How can we work with children to help them learn and grow?
[Gary Petty] How many times have you heard an exasperated parent say, “I just don’t know what’s going through that child’s head?” Well, we shouldn’t be surprised. Children can be very foolish. In fact, we have Solomon in the Bible say, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. The rod of correction will drive it far from him.” Now, there’s two important things about this verse we need to look at. First of all, children are chained. They’re bound by foolishness. It’s just part of their nature, and not all foolishness is bad, but let’s face it. I mean, what can seem cute at 2 would be disastrous at age 16. So we have to deal with childish foolishness. And then the second thing he talks about here is the rod of correction. In other words, there has to be discipline involved in teaching children about foolish behavior, and how to avoid foolish behavior.
Now, let’s look at three points then that have to do with foolishness in a child. The first thing is just what we read here. Some childish behaviors are serious enough to involve discipline. But understand, discipline has to be age-appropriate in what you do and also, it has to fit the crime, so to speak. Sometimes we can overreact so much. How does a child know when something is really important and not important? Because we’re just overreacting to everything because of our frustration. It is important that children don’t see discipline only as an expression of parental frustration or anger because then they’re gonna think, “Well, being good means not making mommy or daddy angry or frustrated.” But we need to help them understand that there are principles of good and principles of bad, and we’re there to teach them that.
So it’s very important that we don’t express too much anger, too much frustration, that we are calm in explaining why we want them to do something or not to do something or why something is foolish or why something is wise. Another thing is to realize that some childish behaviors are due to lack of experience or ability. You know, a smaller child isn’t gonna understand what an older child does. I’ll give you an example. A number of years ago, they were doing some construction in my neighborhood. And I took three of my grandchildren out just to look at the construction. We were walking around. There was nobody out there that day. And the two older ones began to pick flowers and find very interesting rocks to take back to their mother, and so they had…in fact, there was three of them. There were four kids with me. The three older ones, they find all these great things.
And so we’re headed back home. And they all have flowers, they all have pretty rocks, and they’re excited, “You know, Mom is gonna be so excited about this.” I looked down at the two-year-old. He’s got this big grin on his face, and his fist is clenched, and he’s got his stuff for mom. And I said, “Oh, you found some stuff for mom,” and shook his head yes. I said, “What do you have?” And he opened his hand up, and there was a cigarette butt and some dog poop. Okay. Now, I could get upset. That’s a foolish thing. But he’s two years old. He doesn’t understand. He thought he was doing something exciting. He had found something that none of the other kids had found. So I told him, “These are very dirty and wipe these hands off,” and said, “Don’t touch your face till we get home.” He did what I said. And we got home, and I went in and scrubbed his hands, washed his hands, and washed my hands, and then explained to him, “There are certain things you shouldn’t pick up because they’re dirty. They can make you sick.” I never saw him do anything like that again. See, sometimes we think of discipline as some kind of punishment. Discipline involves simple teaching. It also involves rewards. In his case, even at two, he figured out, “Those things I shouldn’t pick up because they can make me sick.” And so he learned from the lesson. So we have to realize that when we deal with children, we have to deal with their age and what they actually have the ability to understand.
And then a third point that I wanna bring out here is that teaching children principals of right and wrong, of foolishness and wisdom, is a parental responsibility. We can’t give this as parents or grandparents to the school system or even to the church. Those can be helped sometime. Your church could be a real help in teaching your children. It is not the primary way that they learn. Here’s what we have in the book of Deuteronomy. One of the most important instructions about child-rearing. “And these words which I command you today,” God said, “shall be in your heart.” What God teaches should be in our hearts as parents. We have to know Him first. We have to know what God wants first. “And you shall teach them to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk, by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.” In other words, teaching children is not just a formal activity. It’s a lifestyle. Teaching children right from wrong is a lifestyle. We not only teach it, we have to model that behavior. And believe me, children figure out right away if there’s a huge difference between what we say, and what we do, and they resent hypocrisy.
Foolishness is chained up. It’s bound in the heart of a child. And it is responsibility of all parents to help them to learn the difference because as they grow older, those decisions they make that are foolish ones can have terrible, terrible results and consequences but making wise decisions can give them a good life.
That’s BT Daily, join us next time.