Is It Enough To Teach Survival Skills?

Consider carefully what you intend to accomplish

by your parenting efforts.

1.  What does it mean to teach our children “survival skills?"
    Mothers of young predators in the animal world teach their offspring how to hunt successfully so they can survive on their own.  As parents, you, too, have a responsibility to teach your children self-reliance, the ability to earn a living, and how to avoid the destructive forces in life.  This is a basic objective of the parenting process and results from a natural concern (love) for your child's welfare.  In the absence of physical or mental handicaps, a child who remains dependent on others well into adulthood is a living reproach to his parents.  In a letter to one of the early churches, Paul the Apostle urged,  "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody" (1 Thess. 4:11-12).  That was good advice then and it is just as appropriate today.

2.  If how to survive was all we taught our children, would we have discharged our responsibility?
    Important though it is that parents teach their children survival skills, the challenge to be "fruitful" stretches their responsibility much further.  If we look at survival training as elementary education, the secondary level could be summed up as "Three Eternal Rules."  John Rosemond, renowned parenting counselor, offers these three basic rules for successful living that parents must communicate to their offspring:
   1.  Whether you realize it or not, whether you accept it or not, you are completely responsible for the choices you make.
    2.  If you make bad choices, bad things will happen - - maybe not right away, but sooner or later.
    3.  If you make good choices, it is considerably less likely that bad things will happen.
    (Click here for Rosemond's complete article, "Boomers raising generation of 'psychological toddlers'")

    But an even higher level of education should be the goal of Christian parents.  If, as scripture teaches, man's ultimate purpose is to bring honor to his creator, then attaining personal happiness cannot be his sole objective.  The writer of Proverbs refers to a higher goal, "doing what is right, and just, and fair" (Pr. 1:3), and Jesus personalized it in the familiar Golden Rule, "do to others as you would have them do to you" (Mt. 6:12).  While happiness is a natural and reasonable ambition, children should be taught at an early age that they have a responsibility to their fellow human beings and to the world God has allowed them to live in.

3.  If your child, age 2-5, causes a disturbance at a wedding or a church service, how does that make you feel?  Why do you feel that way?
    If you have a normal sensitivity to the rights of those around you, you probably feel embarrassed, exasperated, helpless, frustrated, and maybe even angry.  And that's how you should feel.  But you should also feel a responsibility and a determination to gain control so that there is never a repetition of the experience.  Unfortunately, many parents see the situation differently.  They expect others to be patient and tolerant of their darling's misbehavior (after all, he's just a child!), and besides, they feel there's plenty of time for training later.  That's just like a teenager's response to being told, "Smoking will kill you." - - "Yeah, I know.  I'm going to quit, eventually."  Of course, by the time eventually arrives, addiction has made quitting a monumental challenge.

    Parents should recognize that the embarrassment they feel when their child misbehaves in a public setting should be just as motivating when the misbehavior occurs at home where obedience can be taught with appropriate firmness.  In other words, the child who has been taught to obey at home will seldom be an embarrassment to his parents in public.

4.  If your child, age 15-18, is escorted home by a policeman for shoplifting, how would that make you feel?
    In this case, the situation is serious and, while you may feel some of the same frustration, embarrassment and anger you felt in the scenario described above, you're probably going to have another emotion that is much more gut-wrenching: the frightening realization that somehow you've failed and now it's too late to do anything about it.

    Discipline is a word we usually associate with child behavior, but in fact, discipline begins with parents.  It's not easy to recognize the seriousness of  seemingly insignificant concessions to a child's will.  But the reality is that experience teaches, and patterns are easy to establish but extremely hard to change.  Parents must discipline themselves to be firm and consistent, even while they enjoy the beauty, charm and innocence of that precious and lovable gift.  The choices you make today are certain to have consequences tomorrow.

5.  List some characteristics you hope to instill in your child (1) by age six and (2) by age eighteen.
    At the top of the list of characteristics which should have been instilled in your child by age six are respect for your authority and love for you.  He should have grown to love you simply because you have behaved loveably toward him, and he should have learned to respect your authority because he knows that bad choices consistently produce bad results (secondary education).

    By age eighteen the secondary and also, we hope, the higher levels of parenting should be behind you. ( In any case, it's too late to worry about it.)  Your child has reached adulthood, and your training should have made him self-reliant, self-disciplined and respectful of all authorities - - God, parents, teachers, employers and government, and he should exhibit due concern for those less fortunate and for the rights and feelings of all.  In addition to those very desirable traits, successful parents will somehow have prepared their child for a lasting and happy marriage.  That preparation will have come primarily from the example of your own marital relationship and from your teaching about the nature of the marriage commitment.  Perhaps no other aspect of parenting will have more visible and enduring consequences.
6.  What are the benefits you expect to achieve as you train your children, that is, benefits for you,  benefits for them, and benefits for God?
   Benefits for you:  Parents who discipline themselves to carry out their responsibilities with love, patience, kindness and consistent firmness can expect a harvest of peace and harmony within the home.  You will enjoy being with your children and be proud of their behavior.  You will have peace of mind, knowing that you are preparing them as best you can for a fruitful and rewarding life.

   Benefits for them:  A home environment that is characterized by rules that are enforced with love and firmness leads to a sense of security and confidence.  Disciplined children will invariably have better relationships with other family members, peers and ultimately, a marriage partner.  Training that includes teaching about God, the Good News about His Son, and our proper relationship to Him leads to a sense of purpose, responsibility and the hope of eternal life.

   Benefits for God:  By discharging our responsibilities as stewards of the gift of life, we offer God the only thing he cannot provide for himself: glory, honor and praise.

7.  Are you confident that you will achieve your objectives as parents?  Why?  Why not?
    The first parents, Adam and Eve, made a mess of it.  After their own disastrous demonstration of lack of discipline, this couple went on to produce a son, Cain, who murdered his brother, Abel, in a fit of jealous rage.  Surely those parents must share some of the responsibility for that kind of undisciplined behavior in one of their children (Genesis 4:1-14).  Actually, the story teaches little about parenting except that we can hope to profit from the parenting experiences of our predecessors, a luxury the first parents didn't have.

    Whether or not you have confidence in your ability to attain your parenting objectives, success will come only if you have discipline, determination and direction.  We can provide the direction (there have been a lot of successful parents since Adam and Eve), but only you, with God's help, can supply the discipline and determination.  Bon voyage!

    As responsible parents, your goals should go far beyond simply teaching survival skills.  They should include instilling a clear realization that personal choices have unavoidable consequences, and that true success in life means to “fear God” and to do what is right and just and fair.  Success in reaching those goals will benefit you, them and God.

Next: What helps and what doesn't.
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Parenting 1.01 Bible-based Basics for New Parents by Gordon Rampy