One of the greatest joys of life is becoming a parent. It doesn’t matter if it’s baby #1 or baby #8, the joy is still the same. (I mean, I’m assuming the honeymoon isn’t over by the time you get to #8. Not that I would know because in what universe would I ever consider having 8 children? I can hardly make it home from the grocery store with the two I have. I applaud you large families. I mean that.) From the moment you know you are expecting, and possibly earlier than that, you begin to make plans about how you will raise this precious gift from God. How should we discipline? Which schools are best? Who will their friends be? Which influences should I encourage or discourage? It is good to have a plan. After all, God says in Proverbs 21:5 that “the plans of the diligent lead to profit.”
I hope that one of the things, in fact the MOST IMPORTANT thing, that you are planning is how you can begin at an early age to share the love of God with your children. While children are very young, they are, of course, incapable of grasping the complex concept that Jesus died as the sacrifice for our sins, allowing us to be made children of God. However, children are capable of understanding a whole lot more than we sometimes give them credit for. There are some simple concepts that you can begin as early as birth that will reap untold benefits later on as children grow into who God created them to be.
It is never too early to introduce children to the concepts that God loves them. As early as birth, children begin to develop the sense of belonging and security. When a parent lovingly holds a baby tightly in their arms, that child begins to learn that he belongs to mom and dad. When a parent responds to a child’s cry, the child learns to anticipate that mom and dad will help when she needs them. Whether a parent realizes it, all of these seemingly natural reactions to their children teach children that they are loved. And when a child is well-loved, it won’t be long before the child will begin to reciprocate that affection to others. As the child grows and develops, parents can begin to explain how much God loves them, too.
It’s never too young to teach the idea of being thankful for what God has given us. Listen, y’all. We’ve been given a lot. If we have shelter over our head, food in our belly, our kids are in school, and access to clean water then we have more than half the people in the world. Can you even fathom that?!? God has blessed us with so, so much. Children can be taught to look around at the blessings that God has given us and be thankful. Starting very early, you can teach your child to see the things around them as gifts and to thank God verbally for them. If they can learn to live lives of thankfulness, they will be less likely to compare themselves to others or be discontent with what they have been given.
Children need to learn early that our authority in life is God’s Word, not our own wants, desires, or emotions. This one can be a little tough. We come into this world with a very me-centered perspective. Scripture says in Psalm 51:5, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” We don’t come into this world full of love for our fellow man and always putting others before ourselves. We want our way and we want it now. We naturally want to give in to every desire, feeling, and emotion our minds can conjure up. The thing is, if we aren’t taught otherwise, we’ll continue on in that pattern of thought. Since this lesson is hard to learn, the earlier we’re taught that our authority should be God and His word, the better off we’ll be. Of course, the first step in recognizing God’s authority is to have parents who teach children to follow their authority. God has made parents the authority in children’s lives, just as God is the authority in parents’ lives. I know this idea flies in the face of people who don’t understand the biblical definition of submitting to authority. Submitting to authority doesn’t mean that you don’t have thoughts or ideas of your own. It doesn’t mean that you have to blindly follow with no say-so in what happens to you. However, when parents teach children to respect the authority God has given them, then it will be so much easier for kids to respect God’s authority later on. The Bible calls it the fear of the Lord, and Psalm 111:10 says it is the beginning of wisdom.
Just as it takes time to learn any new concept, the message of God’s love and His ways won’t be learned in a day. But with time and consistency, children can absolutely learn how very much their Heavenly Father loves them and desires to be their God.
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deut 11:18-19)