For decades, an increasing number of news reports have revealed that our elementary- and middle school-aged children are in serious trouble. Bullying, disrespect for authority, drugs, gender confusion, promiscuous sex (even with teachers), suicide and bloody, murderous violence have invaded our public and private school systems. Who or what is to blame for this horrendous crisis?
We could point the finger at many things: our failing school systems, perverse music and entertainment, drug pushers, pornography, violent video games or other modern maladies. But the stark truth is that the main cause for troubled children is troubled parents. Parental neglect is a root cause of children’s problems today.
Too many parents are so self-absorbed and caught up in their own personal crises that they can’t focus on the proper rearing of children.
To save our children, parents must take on their God-given responsibility to nurture, love, lead, teach and discipline their children.
Mr. Armstrong warned of the damaging effects of parental neglect. He wrote over 20 years ago, “Family life has undergone a radical revolution! Teens have sex games at home in bed while Dad and Mom are at work. Children do not eat with parents. They seldom go to movies with parents. Parents have their lives, associates and friends apart from the children. Parents never think of teaching children, being with children, maintaining a family relationship! Parental responsibility is totally neglected. In due time parents are going to be brought to account for this neglect of basic responsibility” (The Missing Dimension in Sex). Admitting responsibility for child neglect is difficult for any parent. Yet it is the only means to an effective solution for our child crisis.
Parents, take hope. With concentrated study, effort, prayer and focused time with your children, you can reverse a negative situation and make a good situation better. Here is how.
The fundamental principles outlined in the previous chapter are made apparent here, especially if you are just beginning to work with an older, preteen child. The 12 skill sets of Chapter 4 will help you evaluate the true state of your child’s obedience and your own child rearing.
During a child’s earliest years, parents should focus on developing obedience and character. As your child matures through school age, puberty and teenage years, a heavier emphasis should be placed on giving your child an excellent scholastic education.
Parents! God holds you—not your child’s teacher—responsible for your child’s schooling. Today’s educational systems—elementary, middle school, high school, college and university—are degenerating rapidly. Effective parents are fully aware of their child’s school, school administrators and their policies. If a child’s school situation is full of adversity, don’t allow him or her to remain in a bad situation.
For families that can afford it, private schooling may be a good option. Homeschooling is growing in appeal and popularity for many parents. Before jumping on this bandwagon, however, carefully consider what is required. Analyze the costs, financial and otherwise. Top quality homeschool curricula, books and supplies can be expensive. Teaching children at home requires strict discipline on the part of the parents and the child. A parent may have a sincere desire to homeschool, but not every parent is qualified to do the job. The decision to homeschool should be made with ministerial counsel. It is also important that you educate yourself about federal and state requirements for your location.
Here are seven areas of character development and education your children need to be successful in their preteen years.
1. Teach the God-Ordained Sex Roles
There is an aggressive movement today to indoctrinate all young children to accept homosexuality, gender fluidity and transgenderism. The transgender movement is rapidly growing in acceptance and influence. For parents with elementary-age children, it is already knocking at your child’s classroom door—and you may not know it! You should be alarmed, aware and ready to take action to protect your child.
The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer, or questioning, (lgbtq) community and its supporters want your children to embrace their point of view. They have been very successful in bringing their indoctrination programs into local libraries and the public school system. They want your child to believe that transgenderism and cross-dressing are normal. This lifestyle is anything but normal.
Here is the reality that concerned parents must face: In any U.S. government-funded school, when lgbtq rights are involved, parents’ concerns or disagreements will not matter. Schools are not required to inform the parents of transgender instruction. So what can you do to protect your child from transgender indoctrination? Be informed about what is going on in your child’s classroom. If you discover a transgender instruction is planned, your best option may be to keep your child at home for that day.
Perverted adults and some teachers are indoctrinating children to believe that sex—being male or female—is “fluid.” These adults encourage children to experiment with gender. Boys are encouraged to wear dresses and high heels. lgbtq leaders proclaim that a girl brain could be trapped in a boy’s body. This thinking is based on Satan’s lie that humans are an immortal soul trapped in a human body. This happiness-destroying deceit is inspired by Satan and his host of demons.
The majority of the most-respected researchers, psychiatrists and pediatricians know that it is not possible to have a girl brain trapped in a boy’s body or vice versa. “Having an authority figure teach the myth that a child can be trapped in the wrong body can potentially lead to the fear that they aren’t the sex their bodies clearly indicate,” states Dr. Michelle Cretella, president of the American College of Pediatricians.
Teach your young sons to love being boys. Provide them opportunities to become strong physically, mentally and spiritually. Remind them continually that their God-given role is to be a loving, hardworking, servant-leader for a future wife and family.
Teach your daughters to love being girls. Provide them with ample opportunities to become strong physically, mentally and spiritually. But emphasize that they are not in competition with boys. Give them ample opportunities to learn homemaking skills, to be a servant to others, talents which will prepare them to be a loving companion for a future husband and a mother of children.
2. Encourage Your Child to Take On Challenging Activities That Build Self-discipline
As your child begins school, get him or her involved in athletics and music lessons; these require self-discipline. Sports and music are a major part of the curriculum of both Imperial Academy and Herbert W. Armstrong College.
Which sports should you encourage your child to participate in? The overriding principle to follow is simply stated: Avoid the sports that could lead to catastrophic bodily injury, as well as those athletic activities where the intent is to do someone harm. True, it is not uncommon that participating in athletics will lead to some injury: ankle sprains and pulled muscles, for example. But some sports are inherently dangerous.
Mr. Armstrong established that our boys should not play tackle football because of the potential for serious bodily harm. There is a competitive and violent nature to American football that seeks to do harm to others. Many teenage football players have been paralyzed for life because of neck and spinal-cord injuries.
Bull riding, bungee jumping, sky diving, and motorcycle racing are a few examples of other sports that can cause serious bodily harm. These and others like them should be avoided. Pastor General Gerald Flurry has determined that adolescents should also avoid sports such as boxing, karate and kickboxing because of the intent to do harm to others. He has also determined that sports like Ultimate Fighting should not even be watched because of its brutal and violent intentions.
There are many favorable athletic activities that help build a young person’s confidence, physical agility, strength, skill and overall health. Here is a short list: baseball, basketball, cycling, golf, gymnastics, ice skating, roller skating, running, snow skiing, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis and volleyball. You should teach your child to be physically active. Exercise is fundamental to good health.
3. Teach Good Sportsmanship
When observing most professional sports games, it is easy to see that good sportsmanship has become a lost art. It can be embarrassing to watch how many highly skilled sports professionals act during games. Well-known players storm off playing courts or fields, yell at officials, and fight with other players when the game doesn’t go their way. In a similar vein, when a team makes a goal, the one who scored the goal will perform a victory dance in self-exaltation. It is clear that people today believe that winning is all important.
How should God’s people view the purpose of sports? Is an athletic event about winning at all costs? The answer is an emphatic no. Your job as a parent is to recapture the true value of good sportsmanship. Athletics and team sports, when done right, build character. A true sportsman views athletic contests and sports as a character-building exercise.
Teach your children the major elements of good sportsmanship. They are to develop the skills to excel in their sport; be consistent in practice; perform at their personal best at an athletic event; encourage their own team as well as the opposing team; respect coaches, officials, team members and the opposing team; avoid trash talk; be unselfish during play, allowing all teammates to participate; always play fair and be honest; maintain humility in victory; keep a positive perspective after a loss; resolve to do better at the next event.
Parents should be wary of allowing adolescents to emulate today’s sports icons. Some sports leaders still exhibit good sportsmanship, but they are rare.
4. Teach Your Child to Follow Instructions
One of the most serious problems that many corporations face with new hires is that a large portion of them do not follow instructions. Why? Children over the last several decades have been permitted to do their own thing. The current child-rearing philosophy espouses that making children obey rules, standards and instruction harms creativity. In reality, the opposite is true.
Children desperately need to learn to follow rules, standards and instructions. A child with a well-developed habit of following instructions is more capable of releasing his creativity. All of today’s truly successful creative artists, musicians and writers had to learn to follow rules, standards and instruction.
Parents must be willing to take the time to teach—to provide the instructions necessary—for their children to successfully complete a task assigned to them, whether it be taking care of a pet, personal grooming, keeping their personal space neat and clean, or doing chores around the home.
Most importantly, parents must continue to teach their children, preteens and teenagers to know God better through daily prayer, obeying His commandments, and living His way of life as outlined in the Bible. These are eternal instructions that ensure a successful, eternal future.
5. Teach Your Child to Work
Working requires self-control. The work you assign your child should be age appropriate. Be creative. Preschoolers can take care of pets. Elementary schoolchildren can do chores inside the home and outdoors in the yard. Young people should be taught to clean their bedrooms and keep them clean. Jobs and chores teach children responsibility. Responsibility is doing the right thing when no one else is watching. “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat,” wrote the Apostle Paul (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Working hard and productively is a godly principle that must be taught to children.
Be sure your child follows a daily schedule. This is critical during the school year and even during the summer months. Teach your children to prioritize their time. Prayer and Bible study should always be scheduled as the most important activity each day. Teach your child to plan his after-school time, allowing time for play and homework.
During the summer, parents should help their children fill their days with productive activities. Be sure your child does not waste his summer. Summer is the time for chores, more education, outdoor athletic activities, and fun events with other children. Be sure to emphasize to your children the need for ample sleep—going to bed early and rising early. Many children battle parents to stay up late during the summer. Parents, win that battle and get them in bed. Going to bed on time and getting up on time is effective teaching for developing the habit of self-discipline.
6. Teach Good Manners and Etiquette
It is essential for all parents to capture the vision of your child’s incredible future potential. Ultimately, your job is to prepare your children to rule in God’s Kingdom. They will hold high offices of service. It is important that your children know how to conduct themselves with grace and decorum. The rules of good manners and etiquette are critical training for your princes and princesses. (Please read and study page 23, “Your Children Are God’s Royalty.”)
Your home is the perfect classroom for instructing your children on good manners and etiquette. Manners are a person’s outward bearing or way of behaving toward others. Good manners are a matter of courtesy. Etiquette is the standard of polite behavior. The foundation of good manners and etiquette is showing respect for others. Teaching good manners is a critical component of true education!
The primary way parents teach good manners is by setting the right example. If you do not feel secure with your own conduct, then put in the effort to learn good manners as you teach your child. All adults today would benefit from a refresher course in these areas. There are several great books available on manners and etiquette that you can obtain at little cost. Sheryl Eberly’s 365 Manners Kids Should Know shows how parents can teach manners on a day-to-day basis. Modern Manners by Dorothea Johnson and Liv Tyler explains some of the more advanced rules of etiquette. Here are some key areas to get you started.
Teach your child to wait his turn. Our thoroughly selfish society teaches young people to be assertive and get what they want. Being assertive can be an excellent trait if used in the right context (for godly leadership); however, assertiveness should never override politeness and good manners. Instruct your child to wait his turn. Within a group of people who are talking, your child needs to learn to wait his turn to speak, and not interrupt others. The same is true for food and event lines. Rushing to be first, or even worse, jumping ahead of someone already in line, is the epitome of selfishness.
Teach your child to say please and thank you. Meal times are the perfect setting to teach children the use of the two most courteous phrases in the human language—please and thank you. “May I please have some more milk,” or “Please, pass me the salad,” should naturally roll off of every child’s tongue at mealtime. Of course, all parents should be using the same expressions. Once the action requested is completed, then “Thank you” should follow immediately. Children should also be taught to say thank you when complimented by an adult.
Teach your child to develop an outgoing personality. Downtrodden, sullen and moody children are often the result of parental neglect. Be sure to spend ample time with your children to teach them how to express enthusiasm for education, physical activity, work and fellowship with others. Teach your children to cooperate with other children and adults. Mr. Armstrong taught that God’s Family is a team. Be sure your child participates in projects with other children. Teach your child to be friendly to other children and adults. Be sure your child maintains a positive, happy approach to life, especially during the trials of life. A major aspect of an outgoing personality is enduring hardship with grace.
Teach your child proper table manners. Elements of etiquette are often considered out-of-date and unnecessary. Not so! One of the most important ways to show respect for another person is to maintain polite conduct while eating. Here is a short list of skills parents should teach older children for proper table manners: how to use a napkin, how to hold utensils, how to cut food, how to season food, how to remove unwanted food from your mouth, not speaking while eating, excusing yourself from the table, use of cell phones and other electronic devices. Modern Manners gives details on table and dining etiquette.
7. Teach Your Child Honesty
Ours is not a truthful society. Leaders in government, business, education and religion knowingly lie many times each day. They are not alone. Most people admit that they lie often. Straying from the truth is an accepted way of living. Many believe there are good lies, or “little white lies,” and bad lies. Some would never consider lying in a court of law but then feel no remorse at giving false information on a job application. Some people believe that lying is necessary to keep things running smoothly in international relations, businesses, marriages and friendships.
In this age of lying, it is so important to teach your children the virtue of honesty. This is both a spiritual and practical matter. The Bible states that Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). This evil spirit being is also the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). And he is the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2), which means he broadcasts his policy of lying as a way of life to unsuspecting human minds. Parents must be sure to teach their children to always tell the truth. A lying child is under the heavy influence of Satan.
Living honestly is also a practical matter. It is a major part of having good moral character. Children must learn not to lie to parents or school authorities, nor to cheat on tests or in athletic events. From a young age, your child must be taught to give an accurate description of events that take place in their lives. Children learn early to present themselves and their actions only in a good light. Parents must be on the lookout to ensure their child always presents his actions in the most truthful manner. It is so easy to blame poor behavior on the dog, cat or the next-door neighbor. Teaching a child to be honest does him a great service. He learns how to take responsibility for his actions. This enables him to make positive and necessary changes in his life.
It is vitally important that you set an example of truthfulness for your child. Never lie to your child. If you promise your child something, keep your promise. Always let your child see you keeping your word. It will go a long way toward him wanting to follow your good example.
To get results in these seven areas, remember to be patient, positive and consistent. Sterling character, like a beautiful building, is built over time with planning and diligence. God has instilled in your child the right raw materials for you to work with. Your child was created with a mind to think and reason. God created your child with a human spirit that can be shaped and molded. Remember, your goal in these formative years is to prepare your child to have a relationship with God. That is God’s number one desire for your child. What an awesome responsibility God has given parents—to help Him re-create Himself in a child. As you do your part, you can be assured God is doing His.