Mothers, Teach Your Children

by Mary E. Stephens
May 12, 2019

Proverbs 6:20-22 My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee.

One of the greatest things a Christian mother can do for her children is to teach them things they need to know about life and how to live it. This can be done in a lot of different ways, but I was thinking recently about a couple of specific ways my mother did this for my sister and me.

When I was in my teens my dad was pastoring a small church in western Michigan. Often while we were working in the kitchen we listened to a radio station called Blue Lake Public Radio. Sometimes we were listening to music. Often in the evenings when we were cooking dinner we heard one or two programs from NPR (National Public Radio). It covered a wide variety of topics. Some were more interesting than others. Sometimes we learned interesting things. Sometimes we were so disgusted with what they were talking about we just turned it off. But, the thing that influenced me the most without me even knowing it was that we often made comments to each other about what we heard and sometimes we even had discussions. My mom taught me a lot through that. Many things I'm sure have influenced me over the course of my life and instructed or altered my thinking even though I can't remember a lot of specific details now.

Another instance happened with my sister in this general timeframe. She is twelve and half years younger than I am and I would guess she was between five and seven when this happened. The three of us had gone to visit a lady and her daughter. They were part of the church fellowship we were in at the time. When we went in, the daughter, who was a few years older than my sister, was watching a program on T.V. called "Webster."  The subject that the show was dealing with was child molestation and what a child who knows it is happening to a friend should do about it. It wasn't too hard to figure out what was going on so pretty soon the lady told my mom, "We can turn that off." She knew we didn't watch television in our home and she may have felt a little self-conscious about my sister watching it since she was a bit younger. My mom told her that she wanted my sister to see it because she needed to know about that. I would be a little surprised if my mom didn't have a discussion with my sister later about it to help solidify and clarify what she learned from that episode.

 Moms, how are you teaching your children to discern between good and evil?

Some mothers are so desperate to protect their children from the world and its ugliness that they overprotect their kids and deprive them of the really necessary skills they need to understand what they are dealing with in real life. Some mothers are careless and seem to imagine that kids will just figure things out because they go to Sunday School and church and they don't take time to instruct and warn like they should. Both extremes can lead to tragic outcomes.

It is true that there is no perfect method that will keep children from making bad choices eventually in some way. But if it is because you were either too protective or too lazy to teach them the life skills they truly need, then that will reflect badly on you as well.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

These verses are quoted to encourage parents to teach their children, but I kind of wonder if some parents really "get" the idea of how to do this. It isn't just going around quoting Bible verses for every situation (sometimes ones that are completely out of context, by the way). It also isn't just having family Bible reading daily. In my mind, from observing my own parents' actions, it has a lot to do with teaching children from situations that we meet in every area of life.

My dad frequently pointed out "the why" of different situations to us based on a biblical perspective. He would explain things we saw and heard, situations we ran across, etc. "This happened to that person because they did that." "This is a bad decision because the end result of it will be that." He wasn't always exactly right, but he was close enough often enough to make us pay attention. And this wisdom he imparted was often based on his belief and personal understanding of scripture and we knew it. He gave specific scripture when it obviously applied.

My mom was doing this when she engaged me in conversation about the things we heard on NPR. It was a rather liberal viewpoint we were hearing when they gave their opinions about things, and she was teaching me to discern, to think for myself, to and judge righteous judgment (John 7:24). She wasn't perfect at it either, but she taught me to question other people's interpretations of "the truth" based on biblical thinking. She was helping me learn to think that way without me even realizing that I was having a teaching session. It makes me smile now to think how cleverly she did it.

Colossians 4:5-6 Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

Mothers, ask the Lord to show you ways to do this. If you homeschool your children, as my mother did, you will have many opportunities throughout the day to do this. Don't let the abundance of opportunities make you careless or wasteful. If your children attend some sort of school where they are gone for hours each day you have much less time to invest in this and it is all the more important to make good use of it. Try not to let the cares of life and the complications that attend them keep you from the most important things. Make sure you are connecting with each child so that you know what is going on in their lives and can help them with specific needs and warnings.

I know that life is full of activities these days. Even homeschool families are sometimes constantly coming and going. Listen, if you don't have time to spend teaching your children the life skills they need to follow the Lord, you need to eliminate some other things and make your lives less busy. There are numerous things that are not as important - sports, hobbies, drama, music, social events, even church functions that are not specifically for the teaching and preaching of the word. Yeah. That might sound harsh. We have been led to believe that some of those things are very important. But, as a woman who lives a pretty quiet life and doesn't have the time or strength to do all the things I see other people doing, sometimes I'm deeply saddened in my heart about the truly important things that are being neglected in favor of constant busyness.

Listen, you don't prove your worth in life be doing lots of things. If that's the standard you are teaching your children, you are failing them. If you can't slow down enough to teach your kids the most important things, you have too much going on. It's time to re-evaluate some things. Maybe turn off the T.V. or get rid of it entirely. Giving up video games of every sort is another "time maker."

Another way my mother taught all four of us kids a lot of biblical thinking was through some of the books she read to us in the evenings (and other times as well). We all looked forward to that quiet time of day when we would settle in and listen to her read out loud. If there was something in a book that was not correct biblical thinking she could stop and talk with us about it. If we had questions we could ask and there was time for her to answer.

Yes, I'm going to quote this passage again. Because I can. :-)

Luke 10:41-42 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

If  you are a Christian mother reading this, you have a responsibility to show your kids what the one needful thing is - sitting at Jesus feet and hearing Him, not running around being super busy with lots of activities (no matter how "spiritual" they seem) and no time to talk. When was the last time you told one of your kids, "We don't have time to talk. Go get ready!" Hmm. I'm pretty sure I've even heard some mother say that at some point in time.

I know. Some kids are chatter boxes. I was one as a child, and still am sometimes. But, if you don't listen to your kids, and if you don't make the time to talk with them (not just to them), a lot of important things will be missed along this short season of mothering when you actually have them under your care.

It's true that you can't be the Holy Spirit for your child. But you can speak of God's word and work to them in a way that will help them learn to listen to Him better. You can let them see how you make hard decisions by explaining to them how the Lord led you and why you decided as you did. You can talk about what the Bible says about various issues of life. You can warn them of the snares of the devil that they will encounter and help them learn to recognize them for themselves.

You are giving them tools to put in their life toolbox, Mom. Make sure those tools will stand the test of time and eternity. How and when they use them is up to them, but be faithful to help them get those tools as much as you possibly can.

At the same time, know that God is not limited by your feeble humanity. He remembers that you are dust.

Psalm 103:13-14 Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

He also has made the immensity of His wisdom available to each believer, including you, dear Christian mother. But, you're going to need to ask in faith.

James 1:5-7 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.

Finally, it is important to keep in mind that if you want to have useful things to give your children you will need to have them first. You can't teach well what you don't know yourself.

Jeremiah 15:16 Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.

graphics and background by Mary Stephens
Posted May 2019. C.A.