You may wonder: If God has a high purpose for man, why make him out of dust? Herbert W. Armstrong understood well the reason.
“[God’s] supreme purpose [for creating man] required: 1) that man reject Satan’s way, embracing God’sway of love, based on God’s spiritual law; and 2) that man be made first of matter so that, if he was led into Satan’s way of ‘get,’ he could be changed, converted to God’s way of love, or if he refused to change, his life would be blotted out without further or continuous suffering just as if he had never been,” Mr. Armstrong wrote in Mystery of the Ages. He didn’t make this up from his own reasoning or receive this knowledge from any man. This all-important revelation came from God’s mind.
God’s potter-to-clay relationship with mankind is clearly spelled out in the Bible. “But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; we all are the work of thy hand” (Isaiah 64:8). This verse describes how God creates spiritual character in His converted sons and daughters (see also Jeremiah 18:6). God made us from clay so He could mold and shape us (with our consent) to become exactly like Him—with perfect spiritual character. God could not do this had He made us out of spirit.
“Spirit beings, once a finished creation (as were the one third of the angels who became evil characters), could not be changed!” Mr. Armstrong further explained in Mystery of the Ages. “Spirit, once its creation is completed, is constant and eternal—not subject to change. But physical matter is constantly changing.” This is pivotal understanding. God is Spirit, and He does not change (John 4:24; Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17). Those angels who decided to pursue a life of rebellion cannot change back to a life of obedience.
Lucifer and the angels he ruled rejected God’s law and government. They refused to build godly character by performing their God-given opportunity to finish beautifying the Earth. Their rebellion wrecked God’s plan for all the angels. And as Mr. Armstrong explained, they finished their creation by making themselves evil characters. Lucifer, created to be a light bringer, is now Satan—God’s adversary—and prince of spiritual darkness. What a debacle!
God scrubbed His plan to use angels to assist with finishing the creation of the universe. He now had full proof that only God beings—born sons and daughters—could be relied upon to keep His law of love and government. As Mr. Flurry explains in The God Family Vision, God moved on to “plan B.” Witnessing the catastrophic failure of the angels, God knew that only the God Family had the capacity to complete and preserve the creation of the universe.
A Much Better Plan
Do we see that God’s plan for man is a much better plan? Not only did He make Adam and Eve to look like God, these two perfectly made human beings were created with the potential to become like God in character (1 John 3:9). Created with a limited God-type mind, they could learn to act, think and reason like God. “Man, composed of matter, is subject to change. Man, if called by God, can be made to realize that he has sinned, and he can repent—change from his sin—turn to God’s way. And once his course is changed, with God’s help he can pursue it. He can grow in spiritual knowledge, develop character, overcome wrong habits, weaknesses and faults,” Mr. Armstrong wrote in The Incredible Human Potential.
Paul’s letter to the Hebrews gives us a concise comparison of the difference in the plans for angels and mankind. “Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands” (Hebrews 2:7). Even though man is now made lower than the angels—weaker in terms of power and knowledge—all mankind has the potential to be crowned with glory and honor. Why? “Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels …” (verses 8-9). Paul states clearly that mankind is destined to rule the universe. How can we know this for certain? We see Jesus, having been born as a man, resurrected to the right hand of God, above the angels. What was once the angels’ opportunity is now the awesome potential of man.
God confirmed by the life of Jesus Christ what He plans to do with man. God is building a family of sons and daughters using clay. Jesus Christ was born as God’s only begotten Son (Hebrews 1:4-5).
God is also begetting more sons and daughters through the process of conversion. This is the largely unknown factor that makes God’s plan for man the better plan! Angels were never offered the chance to be begotten as God’s sons. Angels can never be born as God’s sons. Yet human beings can! (John 1:12).
Parents Are Also Potters
Are you using all this fantastic knowledge about mankind’s unique creation in your child rearing? It gives sharp clarity to your role as a parent. You are in the position of God to your infant or toddler. Are you following God the Father’s example in your child rearing? You are the potter, and your child is the clay.
Your job is to mold and shape your child so God can continue His creative work within him. “The human mind and body is the most perfectly designed mechanism ever produced from earthly material substance,” wrote Mr. Armstrong in Why Humanity Cannot Solve Its Evils. God has given you perfect material to work with. While there is no perfect parent, all true Christian parents must still strive for perfection in child rearing (Matthew 5:48). A casual or complacent approach to child rearing will wreck a perfectly designed mechanism—sometimes severely. To break a child through parental neglect of proper training is a grave sin against a potential God being.
Know How Children Learn
Your newborn infant is helpless at birth. Human babies must be fed, held and nurtured. Your child is guided by mind rather than by instinct. This means your child must be taught. All infants have awesome mind power but no knowledge. Their mind is a finely tuned instrument ready for learning.
This is critical knowledge many parents fail to recognize. To live successfully, your child’s mind must acquire or be fed knowledge. Your child begins learning almost immediately. As stated earlier, you are your child’s first and most important teacher. Doesn’t that make you want to be the most skilled teacher you can be?
To expertly teach your child, you must learn how your child learns. Let’s examine the two foundational ways your child gains knowledge.
Learning by Association
Your child’s mind is a clean slate at birth. He knows absolutely nothing. A newborn baby even has to learn how to nurse or suck from a bottle. New parents are generally amazed by this fact. Nurses at birthing centers teach new mothers how to manipulate the infant’s lower jaw to get him to take in his first liquid. After a few tries, the tiny infant learns how to nurse. Often the mother will need to repeat the same instruction during the next several feeding times. Yet within a few days, the baby will know exactly how to get food.
As a creature of habit, a baby begins to learn at the very instant of its birth. The way in which it first learns is by mere association. But these “associations” begin to form certain habits within the rapidly growing and developing mind of a newly born human baby.
—The Plain Truth About Child Rearing
Having only the human spirit, your child’s mind can only gain knowledge through the five senses: hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch. Unless there is some physical deformity at birth, the five senses begin transmitting information from this new world to his brain immediately. This information is stored in the child’s brain (and human spirit) and is available for future use by the child. It is a truly marvelous process.
Very quickly, the baby becomes accustomed to the smell, the taste and sounds of its own mother. … If the infant of only a very few weeks is hungry and begins to cry for his food, it may be observed that he will oftentimes quit crying the moment he is picked up by his mother, because the sound of her reassuring voice, the feeling of her arms lifting him from his bassinet, and the smell of her own body has begun to become completely associated with the satisfying taste of her milk.
—The Plain Truth About Child Rearing
Your child’s ability to learn by association is astounding. It is the interaction of the five senses, the brain and human spirit that makes association possible. This knowledge provides a special advantage in child rearing. Effective child rearing is a balanced combination of rewards and punishment. By making associations, your child will quickly learn which actions bring pleasure and which bring discomfort.
Your child is a creature of habit. It is the association factor that forms habits both good and bad. In a sense, bad habits are taught—either by example, neglect or wrong teaching. This means that it is never too soon to begin teaching your child. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your child is too young to learn. We’ll discuss how to obtain desired results with young children a little later in this chapter.
Learning by Imitation
The second way your child learns is by mimicking, or imitating, others—especially you, his parents! Imitation proves the power of example, both good and bad. Current psychology teaches that all children grow through specific behavior stages put into action by instinct. These fabled stages are often called the terrible 2s, the terrifying 3s, and the frightening 4s. In reality, this widely believed, yet wrong, philosophy is the adult excuse to justify a toddler’s bad behavior. This thinking is proof positive that there is a dire lack of knowledge of the human mind and spirit in our “education”-glutted age.
The Internet is chock-full of parenting advice sites that discuss how to get through these so-called difficult-but-normal behavioral stages. “[Y]ou must always keep in mind that your son or daughter isn’t trying to be defiant, or rebellious on purpose” explains the Terrible Twos and Terrible Threes website manager, working hard to reassure distraught parents at their wits’ end. “They are only trying to express their growing independence and don’t have the language skills to easily express their needs. This is possibly also the reason why your child will get frustrated … and turns to hitting, biting and temper tantrums when he doesn’t get what he wants.”
The site suggests that parents living with terrible toddlers learn how to talk with their child using hypnosis and specific speech patterns to control bad behavior. What a wacky solution to such a serious problem!
Parents, face reality! There are no such behavioral stages in children. The terrible whatevers do not suddenly click on the day your child turns 1, 2 or 3 as some experts suggest. All forms of bad behavior in toddlers are built in by the parents and by the environment in which the parent allows the child to grow up.
However, it is true that children do go through physical developmental stages, which can impact child rearing. You could invest in a baby’s first year type of developmental stage book. These helpful books give you a month-by-month explanation of your infant’s physical development. Choose your book wisely. Steer clear of books that go beyond basic physical development. We’ll discuss some of these stages briefly as necessary.
Learning through imitation is so powerful and so thorough that it impacts all of us our entire lives. For example, older children and adults use imitation to learn a foreign language, to paint or draw, to perfect a sport or learn a musical instrument. When we think deeply about it, imitation guides and rules our actions, customs and habits.
Now consider the impact of imitation on the fresh young mind of a little child. It is immense. Imitation is a potent tool for parents to produce positive and permanent results in child rearing. Parents must recognize their weighty responsibility to set the right example for their children.
It should be immediately clear to all parents how destructive imitation can also be. Parents who are rowdy, argumentative and continually emotionally upset should not be surprised when their children are rowdy, argumentative and given to temper tantrums and angry emotional outbursts.
Isn’t it logical that parents with bad table manners, unkempt and unclean personal habits, criminal behavior—including resentment toward law and authority, laziness and coarse language—are exerting a powerful influence over their children to develop these same habits?
It seems to be much simpler for children to acquire bad habits than it is to learn good ones. Hence, it appears that thumb-sucking, throwing silver on the floor, or other habits are acquired after only two or three attempts, while it takes many months to teach a child to stay dry.
—The Plain Truth About Child Rearing
The imitative impulse in children is so strong that it is the leading cause in the development of many child criminals. Parents, take warning! Criminal behavior is learned behavior. Besides setting the best example possible, you must also be aware of the dangerous influence of television, movies and electronic media on your child. It is a capital crime in God’s sight for you to allow your children indiscriminate use of a television, computer or electronic device.
Build Good Habits
There is a truth all parents must accept about how children form habits.
Bad habits are acquired after only one or two experiences! Remember, it’s the pleasurable experience that is most often repeated. A little baby likes the sound of his spoon hitting the floor, and seeing his mother or father pick it up for him. He likes the excitement when he dumps his cereal bowl, or spills his milk, and sees the flurry of motion and sound around him.
—The Plain Truth About Child Rearing
This is vital information for parents with infants and toddlers. Unless you firmly teach your children not to do these things, they will repeat them until they become habitual. They will do it in restaurants, in homes where your family is a guest, and at social gatherings. You can avoid such embarrassing moments by teaching them good habits.
Here is another truth about habits: Good habits are formed over time. Sometimes they take a lot of time. Take heart, though: Once a good habit is firmly formed, it will stick with your child for a lifetime.
Building good habits is advantageous no matter your age. Think about your own life. There are many things you do automatically, by habit. For example, people walk, drive cars, type on a keyboard, and play musical instruments without thinking because they learned the habit of doing them. Good habits are built with repeated practice. The human brain is so powerful that once a habit is mastered, it stores the information, then automatically sends the proper stimuli to the nervous system producing the automatic action, like when driving a car.
By taking advantage of the power of habit, you can teach your son or daughter the correct habits of etiquette, cooperation, cleanliness, truthfulness, good posture, obedience, orderliness, proper eating, appropriate indoor and outdoor behavior, respect for adults and people in general, respect for others’ property, sharing with others, table manners, to be still and sit quietly, and other positive behaviors.
The Earliest Child Rearing
The first few months of a baby’s life are the most critical time for learning. Take advantage of every activity to engage yourself with your child: Bathing, diaper changing and nursing times are opportunities for you to establish the parent-child relationship. At this time, cuddle, hold, hug, talk and sing to, and play with your baby as much as you can. Even though young babies sleep for large portions of a day, when they are awake, stimulate their five senses as much as possible. All of these are teaching opportunities. Even though your child does not yet crawl or demand much attention, all interactions with you will stimulate critical brain development.
Overall you should teach your infant that he or she has been born into a family. If there are other siblings, be sure they also start interacting with the new arrival. After about a month, be sure to encourage extended family members, grandparents and friends to hold your baby. Put in the effort to socialize your baby with people outside your immediate family. The benefits to your child and you are tremendous. For example, interacting with others prepares your baby for you to have a night out with your spouse. You will be able to enjoy your night out knowing your baby is not having a meltdown with a babysitter.
At about two months, your baby’s vision will be better developed—now very aware of you and able to smile when seeing you. At three months, your baby will start giving you really big smiles. You can observe your child developing a personality. Now is the time to introduce age-appropriate toys to your baby.
By four months old, most babies are beginning to lift the head, neck and chest onto their forearms so they can see what is going on. It is also around this time that babies begin to straighten their legs as you hold them upright. This is not only great fun, it is great exercise preparing them to crawl and walk. Be assured, this activity does not make them bow-legged. It is also around this time that your child will gurgle and coo sounds back to you when you talk. Encourage this activity by responding and by talking back to your child. This prepares him for learning language.
No one needs to encourage a child to talk baby talk. But you certainly should not, in the beginning of his speech training, go to the opposite extreme, teaching him to talk like the head of the Supreme Court! Do not try to mold and shape your children merely for the sake of the vanity of the parents.
—The Plain Truth About Child Rearing
By six months, most babies can sit up without assistance. It is around this same time that many babies learn to roll or flip over from their tummies to their backs. Your child is getting ready to go mobile. Six months is a good time to introduce blanket training (see page 94).
Be prepared to do more specific teaching about the world beyond your child’s crib. Depending on the child, at about nine months, your cuddly little infant will become an avid explorer. There will be many things in your home that your child will want to touch and taste—what fun! However, you will need to warn of the dangers and set boundaries for exploration.
This means that in addition to the ample amounts of love and teaching you have shown your baby, there will be times when you will need to use punishment, including corporal punishment, to help your son or daughter learn obedience, respect for authority, and respect for property, as well as to be protected from dangers such as accidents, burns, cuts, drowning, electric shock, fire and poisoning. When done correctly, spankings can have a very positive effect on your child and protect him or her from actual injury.
Spanking—Not a Bad Thing
Spanking is a volatile topic in this 21st century. Academics and a majority of psychologists lead the charge against any use of corporal punishment in child training. This is a shortsighted approach.
For child rearing to be truly effective, spanking is a necessary tool. Yet spanking should not be considered the only, or even main, way to punish. Depending on your child’s age, other types of punishment such as loss of privileges and grounding are also effective means for teaching the vital lessons he or she needs to learn to be happy, safe and successful. (See “What Is Your Child’s Attitude Really Like,” page 65, for an explanation of the 85-10-5 formula for proper discipline.)
Punishment should never be merely negative—but always, without fail, accompanied by positive teaching. The right action, the right method, which is expected of the child, should be clearly shown him—not only the wrong ones.
—The Plain Truth About Child Rearing
It does not matter what most people in society think; you can punish your children—in love!
Many people today see any form of physical punishment or control as psychologically harmful to children. Sadly, there are cases of tragic physical abuse of children. These children are often damaged psychologically. Let’s be thinking people: It is the parents’ wrong use of the method that is damaging, not the method.
Some parents, who are actually unqualified to be parents, are prone to punish their children in the heat of anger, with hardness and cruelty. Rather than instilling into the child the healthy “fear,” which is right and good—not “terror”—these parents do cause children to build up feelings of resentment and anger.
—The Plain Truth About Child Rearing
What typically happens to children whose parents correct them in anger with hardness and cruelty? These children will learn to lie to escape punishment. Many will adopt aggressive behavior and are likely to become child and even spouse abusers themselves. Some even become hardened criminals.
Academics, family experts and psychologists have studied the effects of such child abuse and decided that all forms of corporal punishment produce the same results. That is not the case. “To the extent that the child understands and appreciates genuinely that the child is loved by the parent, and that even though it hurts, the parent’s intent is to help the child—to the extent that the child understands that, the consequences are not negative,” reported Christian Science Monitor Weekly on October 20, 2014. What is so surprising about this statement is that a Duke University family policy scholar, Kenneth Dodge, made it. Most academics are dedicated to eliminating all forms of spanking.
Dodge confirmed that corporal punishment administered with love, in a teaching atmosphere, produces positive results with a child. However, when spanking is done in a fit of anger, the outcome is always negative. “If the child interprets it [spanking] as a parent who is out of control, or a parent who does not love the child—a parent being hurtful and hateful—that is the bad message and the mechanism by which [the negative outcome] happens,” concluded Dodge.
This is quite an honest admission that we must learn from. Spanking can be done properly with very good results.
When to Discipline
Most parents usually punish children only when those children have driven them to it. They are punishing because they are literally trying to “get back at” their children and are angry because their child has done something which has disturbed them.
—The Plain Truth About Child Rearing
This is not the proper way to discipline a child. Punishment meted out in anger to get back at a child because you have been disturbed will never bring about a positive result. If you have been doing this, it is time to get some new understanding.
There is never, under any circumstances, a time to beat a child. A child should never, under any circumstances, be punished in anger! A child should never be bruised or injured!
—The Plain Truth About Child Rearing
Parents, drill this into your thinking. Effective discipline is never a thoughtless, spur-of-the-moment act. Discipline that delivers positive results is a well-thought-out plan with the long-range goal of establishing the habit of obedience, proper self-control, self-discipline, and love and respect for the parents who administer it. The foundational planks of fruitful discipline are teaching and love.
Another danger in punishment is leaving the child to himself immediately after the punishment—and leaving him with the impression that he is still guilty. The positive type of punishment always carries with it the automatic understanding that the child is now forgiven for his wrong action and is now in the good graces of his parents.
—The Plain Truth About Child Rearing
This means that the parents have to take an ample amount of time to explain this to their children—before and after discipline. Parents must explain to the child that they are punishing because they love him. It is also important that before any punishment is administered the child fully understands the infraction. Then, discuss the matter again after the discipline to make sure he is sorrowful of the wrong action, and for you to take the opportunity to tell him that he is forgiven and back in your good graces.
You will be surprised how often a child will thoroughly repent of his wrong action and assure you that he is sorry for his wrong deed, throwing his arms around you and telling you how much he loves you when you punish in an attitude of love and let him know that the punishment carries forgiveness with it.
—The Plain Truth About Child Rearing
Punishment, whether physical spanking, deprivation of privilege, or other type, must be given promptly and be equal to the offense. A warning should precede all discipline, without exception. (See page 111, “Tips for Effective Punishment.”)
Your Number One Challenge
It seems that each year a new child-rearing book becomes popular in America. Several years ago, it was Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. In 2012, it was Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing Up Bébé. Why did these two books become popular with Americans? Essentially, they discuss how much better the Chinese and French are at child rearing than Americans. Just observe American children in public—their rude behavior, the tantrums, their disrespect of others’ property—and it is obvious Americans do not know how to properly train their children. Or, it is more likely that they simply refuse to do so!
These books’ popularity show that Americans know something is wrong. But merely reading books on the subject is not enough. Effective child training is time-consuming hard work. Enslaved to careers, financial success and the pursuit of pleasure, many Americans will not, or are too tired to, invest the time necessary to train their children. This is one of our nation’s greatest tragedies.
What about you? Are you taking on the demanding rigors of child rearing? If you are a parent, it is your responsibility. “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully,” Paul taught (2 Corinthians 9:6). Parental success is measured by the success and happiness of the children we produce. How hard are you working to reap a bountiful harvest with your children? Here is one way you can tell.
Concentrate on Obedience and Self-control
Your greatest challenge in raising young children through age 5 is teaching obedience. The essence of God’s way of life is obeying the laws, rules and standards of the God Family. Parents, this is what God expects you to do. You are your child’s first teachers. One of the important by-products of obedience is self-control, or self-discipline. A child who is obedient to parental commands and instructions naturally develops self-discipline. This benefits him in countless ways throughout his life. Of course, the final objective of child rearing is to prepare your child to loyally follow God’s way of life.
Do you realize that obedience is more important than intelligence in fostering academic achievement? “We used to do a much better job of teaching the rules specific to our culture,” laments Leonard Sax in his book The Collapse of Parenting. “Thirty years ago, kindergarten and first grade in American schools were all about ‘socialization,’ as it was then called: teaching Fulghum’s rules and more. Beginning in the mid-1980s, many American schools decided that the first priority of early elementary education should not be socialization but rather be literacy and numeracy.”
When Sax talks about rules, he is really talking about law and government. Early primary education once focused on teaching young children how to be law-abiding citizens. Obedience to laws, rules and proper social etiquette is no longer taught today. As a result, our schools are now dangerous and violent places. While Sax sees the problem, he cannot explain the cause.
Mr. Armstrong saw and fully understood the cause decades earlier than the 1980s. “Modern education trains students to earn a living in the professions, occupations and vocations—but fails to teach them how to live!” he wrote. “A tree is known by its fruits. A mixed-up, unhappy and fearful world in chaos, divided against itself, filled with heartaches, frustrations, broken homes, juvenile delinquents, crime, insanity and violence, devoid of honesty, truth and justice, now facing extinction by cosmocide, is the fruitage of modern education” (Plain Truth, August 1965). Teachers are trained to teach physical knowledge to your child. Only you can teach your child the fundamentals of spiritual character.
Obedience to laws, rules and your family government is absolutely necessary for your child to become truly educated, build a sterling spiritual life, hold a job, make a successful marriage, and avoid financial difficulties. Poor self-discipline can lead to alcohol and drug abuse, sexual immorality and other criminal behavior.
Is your child immediately obedient? Does your child have good self-control? If your child is guilty of interrupting you constantly, behaving wildly, not following instructions, not controlling his feet, hands or mouth, your child lacks self-control. Psychologists would probably diagnose your child with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and put him on Ritalin. But the only effective solution to curbing these impulsive behaviors is learning obedience.
Modern psychologists believe children can learn self-control on their own. Don’t believe them. Self-control is learned with proper child training, parental supervision and practice. Solomon wisely taught that a child left by himself or herself will never develop self-control (Proverbs 22:15; 29:15).
A child furnished with self-discipline has an invaluable tool for meeting life’s challenges. Many relational and personal problems can be avoided, or strongly tempered, when one has self-control.
Following are 12 areas of obedience you should teach your children in their early years.
1. Blanket Training—Teach Your Child to Be Quiet and Not Interrupt
Teaching a child to sit still or play quietly on a blanket during services has been a tradition in God’s Church for decades. This training not only stops noisy interruptions during services, it is the foundational plank for building self-discipline in children.
Some parents in God’s Church today are not blanket training, which makes the teaching of self-discipline only more difficult as children mature.
Blanket training is very simple. It is helpful to have a special blanket set aside for this purpose. Choose a nice blanket you can bring to Church services. Using the same blanket for each training session and at services will help your child associate that it is time to be quiet and sit still. It is a good idea to have your newborn learn to take a nap on this blanket as early as possible. You should start blanket training as early as when your child can sit up by himself (6 or 7 months), but definitely when he can crawl. Effective blanket training assumes that you have already been teaching your child not to make noise during services.
Practice each day by spreading the special blanket on the floor and have your child sit on the blanket quietly for about an hour. You could do Bible study at the same time, so you feel your time is spent constructively. Be sure to sit on a chair next to the child. When your child attempts to move off the blanket or make noise, tell him no—once. Move the child back onto the blanket or give him the hand signal (forefinger against the lips) to be quiet. When he moves off the blanket or makes noise a second time, you must discipline him. Continue the process until he accepts the fact that he must remain on the blanket and be quiet. You should also teach your child to take a nap on this special blanket. This is self-control in action.
2. Teach Your Child to Come When Called
You should start teaching your child to come to you when he is walking securely on his own and you know that he understands you. If you consistently use blanket training, you will know that your child understands you.
Generally, come here training works best for children who are about 18 months old. Set aside an evening to do this to ensure that both parents are present for this important event. Some parents call them come here nights. Depending on the attitude of your child, you may need to allow for an hour or two to complete this training. This may be a tough evening. However, parents, you must win this one!
Once children are up and running on their own, they do not appreciate being interrupted from what they are doing. To command them to come to you requires them to give up what they want to do and do what you want them to do. Children want to be their own authority. To submit to your authority requires self-discipline.
Never, at any age, is there an excuse for children to run away from their parents, or to disobey when told to come when called.
—The Plain Truth About Child Rearing
This is a vital lesson that must be learned at an early age. Your children will find it difficult to submit to God’s authority if they cannot submit to yours. Their physical and spiritual safety depends on obedience to direct commands.
On your come here night, allow your child to be distracted from your immediate attention. Then, from some distance away, command your child to “Come!” or “Come here!” or “Come to Daddy!” Say it only once. Allow him a brief amount of time to hear, think and respond. If there is no action, you should explain to him: “I want you to come to me when I say ‘Come here.’” You may need to go to your child, pick him up, and bring him to where you gave the command to show him what you expect. Then return him to his former location, and you return to your previous location. Tell him again, “Come here!” If there is no action, you should discipline your child. Continue to repeat the process (with discipline) until you receive an immediate response.
Remember, you cannot give in to your child—he must capitulate to you. Be sure to reward him with praise and hugs when he comes to you. Daily repeat the process following your come here night until your child develops the habit of coming to you as soon as you say, “Come here!”
Look for an opportunity to test your child with this command when he is walking away from you to do something else. This is an effective way to save your child in dangerous situations, such as in a parking lot or street.
Teaching your children to come to you at a young age also stops them from yelling, “What?” at you from across the house, parking lot or playground. When called, children should come close enough to a parent so more instructions or further discussion can take place.
“Come here” teaches children that self-control means that there are times when they will be required to give up something they are doing in order to do something else.
3. Teach Your Child to Respond Properly to You
“It is neither ‘old fashioned’ nor wrong to teach children to say, ‘Yes, sir!” or ‘Yes, ma’am!’ to their parents,” states ThePlain Truth About Child Rearing. These two phrases are considered by many to be Southern America culture, when in reality, it is a spiritual principle we are talking about. This is what matters most. At Imperial Academy, our students are taught to respond to teachers by saying, “Yes, sir,” or “Yes, ma’am.” This establishes the fact that the child is not on the same level of authority as the parent or teacher. It teaches respect and humility. There can be some variances in other cultures, but the principle should be the same.
You should begin at a very early age, when your child is first learning to put together simple phrases and learning to talk. If you ask your child the question, “Are you having fun?”, your child may respond, “Ye-e-e-es.” You should instruct him, “Say, ‘Yes, sir,’” or “Say, ‘Yes, ma’am.’”
4. Teach Your Child to Respond Positively to Correction
Most children (and adults) don’t like to be corrected. “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby,” Paul wrote (Hebrews 12:11). All human beings need to be corrected. Correction, when done properly, always makes children’s (and adults’) lives better. Yet, as Paul said, correction is often hard to accept at first.
Teach your child not to respond to correction in anger or with a bad attitude. Both of these wrong responses require additional discipline and teaching. Correction is a fact of life and, for the people of God, a way of life! You should teach your children to be thankful for correction!
Children must learn to follow rules, directions and instructions that are not their preference. They must have self-control to accept correction and direction from you and other authority figures that are sure to come into their lives.
When you discipline your children, make sure they respond with a repentant attitude and right behavior. Make it your goal to not finish a correction session unless they demonstrate these qualities. This requires love, patience, strong teaching and time—a lot of time—on your part. Remember, according to the 85-10-5 formula for child rearing, 10 percent of your time, even while disciplining, should be teaching. It takes time to educate while disciplining, but it will be worth all your effort. It is important that your children acknowledge that they have done wrong. As Paul wrote, there will be great rewards when you meet this goal. They will be happy and well on the road to real success. Remember, positive response to correction will help them for eternity.
5. Teach Your Child to Sit Still
As your child grows closer to school age, you should begin to train him to sit still at a time other than mealtimes. Age 3 is a great time to begin this training. If you have done a great job with blanket training, this next step in self-control—sitting still in a more confined space—should be easily mastered.
Teach your child to sit still at various times during the day for periods of 5 to 10 minutes, or even longer. On occasion, have your child sit still, allowing him to look at a picture book, or color, or some similar pursuit, for as long as an hour or longer. In this way, you can begin to instill a vitally important habit in your child at a very early age.
—The Plain Truth About Child Rearing
Begin by training him to sit still on the living room couch or on a dining room or kitchen chair. You can call this “quiet time.” Again, start small—5 to 10 minutes—then as your child grows older, keep increasing the time until he can be still for an hour or longer. If you practice this at home daily, not only will your life be more peaceful, but your child’s teachers will deeply appreciate the results. This will also help your child to eventually graduate from sitting on a blanket at services to sitting in a chair for the entire service. This habit should be fully mastered by the time your child reaches kindergarten. Remember, practice at home. Perfect practice makes perfect.
6. Teach Your Child Personal Grooming, Cleanliness and Orderliness
Twenty-first century society has greatly degenerated in matters of dress, personal grooming and cleanliness. Casual clothing has become standard in many businesses. People shop at supermarkets immodestly dressed, even in their pajamas. Weird hairstyles with wild colors and half-shaved heads, body piercing and tattooing are commonplace. Many are no longer ashamed to be in public places unwashed, unshaven and in dirty clothes.
High standards in dress as well as personal grooming and cleanliness habits should be instilled in children at a very young age. This does not mean that children should not be allowed to play and get dirty. However, they do need to know what to do when they reenter the home after playing outdoors.
Good grooming and personal cleanliness habits are instilled through the process of daily routine. Parents who follow a daily routine of good grooming and cleanliness will have no trouble teaching these skills to their children; your children will imitate your personal grooming and cleanliness habits. Parents, if you need to improve in this area, do so before your children are old enough to follow your not-so-good example.
Here is the simple way to instill the habits of good grooming, cleanliness and orderliness in your child. A child must be taught daily upon arising to wash the face, comb hair, brush teeth, and dress appropriately for the day’s activities. He must be expected to wash his hands and face after coming in from play. He should be required to wash his hands before each meal. He must be taught to respect the home environment and furniture. (A home is not a gymnasium; the furniture is not a ready-made trampoline.) He must be required to put away his toys, art supplies, projects and books neatly each evening before bed. If he is taught these things, these habits will continue through his school years and into adulthood.
7. Teach Your Child to Eat a Variety of Healthy and Nutritious Foods
This instruction assumes that parents are providing fresh, nutritious, well-balanced food for their children. In many Western countries, including America, family mealtime is a thing of the past. Yet family mealtimes are essential to building family unity (see Chapter 8, “Make Your Family Life Active!”).
For young children, mealtimes are a vital classroom for learning about a healthy diet, for developing the social skills to participate in good conversation, for sharpening effective listening skills, and for developing a sound sense of mealtime etiquette: how to eat with the proper utensils and drink with a glass (cold drinks) and a cup (hot drinks).
At mealtime, very young children should be made to eat all the food placed before them. This assumes you only give them an appropriate amount of food—not too much. It is always better to start with a smaller amount. More food can be provided if a child is still hungry. Of course, a child should never be forced to eat foods that are known to cause illness or allergic reaction. However, he should not be allowed to demand only one kind of food at mealtime. Remember, if your child dislikes certain foods, he is likely following your example. Generally, children dislike foods their parents dislike. If your child hates leafy green vegetables, fresh fruits, whole-grain breads and cereals and will only eat McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets, it is probably time to take a good look at your own diet.
Family mealtime provides the perfect opportunity to teach your child table manners. Mealtimes at home are fantastic practice sessions to teach your children how to behave in restaurants and in the homes of friends or extended family. If your child’s behavior in a restaurant or at a friend’s home embarrasses you, then you must face the reality that you are not doing something correctly at home.
You should teach your child how to hold and use a knife, fork and spoon. Start small with infants in high chairs—let him learn to use a spoon first. Perfect practice makes perfect. Then move on to the cutlery that requires more skill.
Mealtime also provides the opportunity to teach your children how to use the important words “please” and “thank you.”
8. Teach Your Child to Control His Emotions
While most people grow up to attain physical maturity, few actually grow up emotionally. “Just what do we mean—emotional maturity?” asked Mr. Armstrong. “Few know the meaning of the term. Do you? Yet it is one of the real secrets of human happiness. … No one is born with it. It must be learned—developed. … And one of the basic things every human needs so vitally to learn is the right use of the human emotions” (Plain Truth, August 1978).
Emotional control and maturity should be taught to young children. It is a matter of true education. “But our emotions need to be understood, taught, trained and controlled by the mind! Our minds were given to us for a purpose!” he continued. Is this expecting too much from a little child? Mr. Armstrong did not think so. “Where is the logical and proper place to begin such training?” he asked. “It ought to be taught to 1-, 3- and 6-year-olds, and in the early primary grades in schools” (ibid).
Mr. Armstrong explained that most elementary school teachers are not qualified to teach emotional maturity because they have not learned emotional maturity themselves. “That means this teaching ought first to be taught by parents in the home,” he stated. “But how can parents teach children when they themselves are still emotionally immature?” God revealed all this to Mr. Armstrong so that parents would learn and develop emotional maturity, and so they could then pass it on to their children.
“Just what is emotional maturity? One author defines it this way: development from a state of taking to a state of giving and sharing,” explained Mr. Armstrong. “There’s also a spiritual principle involved—development from natural impulses and responses of human nature to the principle of loving one’s neighbor as himself. … It is something that must be learned—by the mind—and developed by self-discipline.”
Emotional maturity comes with keeping God’s law. “God’s law is based on the giving principle. Its basis is love. Love is outgoing concern,” Mr. Armstrong taught. However, human beings have human nature, which is “a magnet—a pull—in the direction of self,” he continued. “But the way of God’s law, which is the way to peace, happiness and everything good—ah, that is a way humans must be taught. Giving, sharing, serving, helping have to be learned.
“But humans are equipped with emotions. And from babyhood, all humans are actuated more or less by their emotions. Emotions are feelings—disturbances—departures from a calm state or rational right thinking and acting.” Fear, anger, resentment, jealousy, hatred, grief, sorrow, surprise, desire, elation and joy all have to be controlled by the mind. Children must be taught to recognize and control these emotions. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is for parents to teach their children emotional control. It is vital for their happiness. In the long run, it will save you from embarrassment in public places. Most people have experienced others’ out-of-control children on airplanes, in restaurants and shopping malls. Let’s not allow our children to be that disturbance.
Even a young child’s joy can turn into foolish silliness. Effusive silliness will eventually produce bad fruits in your child. Preparing to be born into God’s Family is filled with joy, but there is a deep need to have a sense of urgency and seriousness about human life. “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him,” counseled Solomon (Proverbs 22:15). The book of Proverbs is filled with practical wisdom on child rearing. Be sure to take full advantage of this God-inspired source.
“Emotions have a first cousin—our moods. The emotionally immature usually are moody, and have not learned to control their moods,” continued Mr. Armstrong. If your child is often moody, that is a good sign you have work to do to help your child control his emotions. But you must first educate yourself about emotional control. Are you often moody? Then it is time to examine your own emotional maturity. With God’s help—through prayer, Bible study, fasting and spiritual counsel from a minister—you can help yourself and your child.
Keenly observant parents soon learn when their 3-to-6-month-old infant begins to voice anger or resentment in his cry. Generally, this scenario happens around bedtime. Many very young children resist going to bed. This is the perfect opportunity for parents to begin teaching emotional control.
Parents, as your children grow up physically, you must be on the lookout for the emotions discussed in this section, and then teach them to control their emotions by living according to God’s law of love.
9. Teach Your Child to Give and Share With Others
Teaching children to give and share with others is easiest when there are siblings in the home. Sharing a bedroom, clothing, food, toys and parental attention should be a natural part of home life. These elements of sharing must be taught and, when necessary, enforced. Parents must remember that all children have carnal human nature. One of the first words a little child learns when beginning to talk is “MINE!”
It is not wrong for children to have toys or clothing special to themselves. But it is important that parents establish situations where sharing can be taught. Obviously, sibling gender matters when sharing toys and clothing.
It is vitally important that parents play with their young children. Playtime provides you the best opportunity to teach your children how to share and learn to give to others. Playtime can and at times should be family time with all siblings involved. But it is vital that the newest additions to families get time alone with both Dad and Mom.
Single-child families should set up play dates with other families to give their only child the experience of sharing with other children.
Be sure to provide age- and sibling-appropriate toys for your child. Gender—being male or female—must be taught. (See Chapter 6 for more details on the sex issue.) Cars, trucks and tools are great toys for boys. Kitchen sets, tea sets and dolls are wonderful toys for girls. Remember, a sister could serve her brother tea when playing. A brother could invite his sister to play cars from time to time.
God’s holy day seasons provide the perfect opportunity to teach children how to give. Not only should parents teach their children to give God a freewill offering at a young age, parents can provide little gifts for their child to give to other children during the holy day seasons.
It is truly rewarding to see little children’s excitement when they learn the rewards of giving and sharing.
10. Teach Your Child to Respect Others’ Property
The simplest way to teach your child to respect the property of others is to teach him to respect yours and his own property.
As soon as your children are adept at crawling, realize they will be fast-moving, highly investigative, touching machines. Take control of this potentially home-wrecking situation by taking them to dangerous areas of the home first and begin teaching them not to touch, play with, or chew on electrical cords, not to stick fingers in electrical outlets, and not to touch hot stoves. It would be wise to lock any cupboard that holds cleaning chemicals.
When your child begins to crawl and can pull himself up to inspect a coffee table’s contents, it is time to teach boundaries—to prevent injury and to protect your furniture. It is at this time that you must establish the command “No!” or “No, don’t touch.”
Both parents should agree on what other things in the home are not touchable for the child. Here is a suggested list: tv remote controls, coffee table figurines, pottery, house plants, standing lamps, table lamps, desk drawers, standing televisions, stereos, cupboards, pet water and food dishes, floor standing wine racks, bedroom dresser drawers and closets—to name just a few. Here is where you continue teaching the word no. Remember, you should only say “No” once. If your child doesn’t respond right away, discipline must follow immediately.
As your children grow up physically, teach them how to take care of carpets, floors (tile and wood), furniture, walls and windows. Set rules for behavior inside the home. Our homes should be peaceful, not indoor playgrounds or sports fields. Bursting enthusiasm, cheering, gymnastics, jumping, loud talking, running, etc, should be reserved for outside.
Teach your children to take care of their own things, such as art supplies, bedroom, bicycle, books, clothing, sports equipment and toys.
When you commit yourself to teach these habits, you will never have to worry about your child mistreating other people’s property.
11. Teach Your Child to Respect All Adults
Young children must be taught to give honor to and hold high respect for men and women who are older and wiser than they.
Showing honor and respect for older people opens up great benefits not only to children, but also to parents, neighborhoods, states and even nations.
“You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord,” God commanded the Israelites (Leviticus 19:32; esv). Younger people should have such deep respect for an older person that they immediately stand up when a gray- or white-haired person enters a room. Why?
Contrary to modern thinking, older people are not “washed up,” but are an invaluable source of knowledge and wisdom that can only be acquired through life experience. Study this verse carefully. Let it sink in, especially the last part. Showing honor and respect to old men and women is fearing God! One of God’s names is the Ancient of days (Daniel 7:9). Compared to God, the oldest human being alive is just a newborn! Unfortunately today, many consider God to be washed up.
Toddlers, children, teens and even young adults have to be taught to honor and respect older people—it doesn’t come naturally.
12. Teach Your Child to Know and Obey God
Teaching a child about God is one of the most important responsibilities God places on parents. Parents should never be embarrassed to talk about the living God or His ways with their children.
It was an Israelite tradition for parents to teach their children about God (Deuteronomy 6:1, 7). How much more important is it then for parents of the spiritual nation of Israel to do so? The Israelites, enslaved by Egyptians who were steeped in worship of false gods and perverted by pagan values and ideas, had no knowledge of the true God. After coming out of Egypt, they had to get to know God. Moses introduced them to God at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:17). This had to be an exciting day for Moses.
After the Israelites spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness, Moses, just like a responsible parent, taught the next generation of Israelites about God. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord,” Moses explained (Deuteronomy 6:4). He made sure that generation was not misled by the Egyptian concept of God.
“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might,” he continued (verse 5). He not only taught the young Israelites about God, he also made sure they understood that God desired an intimate love relationship with them. The Hebrew word ‘ahab (love) used in this verse frequently describes the love between human beings; for example, love between father and son. Yet Moses ratcheted up his instruction one more notch.
“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (verses 6-7). Moses left no doubt with this young generation that they were bound by law to teach their children about the true God and how to have a relationship with Him. Their parents’ history with the Egyptians showed them that if they didn’t teach their children true religion, someone else could pervert them with false religion.
Family Bible study is the essential classroom for instructing your child about God. There is no better day than God’s Sabbath day to conduct these meetings. Your Bible studies should match your child’s age. For young children the simplest study is reading The Bible Story. As your child grows up physically and mentally, your family Bible studies should address questions they may have about God and His way of life. You could also give additional explanation of a subject they heard at Church services. Above all, you should teach your child the Ten Commandments. Once you commit to conducting family Bible studies, the ideas for studies will flow when you pray to God about them. Even your personal discussions with your child should give you ample ideas for these studies.
Teaching your child how to pray is all-important to help him build a relationship with God. The most effective way for you to teach your child to pray is for you to pray with him daily. The amount of time you devote to prayer time with your child should increase as he grows. Use the prayer outline Jesus Christ gave the disciples as the foundation of your instruction (Matthew 6:9-13). Also be sure you allow your child to see you studying the Bible and praying—he will want to imitate your example.
Remember that obedience is the primary character trait your child must have to be a success in this life, in the wonderful World Tomorrow, and as a born son of God. Obedience in a child will produce the fruit of self-discipline. Teaching obedience is a noble cause. And it requires you to remain consistent, committed and relentless. There will be battles along the way. You must win every one of them. By age 5, you will see good fruits for all of your effort. Guaranteed!
What tremendous benefits you will bestow on your child! And your diligent work will not go unrewarded. In the process, you will become more obedient and self-disciplined yourself.