of the Town. My father happened to hear it one day and he gave orders that it not be played again. Some cultural reading would be required. Good books, papers, and magazines would be made available and reading of them would be required.
Coarse, Vulgar Conversation Would Be Discouraged
Everything that needs to be said about anything can be said in refined language. There is no excuse for the language of the gutter in Christian homes. "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying that it may give grace to them that hear" (Ephesians 4:29). I will refrain from giving examples of what I mean by coarse, vulgar language, Nothing needs to be called by a vulgar name; when there are plenty of refined terms by which it can be indicated. "Let your speech always be with grace seasoned with salt" (Colossians 4:6).
Careless use of the name of the Lord would be discouraged. We often hear those who seem to be faithful Christians exclaim, "Lord, no!" or "Good Lord!" or "Lord, have mercy!" "God knows I wouldn't do thus and so!" Such light use of divine names is not right. It is a vain use of them. There are euphemisms that should be avoided, These are the terms used as substitutes for divine names, or profane words: Gosh, Golly, Goodness Gracious; the first two are often preceded with "by." So we sometimes call them by-words, The words thus used nearly always begin with the letters G, J, or D, just as the real names or profane words do.
Be Careful Who You Marry
All I have written assumes something. That something is that I would have a companion who shares my views about child-rearing and would cooperate in following these principles. Suppose a young man is not careful in choosing a mate and marries one who has completely different ideas about rearing children. Suppose she wants the children to be popular regardless of what they need to do to be popular. Suppose she wants the girls to enter beauty contests and be judged wearing very scanty attire. Or suppose she wants them to attend the dances and date the popular athletes, regardless of their character. Then he would be handicapped and there would probably be an atmosphere of strife. A man with Christian ideals would suffer grief as he watched his children become worldly and indifferent toward spiritual things.
I know a man who loves to drink, gamble and promote sports. He wants his girls to be cheerleaders and wear immodest clothes. His wife objects but all she gets is ridicule and harsh words. What can she do? She made an unwise choice many years ago -- one she can't change now.
I know men who resent their wives being members of the church and wanting to attend all services and work of the church. They don't want their children taken to the services or brought up as Christians. Wives are taught what to do in such cases (I Peter 3:1-5). But sometimes they·don't win, and when they don't, they often have to submit to things that grieve them, one of which is the loss of their children to Satan.
I know a woman who was so prejudiced she discouraged her husband in his efforts to be a Christian. And she certainly would have raised a storm of protest if he had taken the children to services with him. Literature left at the house by a gospel preacher or mailed and received while the husband was at work would never be seen by him. The poor fellow finally committed suicide.
What is the lesson in all of this? It is to emphasize the care Christian boys and girls should exercise in marriage. One great consideration should be: Will this man be a help or hindrance to me in living the Christian life and rearing our children to be Christians? Or, will this woman thus help me? If you marry without giving thought to these matters, you are a very immature Christian.