As a Christian, a parent of six, a grandfather of over 20, and former public school teacher, I would like to share with you some thoughts from my parenting and teaching experiences.
Love and Discipline
Parenting and teaching should demonstrate love for each child, giving security, and a sense of achievement, but it is not “mushy-gushy”. Real love for our children must be firm, gentle, and patient (1Cor: 13), with consequences for disobedience and misbehavior. Consequences should be geared to the child's age, because it is vital that the child understands the connection.
I remember when my daughter was learning to play the recorder (a wooden flute). After learning it, and understanding the rudiments of reading music, the children were allowed a more difficult instrument to play. My daughter did not try to learn the recorder. She “faked” it. She wanted to play the cello. Her teacher told her she could not play the cello, because she did not learn the simpler recorder. Her classmates were moving on to their chosen instruments. She was greatly disappointed. We supported the teacher, with the result that our daughter practiced the recorder furiously, and soon moved on to learn the cello. The lesson she learned was not about music, but about obedience and honesty.
For both parents and teachers there is a good method to encourage listening, respect to the adult, and obedience. Speak once to the child, quietly and clearly. If there is no obedience, then there must be clear and definite consequences. This will take a lot of thought and effort on the adult’s part, but the learning atmosphere created by this method will be a great help for real education. There is a time for listening to the child, and there is a time for simple obedience by the child.
When our daughters were quarreling, my wife would sit them on chairs facing each other, but out of reach of each other. They were forbidden to talk. Within a few minutes they would usually be smiling and laughing. After a few occasions like that there were fewer quarrels.
Christian parents and teachers must help develop the mental, emotional, and physical ability of each child. A child needs to use his head and his hands to solve problems, especially problems of human relationships. I stress the “hands” because this involves actual service to others. Teach children to be as independent of technology as they can possibly be. You always have your head and hands with you wherever you go. Don’t let children become dependent on computers, television, or radio for knowledge or entertainment. Develop the computer that is “between the ears” first.
Don’t let technology become a drug that masters children and separates them from the natural world or from direct personal relationships with other people. Each child should become the unique human being for which God has provided the inheritance. The world is real and natural, not “virtual.”
An important life-skill development goal is to encourage children to think for themselves, to reason, and to develop problem solving skills. A great help in this area is to observe and experience the wonders of nature in as many ways as possible. Such experiences will also develop a respect and reverence for all life.
The public school teacher may not be allowed to mention God in the classroom these days. But all teachers can strive to create an atmosphere of mutual respect and love that promotes learning and God’s working in the children’s hearts. This does not require religious or pious words. If the teacher appears to the student as a caring friend, then there will be a basis to help children that come from broken or difficult family relationships.
Education begins with the parents. Christian parents lay the foundation of values and attitudes the child will learn. A good example is worth a thousand words.
My best memory of school teaching was when I met parents who visited me with their bright and energetic son. The father said, “Mr. Button, if Rodney here causes any disturbance, please let me know, and I will see that it doesn’t happen again.” All I ever needed to do with Rodney was look at him or say his name. With such support class discipline is no problem.
Build the family and classroom community. Encourage cooperation between siblings in the family, and classmates in the school. Learning will be promoted by an atmosphere of group solidarity. Self respect and mutual respect must rule. No cliques or “put-downs” of any individual can ever be allowed.
Shared pleasant experiences help to build a bond between members of a family or a school class. When our children were quite young we would gather in the evening to read together a favorite children’s book. We all looked forward to the next episode.
Basic information and skills are necessary to earn a living in our modern industrial society, but that is not the most important part of true education. Positive values and positive attitudes facilitate learning of knowledge and skills. Creating constructive and mutually beneficial human relationships is the most important thing one can learn. This can only be done on the basis of cooperation, respect, and appreciation for all life and for all of God’s creation.
Teach children to actually participate in life, not be spectators. Real life is not a spectator sport!