Modern society has lost the way to bring up children. Here's what our readers need to know about child rearing.
YOU HAVE seen it — a young mother wrestling with her young children, emotionally exhausted and on the point of tears. She tried to be nice to the children and reason with them. She even tried to bribe them with candy and other goodies if they would only "be good." But they seemed to delight in throwing tantrums and embarrassing their mother in public. Except for an occasional rebuke or a slap, their father had virtually nothing to do with the children. He was too tied up in his career. So what should parents do to rear a decent, happy, balanced family?
A Plan Is Needed
Part of that mother's problem was the fact that she — along with millions of other parents — had no definite plan or program in mind in rearing her family. She herself was the product of a broken home, and had not experienced or been taught how to rear children. Sure, she had read an article here and there in various magazines written by various sociologists and other experts. However, mixed-up as she was, she realized that these experts often disagreed with one another — and some of them didn't even have children of their own! Again, what to do? First, every parent needs a definite plan or program of how to rear children, how to build the family and how to get one's mate and even other relatives to help. Then, you need to stick to your program. Modify and improve it as you go along. But follow it and build a family of which you can be truly proud. As a father of healthy, happy children — three of them now grown and married — and one granddaughter, and as a teacher and counselor working with young people for more than 30 years, I will set forth many of the principles I have learned, not merely by reading but by observing and doing.
Love, Affection, Encouragement
Years ago, the Reader's Digest had an unusually moving article entitled "The Awesome Power of Human Love." It described how the medical profession found that little babies and small children require affection, kisses, hugs and tenderness in order to grow and develop at a normal rate. Since then, many studies have been made and many other articles written to confirm this fundamental truth. The power of human love is AWESOME. Its effect on people is as important as good food and clothing, sunshine and fresh air are, all put together. Babies and children must have constant affection and encouragement to develop the right kind of confidence and sense of worth and the capacity to feel and express affection themselves. Even though this may seem so obvious to some, it is, sadly, one of the most neglected areas of child rearing. As parents, each of us must learn to hold, kiss, cuddle and encourage not only our babies but our younger children as well. The habit of touching, hugging and physically expressing affection to our children is something one should never outgrow! Yet how many parents have been emotionally crippled in this respect? Men too often have been taught to be the strong, silent types. By example and inference, males in the English-speaking world were taught that it is not proper for he-men to kiss and cuddle their young children — especially their boys. Perhaps we do not realize that for centuries it has been customary for countless millions of fathers in the Middle East and in the Latin world to kiss and/or embrace even their grown sons!
Express Your Love
So all you fathers and mothers alike, learn to regularly hug and kiss your young children. Take them in your arms and hug them when you come home from work. Play with them, teach them, read to them while they are sitting on your lap, and then hug them and kiss them again as you put them to bed. Tell them: "Mommy and Daddy love you. We are proud of you. Mommy and I are very glad to have a little boy (or girl) like you." With such love and encouragement, your children will literally bloom like beautiful flowers before your eyes. For your love and assurance and the sense of security it provides will nourish them as surely as does physical food. And in doing all this, you will be building a deep bond of affection and trust that will make it much easier for your children to want to respond to your teaching, training and even correction when that is necessary. I have found in my own family that this bond will carry through even after your children are married and have homes of their own. Always let your children know that you will love them and try to help them no matter what. You may disapprove or even strongly correct them for the genuine mistakes they will certainly make. But that does NOT change the underlying love and affection you will always feel for them. Knowing this, a child's self-esteem, confidence and sense of worth are strengthened immeasurably. He (or she) can then respond to the turbulent problems of life with a quiet strength. Such a child can also give love and security and understanding to others because he has experienced it himself.
Teaching and Training
How many countless hours will a horse trainer spend teaching his mount various tricks and maneuvers? Have you ever noticed the self-discipline and patience that most animal lovers have when working with a show horse, a pointer, setter or prize-winning canine of whatever breed? What about our own children? The little human beings that come out from our own bodies? The adults and leaders of tomorrow? Unlike an animal — which has instinct — a little child knows nothing at birth. Though a young calf is equipped with both strength and instinct to get up and suckle its mother, a human baby could — without assistance — lie an arm's length from his mother's breast and starve to death! Humans must be taught EVERYTHING. A little child must not merely be toilet trained. He or she must be taught how to eat, and later on what good foods to eat in right balance and why. Children must be taught how to sit and work and speak properly. How to dress and groom themselves properly. How to show concern and courtesy toward others including their own parents. Without such training, they will certainly grow up. But they are certainly not properly reared. And they are probably NEVER going to have the understanding, the culture, the courtesy or the capacity to become highly successful individuals and leaders in the adult world.
Teach Right Habits
Teaching and training your children regularly is an absolute prerequisite to their future success. From early childhood you need to drill your children in the habit of obedience. Little toddlers can be taught to "come here," "go sit in that chair," "now come back again," "bring Mommy (or Daddy) the toy," etc. By the time they are 3 or 4 years old, give them small chores to do. Teach them and work with them in always putting the toys back in the toybox when they are finished playing. In putting the towel back on the towel rack, in washing their hands before a meal. I can almost hear some of the permissive educators saying, "But you'll just make them into little automatons." The answer? Would you rather have happy, obedient, living children? Or, would you consider that if little Johnny (or Mary) is not trained to respond to his parent's instruction, he may simply run out in the street one day against your wishes and be crushed by a speeding automobile? The point is that little children, for their own protection, must be taught to obey their parents. In any number of dangerous situations, it could quite literally spell the difference between life and death. As they grow older — say 10 to 12 years — they also need to have had the whys and wherefores and the reasons behind these instructions explained to them.
From the earliest years, one big area to work on with your children is attitude. Teach them the importance of being responsive to their parents' wishes, of obeying the Fifth Commandment and honoring their parents. Teach them the importance of honesty, integrity, courtesy and kindness. Teach them to respect the law of the land, to respect the rights of others, to love God, love their parents, love their fellow man. Instilling these principles and right attitudes from the earliest years is of vital importance. For these basic principles and attitudes form the foundation on which your child's basic character and his entire approach to life will rest. So teach your child to control his or her emotions, to develop emotional stability and a positive attitude toward life. Never give in to temper tantrums in your children. You should correct them for tantrums and wrong attitudes more than for careless oversight or an accident that did not involve a wrong attitude.
Correction and Discipline
This mixed-up modern society is reaping the whirlwind created by permissive psychologists, teachers and parents. Uncontrolled, rebellious youths are wreaking havoc in many of our cities, schools and homes. Much of this is because modern man has been deceived into thinking that in rearing children it has to be either love or discipline. That is utterly and tragically foolish. In truth, the correct approach to child rearing involves both love AND discipline. For they go hand in hand and complement one another. As cited above, if your little child keeps running out in the street — laughing at you because you either can't or won't spank your child's bottom for this foolishness, you may lose your child in the grinding crash of an automobile. And all the permissive sociologists and psychologists on earth won't be able to bring him back from the dead. But if you patiently, lovingly correct the child for such dangerous acts as cited above, you will be performing the greatest act of LOVE that you could possibly render on such an occasion. Scripture tells us, "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him" (Prov. 22:15). Again, "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame" (Prov. 29:15). If you truly love your little child, you SPANK on the fatty area designed by your Creator — when he or she needs it! And you will demonstrate the depth of your heartfelt concern for him by this action. No, I do NOT mean child beating! I do NOT agree with an adult losing his or her temper and striking a child in an uncontrolled rage! Do NOT injure him. Do NOT lose your temper or strike him on or about the head or any other vital organ. But DO spank him hard enough so that he sincerely cries and is sorry for his misconduct. Then, after the worst of his crying subsides, take him lovingly in your arms. Tell him you love him, that you had to spank him so he would be a good boy, and that you hope he will learn to do better and grow up to be a fine, good man. About this time, the normal child is hugging you back, realizing and agreeing that he needed the spanking, and feeling more secure in your love and your genuine concern for him than he did before the spanking. For you will have broken through an emotional barrier with your child by the kind of proper discipline I have just described. Somehow, after a spanking done in love, a child is enabled to respond better to his parents in a deep, trusting manner. After some months of this kind of proper discipline, the child knows that he has "seen the other side of the mountain," and it is not all that bad. He has experienced the fact that when his youthful tensions and self-will result in outward rebellion, he gets spanked. But the child sees that the spanking is done in love and for his or her good. That the tensions building up are actually relieved by the spanking and subsequent tears. And that you and your child actually feel closer emotionally after sharing this intimate, loving experience of helping a young child get control of himself and grow up. As the properly reared child grows into puberty and the teenage years, spanking will be done less and less. It is all grounded in the fact — instilled early in the child's life — that you the parent are in charge, that discipline must and will be carried out for the child's good if wrong attitudes or rebellious, disrespectful behavior occur. The young person can have confidence in this fact, and in the concern he knows you have for him. Physically, mentally, morally and emotionally, he will grow up to be a more decent, confident and balanced individual because you exerted the effort to rear him with true wisdom, understanding and love. Perhaps you have heard of the intoxicated man on his way home on a snowy afternoon. Hearing someone right behind him, he turns and sees his 10-year-old son following closely behind the drunken, weaving father. "What are you doing, son?" the man asks. "I'm just following in your footsteps here in the snow," explains the boy. How about you? Should your children really follow in your footsteps? Should they reflect the attitudes you have toward your fellowman, your job, your nation and its officials, and toward your God? Should they? The point is that they definitely will reflect many of your attitudes, actions and habits. Example is one of the most powerful teaching tools in this big wide world. Whether you like it or not, your child's mind simply cannot arbitrarily separate what you say from what you do. So teach your children kindness, courtesy and outgoing concern for others by being that way yourself. Help them develop a healthy, positive attitude toward life by building this ingredient into your own life. Teach them honesty by keeping your word — and discussing the importance of it.' Teach them respect for the laws of the land by your example — and then by follow-through discussions on why such laws are important and why we should honor the position of those in authority for our good. Teach them to love good music, art and literature by incorporating an appreciation for these things into your own life and sharing that appreciation with your family. Teach them to love God and to appreciate right religious values by living your religion all day long, and enthusiastically teaching it and sharing it with your children. Sit down and quietly think child rearing through. In rearing your child correctly, NOTHING is more important than your example. Make it a good one!
Inspire to High Achievement
In one way, this next point is partly covered under several of the other areas I am discussing. Yet this area is so important that I want to dwell on it separately, even though your example, your teaching and training and certainly your prayers all contribute to its fulfillment. In his book entitled Reminiscences, former U.S. General of the Army Douglas McArthur has written of how much the high ideals and constant encouragement of his mother meant to his success. Time after time, in various moments of crisis during his officer training at West Point and in his army career, his mother would tell him, "I know you can do it, Doug." Or, "I know you'll do the right thing." As with love, the power of this kind of parental encouragement is awesome. Learn to show appreciation for the talents, abilities and the good things your children can do or are capable of doing. Inspire them to aim for the stars, so to speak — to become one of the best students, musicians, athletes, leaders in their class. Let them know you have quiet confidence in their ability to succeed, and that you are praying for them, rooting for them and will try to help them in any way you realistically can. Inspire them to read the great books, to read about men and women who have been successful in their field. Inspire them to listen to great music, to appreciate the finest in art and literature. Truly, everyone has an incredible human potential. Psychologists say that most of us only use about one tenth of our real capacity. Encourage and inspire your children to achieve much, much more.
Pray for Your Children
Every normal parent loves his own children. Yet, because of lack of true understanding, he fails to do one of the most simple and vital and wonderful things he could possibly do for his children: constantly pray for them. Jesus said, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Matt. 7:7). Pouring out your heart to the Creator and Source of all power, praying, in detail, as only a parent can, for the protection, guidance and success of your children, is one of the most vital things that you can do for them. In this action, you can pray unselfishly because you are trying to give to another person. Yet you can pray perceptively about your child's real needs and problems as no other human being can. Ask God to help your children have a right attitude toward him, toward you his parents and toward others. Ask the Creator to bless, protect and guide the child. Ask him to help you to do your part as the parent. Ask him for wisdom, insight, strength, patience and love to do a better job in molding the precious life he has entrusted to your charge for a few fleeting years in the endless span of eternity. Have you been on your knees praying for your children today? Better get started. And soon.
Build a Sense of Family
A final key to effective child rearing is to build what I call a sense of family into your home. From earliest childhood, impress on your children that the most important unit of which they are a part is your family. Teach and work with your children to love and appreciate their brothers and sisters. Encourage a deep and abiding family loyalty and commitment to help each other throughout their entire lives. Arrange fairly frequent family gatherings with grandparents, uncles, aunts and other close relatives. Let your children know that they have roots. When the extended family is together, encourage talk about the family background and history, the shared trials and triumphs, the lessons learned. How well I remember one of my grandmothers telling about how granddad brought her into what was Indian territory and how the countryside later developed. Many times I heard my father and his brother, my uncle, tell about their youth — the experiences they went through, the adventures in General Pershing's army in France during World War I, the trials they had to endure and some of the lessons they gained from these experiences. For a single parent, or for a family living away from all other relatives, building this kind of family feeling and commitment may be difficult. But moves do occur, changes can be made and reaching out on your part to other relatives and even close friends will help fill this vacuum. The deep sense of belonging, the realization that an entire extended family loves you and cares — this extended family feeling is a precious heritage to try to leave your children. Their emotional security and stability, their confidence, their ability to give and receive love from many individuals and certainly their deep happiness — all will be richly enhanced by a close and loving family. As I have found, even when your children are grown and have their own children, they'll want to come home and share again the joys and the quiet strength of the extended family. This, incidentally, will probably be one of your greatest joys in life. So from generation to generation, the extended family will give a sense of encouragement, protection, wisdom, balance and deep joy, not only to you, but even to future generations. Even in this confused and troubled age, try hard — with God's help — to leave as a priceless heritage to your children the understanding of what family is all about! And be sure to put all these vital principles to effective child rearing to work in your home. It will require understanding, patience and effort, but the rewards will extend throughout the entirety of your life, and to generations yet unborn.