Just over 3,000 years ago, King David asked God: “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Psalm 8:4). David wondered why the great God focused His attention on mankind. The first three verses of this psalm show that David spent considerable time studying and meditating about God. In his youth, he had ample time to do so while outdoors during his days and nights tending sheep. David came to know God as the all-powerful, highly intelligent Creator with big and noble intentions (verse 1). He believed the creation of the Earth, with all the beautiful and living things in it, proved God’s existence and His supreme majesty.
When David looked into the night sky and saw the moon and the stars—all the work of God’s fingers—he wanted to better understand God’s purpose for creating man. Read the second half of verse 4. We see that David also inquired about the purpose for children. The word son in the expression “son of man” is translated from the Hebrew word ben, which can mean son, children or young children. David saw clearly that God also paid attention to children. He wanted to know why.
David’s wise son Solomon wrote in a book years later: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). So David, who surely taught Solomon this profound truth, came to some measure of understanding of God’s purpose for mankind, including children. God’s purpose for mankind demands that children be taught how to achieve that purpose. That training should begin very early in childhood so when a child enters adulthood he does not turn away from his God-ordained purpose.
What Is a Child?
What is a child? We can answer this question in two ways. The Plain Truth About Child Rearing provides the physical answer:
First, he is a human being! He is a miniature copy of yourselves. He probably has, though it is sometimes [indiscernible] at such an early stage, your own looks, your very own nature, your voice and some of your talents. However, he is also an individual with a mind definitely all his own.
Jesus Christ taught the deep spiritual answer to this question.
One day while Christ was speaking to a crowd about marriage and divorce, some parents brought their children to Him so He could bless them. The disciples sternly rebuked the parents, thinking that Christ couldn’t be bothered with children. Seeing the disciples’ actions, Christ became angry and said, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Mark 10:14-15; English Standard Version). Christ taught the disciples a vital lesson about children and their part in His gospel message. He left no doubt that little children are also the building blocks of the divine Family of God.
Your children are potentially God’s own sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:18). Christ said the Kingdom belongs to them! Then He took the little children into His arms and blessed them. By doing this, Jesus demonstrated to the disciples that they should do everything possible to help children achieve their potential.
When you look into the face of your child, you see a replica of yourself and your spouse. Do you realize that you are also looking into the face of a potential God being? Get this fact clearly in your mind: When you properly train your child, you are helping God reproduce Himself. God needs a huge family to complete His plans for the universe. Your child has a part in this plan. That is the reason God inspired Solomon to write Proverbs 22:6. God has given you as a parent a major responsibility in the creation of something so stupendous it boggles the mind! Godly parenting requires a huge commitment. It is your duty to educate your child in both material and spiritual matters.
Who Can Help You?
All parents—new and not so new—need instruction on how to train children for God. But where should you go for help? Many today assume that psychologists know much about the proper training of children. Is that true? Can a psychologist help you?
“The psychologists who reject the revealed Word of God cannot rightly teach you how to rear children. They do not know what the human mind is. Unless they have the Holy Spirit—and I know of no such psychologists—they are incompetent to teach authoritatively on child rearing,” answered Mr. Armstrong in an October 1984 Plain Truth article, “What Psychologists Don’t Know About Child Rearing.” Mr. Armstrong recognized that psychologists, educators and even religious leaders could not give advice on child rearing. Why? They lack the spiritual understanding of how God created the human mind, and because they do not have God’s Holy Spirit.
Knowing how God made the human mind and seeking instruction from men (and women) who have God’s Holy Spirit are two fundamental ingredients for successful child rearing. However, these two ingredients alone are not enough. Child rearing is hard work—it takes real physical and spiritual effort. Parents are required to sacrifice personal time, expend their energies—sometimes to the point of exhaustion—think rationally and creatively daily, and gain iron-fist control over their emotions in order to handle the job. Child rearing cannot be learned in one day. It takes a lot of day-in-day-out experience to become proficient at child rearing. God-directed child rearing does not have shortcuts!
Children Are Not Animals
After quoting Proverbs 22:6, Mr. Armstrong commented, “[M]any have believed they followed that advice, only to discover when the child became an adult that he (or she) had departed from it completely. They think that Solomon meant training as one would a dog, by teaching a child to do certain things, enforced by a system of rewards for performance and punishment for disobedience” (ibid).
Even parents with the best intentions can get off track in child rearing. Mr. Armstrong saw parents make the critical mistake of assuming that proper child rearing was similar to training an animal how to do tricks. He worked diligently to correct this wrong notion. Teaching mindless obedience is not proper child rearing. Truly effective child rearing is teaching your child’s mind. To do this you must know what the Bible reveals about the human mind. It is vastly different from the brains of animals.
“But what almost no one understands is the difference between a dog’s brain and a child’s mind,” continued Mr. Armstrong. How did he know that the human mind is different from animal brain? He believed and taught what the Bible reveals about the creation of man!
The first chapter of the Bible explains that God made man in His own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). God made cattle after the cattle kind, creeping things after the creeping kind, fish after the fish kind, birds after the bird kind. But God made man after the God kind. God is using matter to reproduce Himself. Astounding!
Man is not an animal. Of course, that statement goes counter to all that is taught in today’s schools, colleges and universities. Thoroughly deceived by the theory of evolution, most of the world’s educated believe that man came from apes. What an insult to God! How demeaning to man! Humanity is a unique creation on the Earth. We are made after the God kind. This is the truth. Evolution is the fiction.
The Spirit in Man
How did God form man? Science and religion do not know. Science believes man is the highest species of animals. Most religious people believe that man is an immortal soul trapped in a physical body. Satan the devil, through our mother Eve, foisted this false teaching onto mankind. Contradicting what God revealed, Satan lied to Eve, telling her that she would not actually die (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:4-5). What is the truth?
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). Man does not have an immortal soul—he is a living soul!
The life of man is in the blood (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:11). We replenish our life daily from food, water and the air we breathe. If we do not attain the purpose God has set before us, we will simply die and become as if we had never been. Our flesh will return to the dust from which we were created (Genesis 3:19).
However, God put a spirit in each human. The Bible states, “But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding” (Job 32:8).
Mr. Armstrong explained, “There is a spirit in every human being. This spirit is not part of the person—it is something in each human, just as (for illustration) a human might swallow a marble. The marble is something in the person, yet not part of that person. This spirit in man is something that is in him (or her) … throughout this life” (“Your Children—Future Gods?” Good News, September 1979). Mr. Armstrong knew that only a very few understood this important truth. Remember, modern psychologists know nothing about it!
The human spirit is the invisible ingredient that separates man from animals. It is an incredible creation of God. To be truly effective in child rearing, you need to know about the human spirit and how it operates. Mr. Armstrong made it clear for us.
“This human spirit enables the human person to think—to reason—to calculate—to make decisions. An elephant’s brain is larger than a human brain, and designed precisely like it—just as good qualitatively—yet the elephant brain cannot think, reason, calculate, make decisions and choices. Like a dog, an elephant can be trained to do certain tricks, such as people enjoy seeing in a circus.
“Animals are equipped with instinct. A house dog automatically by instinct barks if one approaches the house. The dog does not think, weigh the matter, decide, ‘Shall I bark or shall I keep silent?’ But I suppose that by repeated training a dog could be taught not to bark,” he explained (Good News, October-November 1981). Unlike baby animals, children do not have instinct preprogrammed into their brains. However, children do have the capacity to think and reason. Children make choices. Parents must recognize that children have and use the power of intellect—animals do not. (For a thorough explanation about the spirit in man, read The Incredible Human Potential, Chapter 7, “Bridging the Gap Between Human Man and the Ultimate Spirit-Composed Sons of God.” All of our literature is free.)
Parents Are Teachers
Many young parents panic when they find themselves home alone with a newborn infant. Babies can’t talk to tell their parents what’s wrong nor what they need or want. Yet children are very successful at getting parental attention at 3 a.m. If not careful, parents can assume the role of servant to the child. Certainly parents should serve their children. But the role of parents is much bigger than that of caretaker.
“You know, too often parents think, when they have a new child (a baby is born) they don’t try to teach the child. They just take care of it,” Mr. Armstrong said in a sermon. “They act as a servant of the child, but they certainly aren’t a teacher. If the child does what they think is wrong, they may spat them a little bit (or spank as it grows older), but they don’t teach. It took me some time as a father to learn that I should teach first and only punish when they had done what they knew was wrong” (Nov. 7, 1981).
The human spirit enables a child to acquire knowledge. “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?” (1 Corinthians 2:11). A child can learn things no dog can come to know. Animals live by instinct. A child must be taught how to live. When God created the human family, He intended that parents be the child’s first teachers.
What must parents teach children? Adam and Eve were brought to life instantly as grown adults. But they needed knowledge. God was their Educator. He immediately began to teach them the knowledge they needed to lead successful lives. Do you realize that you are your child’s educator just as God was Adam and Eve’s? Be prepared to educate your child from the moment he or she is born.
Don’t wait for a schoolteacher to educate your child. You should view all schoolteachers as your assistants, not as your child’s primary educators. This can seem to be an overwhelming task for some. But teaching is simpler than you think. Look to God as your example.
What did God teach Adam and Eve? “Adam was made to need knowledge that no animal can know. He was made to need three kinds of knowledge: 1) knowledge for contact and relationship with God, 2) knowledge to have relationship with other people, and 3) knowledge to deal with things—matter,” explained Mr. Armstrong (Good News, October-November 1981). This is meat-and-potatoes teaching and gives the perfect overview, or pattern, for proper child rearing of infants, toddlers, adolescents and young adults.
At every milestone of your child’s growth, be ready to first teach him about God and His ways, then how to get along with others, and then how to deal with things. Keep in mind your child’s age, mental maturity and physical development. For example, it will be a highly frustrating experience for you to attempt to toilet train your child at three months, or to have your 1-year-old memorize the Ten Commandments. Proper child rearing is designed to take time (two decades minimum) and patience.
Pushing a child beyond his natural physical and mental development stage can destroy a child’s confidence, which often causes severe mental and emotional problems.
Not surprisingly, the thrust of this world’s child rearing focuses on how to deal with things—being a success in this life—landing a great career that will produce wealth so one can acquire a lot of things. Our modern educational system has become completely materialistic; it deals primarily with the acquisition of material things. The two most important aspects of child rearing—loving God (expressed through obedience to God) and loving others—are totally neglected.
Modern education has built a world without a need for God. Educators teach youths how to earn a living (usually through getting the best of others) but fail to teach them how to live. What are the results?
Mr. Armstrong explained, “Adam was created with a human spirit by which of himself he could acquire knowledge to deal with things. Man has acquired by himself knowledge to build houses, make and operate automobiles, airplanes, computers. Yet in 6,000 years man has never learned how to get along with fellow man. Husband and wife clash and divorce. Parents can’t understand and properly train children. Children too often resent parents. Family can’t live happily with next-door neighbor. Management and labor clash; races of people clash; nations war against one another.
“And man has not learned—and doesn’t seem to want to know—how to have a close association with his Maker” (ibid). Our society stands on the brink of disaster. The Bible clearly shows that we are very close to the time of the Great Tribulation. Yet God promises to spare individuals and families who look to Him and live His way of life, which is, simply put, outflowing love to God and neighbor.
Prepare Your Child for Conversion
The overarching goal of child rearing for all converted parents is to prepare your children to become converted. This is no small task, considering the world around us. “We live in a time unlike any other in history. World events are moving rapidly toward the end of this age. There is an unseen reason why troubles are intensifying as never before. You cannot understand events without recognizing this truth,” writes Mr. Flurry in America Under Attack.
“An event occurred in 1986 that marked a major turning point in history. It has radically altered everything that has happened since: culture, family, education, religion, science, finance, politics, international relations—everything we do,” he continues. “Yet what is most remarkable is, almost no one even knows it happened. … It is an assault by an invisible force—a force that is very real and deadly dangerous.” This is referring to the fact that Satan was cast down to Earth in 1986, and he is more enraged than ever before (Revelation 12:9-12). This evil being knows that his rule is almost over. So he is on a rampage to destroy nations. His method of destruction involves influencing the minds of adults and children. Parents who sincerely desire to rear their children properly must recognize they have to battle Satan to successfully do the job.
Satan does everything he can to prevent proper child rearing. He knows he can wreak havoc in the world and the Church when children are permitted to grow up disobedient, selfish and undisciplined. Satan is a violent being that lives a life filled with rebellion. In America Under Attack, Mr. Flurry calls this fallen angel “the architect of lawlessness.” This is the only way to explain the lawlessness, rebellion and violence consuming our world.
Adam and Eve were given the opportunity to know God, but they rejected it. They wanted to build a life for themselves apart from God. They wanted life on their own terms! They fell under Satan’s negative influence—were willingly kidnapped by him. What was the result? You can read about it in your newspapers and see it on your nightly news. This world’s suffering is the fruit of their fatal decision! None of this was inevitable. All of our terrible world conditions are the result of human sinful thinking and actions led by Satan the devil.
Your Child Has Access to God
It is every parent’s responsibility to help their children get to know God and resist satanic influence.
“The Creator freely offered His Spirit, which also begets eternal life, to Adam. The Holy Spirit would have imparted to him knowledge for contact and relationship with God—how to get along with his fellow man—how to treat his mate and rear his children. But Adam rejected the Spirit of God (tree of life) and took to himself the knowledge of good and evil. He decided to acquire and produce by himself his own knowledge. But God had not created in him the tools (His Holy Spirit) by which he could decide the right knowledge. Without the addition of God’s Spirit, man with his own mind could only produce selfish, self-centered knowledge. Adam’s mind, as a result, was only half complete. He was not mentally ‘all there’!” wrote Mr. Armstrong (Plain Truth, October 1984).
Adam needed another spirit—God’s Holy Spirit—to make him mentally complete. Without God’s Spirit combined with his human spirit, Adam could not acquire the spiritual knowledge and understanding necessary to have a loving (i.e., lawful) relationship with God and with his fellow human beings. Adam’s choice led to disastrous results for him, Eve and their progeny.
“God’s Spirit in man reveals spiritual knowledge—the spiritual law of God—the way of life to cause peace, happiness, every good result,” explained Mr. Armstrong. “There are, broadly speaking, the two ways of living—exemplified by the two trees in Eden. The one, outflowing love (which is the spiritual law of God). I term this for brevity and simplicity, the way of ‘give.’ The other, the way of ‘get.’ They are the two divergent ways of life, leading in opposite directions, producing opposite effects!” (Why Humanity Cannot Solve Its Evils).
Because Adam rejected God, God cut off Adam and his descendants from Him and His Holy Spirit until after Christ’s Second Coming (Genesis 3:22-24). As a result, nearly all humanity is living the get way. But God reserved the right to call a tiny few humans (known as firstfruits) to receive His Holy Spirit in order to qualify to rule with Jesus Christ in God’s Kingdom. God’s New Testament Church, which forms the lion’s share of all firstfruits, is being trained in living the give way, the way of God’s law—the Ten Commandments.
God expects the children of Church members to be included in that training. Even here parents must be the child’s first teachers. “But when a young man and a young woman—perhaps in their early 20s in age—fall in love—if they are both converted, and they marry, their children come under a special category not fully realized in God’s Church before!” Mr. Armstrong taught in “Your Children—Future Gods?” (Good News, September 1979). Mr. Armstrong was referring to the new revelation given to God’s Church concerning 1 Corinthians 7:14 and the sanctification of children attending God’s Church.
Referring to children with converted parents or guardians, Mr. Armstrong stated, “They are ‘consecrated,’ but that does not mean ‘saved.’ Yet it means they are in a special category where they may be converted when sufficiently mature” (ibid). This is an absolutely wonderful truth.
The children of converted Church parents are not cut off from God. They can be taught about the truths of the Bible. As children positively respond to Bible-based teaching, God will open their understanding to His truth and work closely with them. Their chances of being converted when they are older are greatly multiplied!
This fact significantly increases your responsibility as a parent to properly train your child. However, you can shoulder the weight of responsibility knowing that God partners with you in all of your effort. How encouraging!
Shape the Human Spirit
“Now see where this leads us,” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “You train a growing child as you would train a dog or an elephant to do certain things a certain way. In some cases, because it has become habit, he may not change it.
“But [your child] has a mind that can think, reason, decide what to do, and direct his actions differently from parental teaching—especially if an attitude of resistance, hostility, resentment of authority, or prejudice—or if conformity to custom of his peers—causes a change of mind. In later life because of disagreement he may entirely depart from childhood training. …
“Train a child to think and decide according to the spirit and attitude of God’s law—love toward others, consideration for the good and welfare of others—and teach him that Satan’s way of selfishness and jealousy, envy, antagonism toward others, is wrong. Teach a child to honor his parents” (Plain Truth, October 1984).
This is challenging, but it can be done. It takes dedicated, converted parents to practice this kind of child rearing.
However, you cannot do the job alone. Understand that there will be times you will need counsel about child rearing. Take comfort—God’s ministers are willing and able to help you when you hit a challenging spot along the way. Don’t hesitate to seek counsel.
Rear Your Child, or Satan Will
Mr. Armstrong warned members not to neglect teaching and training their children. Too many take for granted the ability of an infant to absorb knowledge, reason and make decisions. But Satan does not. Your children are some of the devil’s biggest targets. He fully understands the human spirit. He knows the incredible abilities of a child’s mind. He consistently, invisibly and stealthily acts upon the minds of children. How?
Mr. Armstrong taught, “How did God cause Cyrus to do what God wanted? God did not speak to him direct. He did not speak to him as to prophets, by a dream or vision. But God ‘stirred up the spirit of Cyrus’ (Ezra 1:1). God is a spirit. God therefore was able to stir up the spirit that was in Cyrus …” (Good News, September 1979). This fact is fundamental to understanding how the human spirit operates. Spiritual forces influence it. If parents are not vigilant, evil spiritual forces can take control of a child’s human spirit.
Satan is a spirit with great power to influence human beings. He broadcasts his negative spirit of disobedience and rebellion. “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). Paul refers to Satan as the prince of the power of the air. This means that he surcharges the atmosphere with his broadcasts like a radio station broadcasts by radio waves. Every human is tuned in to Satan’s wavelength. But when does Satan begin to broadcast to your child?
You must understand this. Mr. Armstrong stated clearly, “Satan does not wait until humans are mature. As soon as a human baby begins to use the reasoning process—in the very first year—Satan pumps into the child through the human spirit, attitudes of selfishness, competition, strife—the desire to get, to have, to possess. By the time the average child is 15 or 16, in many cases Satan has gotten in his work. That is why such a large percentage of all crimes are committed by teenagers!” (ibid).
While this is reality, there is hope. You as a parent can short-circuit Satan’s efforts. But it is going to take diligent spiritual effort. Here is how.
Since your child has the ability to think, reason and decide what to do, and since your child also has the capacity to direct his or her actions different from parental teaching—especially with the help of Satan—you must arm yourself to do battle with Satan. Prepare your mind to face this battle daily! Pray for God’s strength and wisdom, and He will supply your need. Although you cannot see Satan, you can learn to discern his presence. How?
“In earliest childhood, Satan—the invisible spirit ruler of this world—begins to work on the child’s mind,” warned Mr. Armstrong. “He broadcasts not in words, sounds or pictures, but in attitudes of selfishness, hostility, disagreement, resentment and self-will” (Plain Truth, October 1984). When a young child expresses these attitudes, there is a mental process at work in his mind. Satan is influencing that process along with the child’s emotions. Most parents neglect teaching their children’s minds, so it is easy to overlook what’s happening. No teacher at school can teach your child to resist Satan’s broadcasts of selfishness, hostility, disagreement, resentment and self-will. It is your job!
“But Satan does not neglect your child’s mind! Satan begins broadcasting into it, when only a few months old, attitudes of selfishness and self-centeredness” (ibid). When you see these attitudes in your children, know that Satan or one of his demon cohorts is present.
Satan will strive to influence your child to resist, resent and be hostile against your authority. Satan will also influence peers to influence your child to conform to customs contrary to parental teaching.
Psychologists do not understand or accept this teaching. They cannot help you rear your child. But remember, God’s true ministry can!
Child rearing is a balanced combination of teaching and reinforcing physical habits as well as spiritual values. Both involve teaching your child’s mind.
Teach your children proper routine habits to be done upon command, such as picking up toys, eating properly, coming to you when called. But more importantly, teach your children to think for themselves. To truly help your children, you must teach them how to think God’s way.
Shaping the human spirit is training up a child in the way that he should go.