I am a Christian day school teacher/principal in Canada. I’m also the father of three beautiful daughters, so I know that being a parent in today’s world is a complex responsibility and the pressures can be staggering. Many parents are overwhelmed with their child rearing responsibilities and the kind of society in which we live. Consider for a moment the barrage of outside influences on our children.
For example, the media. James Dobson, in his book Parenting Isn’t for Cowards, indicated his research showed that most teens, by the time they have reached the ripe old age of 17, had watched an average of 18,000 murders on television. He goes on to say that, in effect, they have “participated” in countless rapes, gougings, decapitations, machine gunnings, bombings and knifings since toddlerhood.
Then there are the hundreds of bizarre video games and evil Web sites depicting the bad, the very bad and the ugly.
Peer pressure continues to play a negative role, as it has in previous generations. Each teenager knows that safety from ridicule can be found only by remaining precisely on the chalkline of prevailing opinion. For, as Dr. Dobson says, “…the youngster whose emotional needs and self-doubt are the greatest, he dare not run the risk of defying the will of the majority on even the most trivial matter.”
How can we gain and maintain a positive impact on our children against this endless avalanche of pressures?
God holds us accountable to teach our children His moral laws. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 Deuteronomy 6:6-7  And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart:
 And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.
American King James Version×). God’s eternal values are invaluable for all generations. Children need them today more than ever to equip themselves in this world of uncertainty.
God has given us precious children to be brought up in “the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Here are some practical biblical points for us to keep in mind in our awesome task of bringing up children in this current age. While the list is by no means exhaustive, these points do focus on lasting values instead of the world’s preoccupation with temporary gain.
1. Put God first: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…” (Mark 12:30 Mark 12:30And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength: this is the first commandment.
American King James Version×).
Parents should take time to teach their children that God is the Creator who gives us our very life. Children should also learn to turn to God for help whenever frightened or anxious. Help them develop the habit of reading the Bible and praying. It’s very important to be an example when teaching children to read their Bible and pray. Many well-meaning parents stress this, but children rarely see parents doing it themselves. Pray with your child. Jesus said if we seek God’s Kingdom first, all the lesser things in life will be added as well. Children ought to be keenly aware of this.
2. Empathize with the feelings of others: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31 Mark 12:31And the second is like, namely this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
American King James Version×).
The preoccupation with self appears to be the prevailing attitude of society today. If not counteracted, this narcissistic attitude can devastate our youth and will lead to false hope and despair. Our Savior on many occasions literally went out of His way to teach and set the example of serving, helping and empathizing with the feelings and needs of others. Parents should help their children to understand and empathize with the needs of others at a very young age by helping them learn not to be selfish and demanding. Instill in them the need to share and not to criticize and put others down. Most of all, parents should help their children to see themselves and others the way they are — as people made in the very image of God with incredible potential and purpose, both in this life and in His Kingdom to come.
3. Seek God’s will in life: “Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God” (Psalms 143:10 Psalms 143:10Teach me to do your will; for you are my God: your spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.
American King James Version×).
The purpose and plan of salvation taught in church should be reinforced in the home at every opportunity. Seeking God’s will includes respecting and honoring parents as preparation for obedience to God. Children must be taught to respect parents and appreciate both aspects of God’s nature: love and justice. In doing this a child will learn that there are many forms of benevolent authority outside himself to which he must submit. When the child sees the home and church in harmony with God’s will, he will understand the meaning of sin and its inevitable consequences.
4. Understand God’s universal laws: “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13 Ecclesiastes 12:13Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
American King James Version×, NIV).
Children should be taught that all of mankind’s problems are a result of breaking God’s laws. The very definition of sin is the transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
American King James Version×), for only His law is perfect. Without it society eventually crumbles. James Madison, fourth president of the United States, realized this all too well. He said, “We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future… upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves, according to the Ten Commandments of God.” Understanding the laws of God (including the rewards, successes and happiness for keeping them and the wretchedness, misery and pain for violating them), can lead children to be truthful and honest in everything they say and do.
5. Be involved and set the example: “Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord… not by way of eyeservice… doing the will of God from the heart” (Ephesians 6: 4, 6).
Your example teaches your children to honor God and respect others even more than your discussions with them. Research has shown that the child learns by observing what parents do. Therefore it’s important to be the kind of person you want your children to be. Children learn to deal honestly when parents deal with them truthfully. They learn the importance of keeping their word when parents follow through on promises. They learn to be kind when they see parents helping the needy. Aside from the spoken word, parents can teach values in subtle ways as well, such as obeying the laws of the land and showing respect for government. There are endless other opportunities for parents to teach honesty and values to their children. The key is to try to conscientiously strive to set the best example possible for your child.
In summary, parents should take the time to teach morals and values according to the spirit and attitude of God’s law, which are summed up in the two great commandments — love toward God and love toward neighbor. We live in a secular, selfish society where self-sacrifice is out and self-gratification is in. Our children pick up on this through television, peer pressure, magazines, drugs and music. To counteract these worldly influences, right values must be taught and lived in their presence.
As writer Jerold Aust stated in our sister magazine, The Good News: “Perhaps the acid test of a good parent is to ask the question: Would you be happy if your children grew up to be like you?”