The year was 1965. Lyndon Johnson ordered bombing raids over North Vietnam. Race riots in the Watts district of Los Angeles left 35 dead. The top pop songs were King of the Road, Downtown and, if you were a Beatles' fan, A Hard Days Night. Both the United States and the U.S.S.R. had men walk in space for the first time. And, for the first time, my wife and I became parents! It was a great, but confusing year. As Charles Dickens would say, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
My wife and I had planned for and looked with anticipation to this time in our lives. We wished to be parents, and we wished to be good ones. But now, with the birth of our first, we were scared to death. We had brought a new being into existence. God had given this being a soul, an immortal spirit, and had placed it in our care. The words of Solomon took on a special meaning to us; "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6) Reality began to set in. How were we going to accomplish this solemn and important task?
Raising and nurturing children to be strong physically, socially, and spiritually has never been an easy process. But today parents face challenges that families have never experienced before. This is not said to discourage having children, but to stress the need to give special attention to raising the Christian child in today's promiscuous and corrupt society.
An excellent guide for Christian parents to follow in raising and nurturing children can be seen in Luke's description of the growth and development of Jesus; "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." (Luke 2:52)
To grow in wisdom is to develop intellectually. Wisdom is not only the accumulation of knowledge, but the ability to use knowledge properly. As children learn facts they need also to learn common sense and good judgment. This is accomplished when children are allowed and encouraged to pursue their interests. What does your child like to do? Are there some things that come to them more naturally than others? How involved are you in their educational process? Do you visit regularly with their teachers?
To grow in stature is to grow physically. The parent should provide an atmosphere that will enhance physical development. A proper diet, which provides essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients, as well as an opportunity for adequate exercise is necessary for physical growth. Most parents are aware of these facts, but since eating, sleeping and exercise are things we do naturally it can become easy to overlook a special need that a child might have. Is your child's growth comparable to other children his/her age? Are our child's activities fairly well balanced?
The next two areas of child development need special emphasis because it is so easy for parents to neglect. This is the spiritual and social development of a child. The scripture states that Jesus increased in "favor with God and man." As a child increases in favor with God and man he is well on his way to becoming a sound emotional being.
A child's spiritual development occurs as the child is taught about God and what his relationship to Him should be. Parents do well when they introduce the child to God early in life. This can be done in various ways. Bible stories, daily prayers, and the singing of spiritual songs in the home are extremely important. This lets the child know that God is important to Mom and Dad; that Mom and Dad love God and depend on Him for their very existence. Taking children to Church on a regular basis is important, but letting them know why we do what we do in the church assemblies is equally important.
It would do well for parents to consider God's instruction to Israel in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Here Moses instructed parents to first love God with all their heart and soul, to put His Word in their own hearts, and then to diligently teach it to their children both morning and night, at work and at play, till it became an extension of their very being.
How much time and attention are you giving to the spiritual development of your child in the home? Do you take opportunity to apply God's Word when dealing with your child's problems? Do you have a plan?
A child's social development is also a part of the parenting process. Helping children develop the ability to work with and get along well with others is a responsibility parents should take seriously. Some children are outgoing by nature and seem to always interact well with others. Some however, are shy and timid and need extra help in this area. With the peer-pressure older children face today, it is imperative for children to learn early to deal effectively with others. Interaction with other Christians within your congregation, as well as with those in other congregations, can be very helpful.
Being a parent, even in today's world, does not have to be frightening. Understand that the parent's role is to help children grow intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially. This may not always be easy. In fact it will often be quite painful, but in the end it will be fun and exciting. The Psalmist said, "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 the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them." (Psalm 127:3-5a)