Five Things I Strive To Teach My Children

As I grow older and my family increases both in age and in number, there are many things that I wish to teach my children. Countless things, really. It says in the book of Deuteronomy:
 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  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.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”(Deuteronomy 6:4-9, ESV).

My hope and prayer is that my children learn much about God and His Word and they fully embrace it as part of their very being, of their very essence. I was thinking about more specific things, and, while I am sure the list could go on and on, I came up with five specific things that I wish, Lord willing, to instill in my children as I perform my God-given act of being their parent, entrusted by Him the stewardship of these children. And those things are this: 1. Fear God; 2. Prayer is important; 3. Love is more than an emotion and feeling; 4. Character and Integrity Count; 5. Failure is NOT the end, nor is it really bad.
Fear God
Proverbs 1:2–7 (ESV)
   To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
   to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
   to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
   Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
   to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
   The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; 
               fools despise wisdom and instruction.
The purpose of the Book of Proverbs from the Bible is to teach the reader. In Proverbs 1:2, we are told how we are going to be taught: to know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight. Remember, this book of Proverbs is part of God’s Holy Word, the Bible, and that, All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”(2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV). 

In Verse 3, we are told that we are going to be instructed how to deal wisely, and further instruction in righteousness, justice, and equity. Dealing wisely, in other words, making smart choices. Thinking before acting. And thinking about the future and outcomes of the dealings that you make. Instruction in righteousness, being morally right and fair; living above reproach. Being just in our dealings throughout life, i.e., being fair to those around us. To those we love. To those we work for. To ourselves. And Equity, much the same, living our lives in fairness and impartiality. These are all qualities that I have seen through my own eyes that are not being taught to our children by parents, or anyone else for that matter. It’s something that needs to change.

It goes on in verse 4, telling us to give prudence to the simple, along with knowledge and discretion to the youth. Prudence to the simple; knowledge and discretion to the youth. This is something that largely isn’t happening. Today, at least in the United States, the government mostly wants families to let the schools take care of all the education. And, when it comes to the educational systems, I, personally, have sat in a school Open House meeting with some of the administrators of that school whom proceeded to tell all of us that they school district has a policy to not let anyone fail. So, no matter what…no matter how poorly they do, they will always get a passing grade and move up to the next grade. In our schools, prudence and knowledge and discretion are NOT being taught to our children. So, it is left up to us, the parents, to take up that mantle. 

And, in verses 5 and 6, it tells us that even after we are learned and wise, we still have very much to learn from this book of Proverbs. That we will never truly stop learning. We will never know everything there is to know. This is a concept that too many people seem to never fully grasp, and it holds them back. There is a line from one of my favorite books that fits this well, “Exactly. You have learned that you still have much more to learn.”(Adventurers Wanted,Vol. 2: Horn of Moran, M.L. Forman). It goes on to say that those who don’t realize that are held back from truly ever becoming great. If we can stay humble in this aspect, there will always be new discoveries and learning and wisdom to gain. And we will be all the better for it.

And, this is all brought together in Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The word “fear” here is a reverential fear, awe inspiring fear, before God. Knowing that God provides wisdom(James 1:5) and that His wisdom has existed since before the beginning of time(Proverbs 8:22-31).  There will always be people who seek after God and gain this knowledge and wisdom. And, unfortunately, there will always be those who reject God and this wisdom. “A principle that believers must teach their children is that in their pursuit of wisdom they will be surrounded by others going the opposite direction who will be encouraging them to do likewise.”[1]We need to be on guard, vigilant even, about our children and what they are learning and how they are learning and, of most importance in my opinion, WHO they are learning from. If my children were to attend a school, the vast majority of learning would still come from home, from my wife and I.
Prayer Is Important
“16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16 (ESV)
“17 pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (ESV)
Prayer is an important thing in the life of a Christian and his and/or her family. Why? Because it is how we communicate with God. We are given access to the creator of the universe because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who was our substitutionary atonement on the cross, bridging that gap between God and His people that exists because of our sinful nature. In his book “Five Things Every Christian Needs To Grow,” R.C. Sproul explains the question of why we should pray. “Of the many legitimate answers to this question, we will focus primarily on three. We should pray because prayer is a duty of every Christian; because prayer is a privilege; and because prayer is a powerful means of grace.”(Sproul, R.C., Reformation Trust Publishing, 2008). R.C. Sproul goes onto explain these three reasons of why we should pray, drawing from both the Old and New Testaments. From the Old Testament, greats like Hannah praying for a son(1 Samuel 1:8-18) and David asking for forgiveness(Psalm 51). (For information on R.C. Sproul’s book “Five Things Every Christian Needs To Grow” click here).
We need to not only teach our children what prayer is and why it is important, we need to teach them how to pray. We need to model it for them in our prayers. Another book by R.C. Sproul, a children’s book actually, entitled “The Barber Who Wanted To Pray,”(Crossway, 2011), is a great resource in teaching one how to pray. Even though it is a children’s book, it can help adults in their prayer life as well(I know from experience!). (For more on “TheBarber Who Wanted To Pray”, click here).

Now, as we all know, school’s definitely don’t teach prayer. And, unfortunately, I don’t think many churches teach prayer, either. I would think that this is true for two reasons: The first being that a person may be overly embarrassed for not knowing how to pray, and secondly, it’s kind of an expectation that one already knows how to pray. I wish, when I first started attending church and serving Christ, that I had someone to really teach me how to pray. I tried modeling it off of the prayers of others I was around. But, I truly never really knew how to pray until I was well into my adult years, coming before God in adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication(the ACTS method). And, it really has helped my prayer life a lot. This is an important subject that Christian parents need to teach their children.
Love Is Not Just A Good Feeling or Emotion
Love is a verb. Not a feeling. Not an emotion. Not what you feel when you see some cute boy or girl walk by. Love is a verb. An action. A choice. Every day, and I truly mean every single day, I make a choice to love my wife and my children. There are times when I don’t want to love them because they have done something unloving, however, being a Christian, I am called to love regardless. We have all read where Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, and this is how Jesus replied: “Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And 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.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”” (Mark 12:29–31 ESV). Now, looking at what Jesus said about loving the Lord and loving your neighbor, the “love” part is a verb. An action. Something you do. Jesus stated that, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13, ESV). An action, being sacrificial, putting others before oneself. And, as each day goes by, I make sure to showmy family that I love them, not just tell them.  

Love is most definitely a verb, and, there are many ways one can show love. First, it’s not flattery, but truth. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”(Proverbs 27:6, ESV). A true friend, one who loves, is going to be the one who tells you what you need to hear. So, later in life, my children need to learn communication with their loved ones and how to be honest with them, even when it may not seem like the wisest of choices that one can make. Secondly, love can be harsh. “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”(Proverbs 13:24, ESV). When we discipline our children, we need to do it out of love, knowing that we want them to be corrected and to not repeat whatever folly may have happened. However, we need to also make sure our children(or whomever you are disciplining) know that it is being done out of love and a desire see the person grow. Now, if that means waiting a while so you can cool down, then so be it. They probably can tell you’re upset. However, approaching it when you’re upset usually ends badly. I know. I’ve done it before(more than once). Also, a need for discipline is not an endorsement of child abuse in any way. I say this because many people feel that mere spanking is abuse of a child. And, they are both right and wrong. When done out of love and the child knows why they are getting what is going on and you have good scriptural support, then it is not abuse. However, when you’re angry and you feel the need to lash out and beat that rear-end because you need to teach them a lesson, then you very well may be approaching that fine line between discipline and abuse. Live above reproach(which we will talk about later) and don’t even get yourself near a situation like that. There are countless stories out there of children being hurt and sometimes even killed because a simple punishment got too far out of control, usually because the parental figure was mad.

Now, there are many other things that love is and isn’t, however, I don’t have the space here(or the time) to go over them all. Just remember this: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, ESV). God loved the world so much, that He made a way for His people to have that relationship with Him: the sacrifice of His Son for His people.
Character and Integrity Count
It’s much easier said than done, however, it is very true….that a person’s character and integrity count. They count in a person’s personal lives, professional lives, and spiritual lives. If someone is a liar in their personal lives, they are probably untruthful in their professional lives, as well as their spiritual lives. They are all connected. A person must live above reproach in their lives, in all aspects of their lives. Let’s look at a few powerhouses of character and integrity from the Bible: Daniel, Shadrach(Hananiah), Meshach(Michael), and Abednego(Azariah)(Daniel 1:7). These four friends began together in captivity in Babylon, where they were assigned to be educated for three years then taken before the king. Part of this was being fed a portion of the king’s food. These four young men, under Daniel’s leadership, refused to defile themselves with the King’s food. They remained faithful to their God, showing great character and integrity, leaving no room for doubt or compromise. In the end, the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.”(Daniel 1:19-20, ESV).God blessed their faithfulness, and their faithfulness is a clear reflection of their character and integrity. And the displays of character and integrity continue to show throughout the book of Daniel, with Daniel and the Lion’s Den(Daniel 6), and the Fiery Furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego(Daniel 3).

However, the true test of a person’s character and integrity comes when they do something wrong, and they are faced with a fork in the road: Do I tell the truth or do I tell a lie? Proverbs tells us, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”(Proverbs 28:13, ESV). When we screw up, chances are, we will get in some sort of trouble. How we handle the aftermath can often affect what kind of trouble we get it. If we conceal it with a lie, then are found out, we’ll get in a lot of trouble. If we man up and own up to our mistake, we’ll still get in trouble, however, our integrity and character will remain intact. Let’s take a look at Jesus when He spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well:

John 4:16–30 (ESV) — 16Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” 27Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.

John 4:39–42 (ESV) — 39Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Before Jesus asked her about her husband, He already knew that she had none. He wanted to see if she would be honest about it, or if she would lie. The woman was honest, and her life was changed. This simple act of honesty, showing her integrity, lead to a wonderful example of evangelism. Jesus pointed out her sin, having four husbands, of which we don’t know what happened to each for sure, however, I doubt they all died. And the current man she was with was not her husband, so, she was living in an adulterous relationship. After Jesus pointed this out to her, she though of Him as a prophet. And later, her eyes were opened to the fact that this man is the Christ(John 4:25-26).
And, from my thoughts, when it comes to a choice between the truth and a lie, the truth is by far the easier thing to tell, factually. Why? It’s easier to remember the truth. If you lie, you have to remember the truth and the lie, and which is which. And which you tell what people. It may be more difficult to actually tell the truth, however, from personal experience, telling the truth releases a burden, literally making a physical difference in ones life.

While my children are not currently at ages where they fully understand the concept of the truth versus a lie, it is something I still talk to them about. When my wife and I were still house parents, we would always tell the girls this when confronting them: “Look, we know you have done something wrong and you are almost assuredly going to get in trouble. Now, you have to choose how much trouble you want to get it. If you lie about it, you’ll end up in getting in a lot more trouble then you will if you’re honest.” And, some of the time they were honest, however, a vast majority of the time, they still lied. And that’s a part of life. And, each time, when they were caught in that lie, they (hopefully) learned a bit. And, when my children get older, I hope and pray that they learn these lessons and more, as well.
Failure Is NOT The End, Nor Is It Really Bad
Finally, I will teach my children that failure is not just not bad, but, it’s a part of life and is actually good.  Yes, you read that correctly: Failure is good. You learn from it. Thomas Edison is quoted having said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Now, I don’t know for sure if that’s exactly what he said, or if it was even him who said it. But, it’s a true statement. Each failure led to a teaching moment and growth. And that is the same in life in general. If you fail a test, you work all the harder to make sure you don’t fail next time. If you fail at a task, you go back and see what went wrong and seek help to learn more, to strive towards success the next time. As a Christian, when we fail, we go before God and ask for forgiveness. While we try to be more like Christ, we are still a sinful people. I think one of the most glaring examples of failure and redemption and growth that one can find in the Bible is that of King David from 2 Samuel 11-12.

David was King of Israel, beloved by all. He had all he could want, and he got there by being faithful to God. His character and integrity, up to this point, were unquestionable. All that he did was from God, for God. And then, one day, temptation seized him. He was on the roof of the king’s house, he looked over and saw Bathsheba bathing over on another roof. He found out who she was, sent for her, and she came over, and they had sex. And they did it, knowing it was wrong, for she was married to one of David’s most faithful servants(2 Samuel 11:2-4). Now, when Bathsheba sent word to David that she was pregnant(v. 5), David then went to extraordinary lengths to try to cover it up(2 Samuel 11:6-13). He ordered her husband home to try to get him to lay with his wife to make it look like he, Bathsheba’s husband, got her pregnant, and not David. And, when that didn’t work, David ordered that, while in battle, his troops draw back from Uriah so that he shall die. And this is what happened. David murdered Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, to try to cover up this adulterous affair. However, “the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.”(2 Samuel 11:27b, ESV).

After all this happened, the prophet Nathan came to David and rebuked him for what he did. He repented of his sin, however, because of is treachery, he was still punished. “Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.”(2 Samuel 12:14, ESV). And surely enough, the child died(2 Samuel 12:14-23).
However, in this time of grief and repentance of David, He called out to God in Psalm 51:
Psalm 51 (ESV)
Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God
51 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
   Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
       according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
   Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
   For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
   Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
       so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
   Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
   Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
   Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
   Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
   Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10    Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11    Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12    Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13    Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14    Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15    O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16    For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17    The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18    Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19    then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
In the end, David learned from his mistakes. He learned from his punishment that he received from God. He repented of his sins, and God continued to work through him. He soon after had another son, Solomon, “And the LORD loved him,”(2 Samuel 12:24).
While failure does have an immediate sting of pain, whether physical, emotional, spiritual, or a combination, it has a more positive long-term effect if we take the time and teach our children that it has such. How do we do this? By modeling it and talking about it with our children. Our children will see our failures and screw-ups. And when they do and they ask about it, it becomes a wonderful teaching opportunity, not just for the child, but for us as well.

As for our current many public educational systems, which are moving towards a “no child can/will/should fail” set of policies, I plan on teaching my children that failure is a good thing. A teaching tool and motivator. And when my children fail, I plan on being right there to walk with them through that failure, arm-in-arm, to make sure they know for sure that it is NOT the end of the world.  
Now What?
As I tie these points together, let it be known that this is not anywhere close to being an exhaustive list of things that I wish to teach my children. The amount I wish to teach them I will never be able to teach them because there isn’t that much time. However, these things, the fear of the Lord, Prayer, Love, Character and Integrity, and learning from our failures, can, if instilled at an early enough age in our children, equip our children for the realities of the world at large in their generations. There are and will continue to be many different societal norms, those that are ever changing with the unfortunate secular-overtones of almost everything we see around us, and, unless we start early, that can wreck a child, a relationship, even a family. School systems are letting children pass and go up grades when they don’t deserve it; sports leagues declaring no one is a loser and handing out trophies, even to those who lost; and society coming to the point where being slothful and depending on others is not only acceptable, but the norm. I plan to make sure I do all that I can to keep that from happening to my children. I firmly believe that any parent who does not prepare their children for adulthood isn’t doing parenting right.
Now that we are to this point, one, or many, may agree or disagree with how I feel about them, or maybe about them being in this list of five things. This blog could become the first of a series of blogs about how I and my wife work to raise up our children in a godly manner to bring as much glory to Christ as we can.
Soli Deo Gloria

[1]Garrett, D. A. (1993). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of songs (Vol. 14, p. 68). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.