We home educate our children because we want them to adopt our faith and values as well as succeed in life. Taking time to give specific guidelines builds toward that goal. If a child doesn’t follow instructions, there’s an additional benefit.

An Added Bonus

We tend to confront disobedience with reprimand or ask, “Why did you do that?” Either approach immediately puts a child on the defensive. However, if we’ve given instructions, we can say, “What did I ask you to do?” Answers to that simple question can reveal lack of understanding.

A friend, Paul, had bedtime prayers with his young daughter. One night after Susannah prayed, he instructed her to begin her prayers with thanksgiving instead of making requests. The next day, he went on a trip. When he returned, just as in the past, she began with, “Dear God, bless Mommy, and Daddy, and...”

He said, “Susannah, how did I ask you to start your prayers?”

“Oh, yeah,” she said. “Ummm. Was it with Halloween?”

Susannah heard her father’s request, but she didn’t know “thanksgiving” was an expression of gratitude. She thought it was a vacation!

The question “What did I ask you to do?” gave opportunity to hear her lack of understanding.

Further Bonuses

If a child understands but does not obey, rather than reprimand, ask, “Can you help me understand why you didn’t do what I asked?” The question puts responsibility for obedience on the child without placing blame.

The question gives opportunity to learn if there is a legitimate reason for noncompliance. If your spouse had told him to do something different, it is good to have shown trust, rather than having blamed. However, if the child is guilty of willful disobedience, he/she will indict him/herself if answers show noncompliance without a reason.

If we constantly correct our children and rein them in, we focus on negative behavior and tend to address only external actions. It instills negative self-image and doesn’t build character or relationship. In time, the child will resist.

On the other hand, if day by day we take time to prepare our children for things they face, it will build confidence to embrace life. If we correct them without judgment and blame, they will not be as quick to resist us. If we consistently communicate a desire to help them succeed, they’ll learn to welcome our input, and it will also build our relationship with them.

Train Up Your Child  

One of the definitions for train in Proverbs 22:6 is “to initiate.” As we train our children, we initiate them for life. It is quicker, easier, and more productive to initiate correct performance than to change unacceptable behavior. Instruction and guidelines help children start on the right path—thus helping them succeed in the situation at hand and in the life ahead of them. The initial investment of time and attention is well worth the reward.

As we communicate expectations, we join our children in anticipation of coming events. It helps them be successful in new or difficult situations, thus preparing them for success in life.

When we seek activities to teach Godly character, we tend to get complicated and think of a planned activity or program. However, we can encourage character and relationship if we simply look from our children’s perspective and give guidelines to help them be successful in daily situations.  

Kay Camenisch, a pastor’s wife, has four children and eleven grandchildren. She began to homeschool in 1989. Besides articles and dramas, she also writes devotions for cbn.com. Her search to help couples find freedom from anger led to the publication of Uprooting Anger: Destroying the Monster Within, a transformational Bible study that addresses the roots of anger.

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

Publication date: September 27, 2013