How to Prepare Your Kids for Meaningful and Worthy Lives
- Friday, March 28, 2014
Would you believe me if I told you that I found an ancient promise from a man named Fenelon that can prepare your children to live meaningful and worthy lives? Before I share this ancient promise, let us first look at another ancient promise concerning how we raise our children: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
The root word for train—חנך (cha^nak)—means literally “to narrow or restrict.” The most natural meaning of this word carries the idea of training within boundaries. Several historians have connected this word, train, to the practice of midwives dipping their fingers in crushed dates or figs and massaging the pallets of newborns. This massaging of the pallet created a sucking reflex that caused a restriction in the mouth, which led to swallowing. This line of reasoning teaches us that training up our children requires cultivating a taste that develops their appetite to follow the path God has designed for them.
“Training” our children, then, requires much more than simply providing educational and recreational activities. It requires the creation of appetizing learning environments and experiences so that our children will passionately pursue worthy goals that are connected to their areas of God-given giftedness. Parents are responsible for stimulating, cultivating, and developing a child’s taste and appetite for his or her particular way or bent. Cultivating these appetites is not always easy, especially in the midst of an indulgent culture that lends itself to distractions.
But history provides evidence that we can raise our children to rise above these distractions. For example, when Francois Fenelon mentored the grandson of King Louis XIV, he dealt with an extremely distracted child. When Fenelon became his teacher, this child was so distracted he was considered incorrigible; even leaders in the court were afraid of him! But within a few years Fenelon had taken this child from incorrigible dishonor to the privileged position of a noble prince. When I read about this transformation in Fenelon’s book, The Education of a Child, I was convinced that this seventeenth-century wisdom was desperately needed today.
Fenelon writes: “Suffer a child to play, mixing instruction with amusement: let wisdom appear to him at intervals, and always with a smiling face. Be careful not to fatigue him by an indiscreet exactness.” Always keep in mind that “health and innocence are the true sources of enjoyment; but those who have had the misfortune to accustom themselves to violent pleasures, lose all taste for those of a more moderate nature, and fatigue themselves in a restless pursuit, seeking after excessive gratifications. . . . In this state of frivolity, if a child gives himself up to idleness, which is the vacancy of the soul, [he] . . . exhausts himself into a state of weariness. These children often accustom themselves to sleep one-third more than is necessary for the preservation of health. This indulgence serves only to weaken, to undermine their constitution, and expose them to bodily infirmities, whereas a moderate degree of sleep, accompanied with regular exercise, exhilarates and renders the human frame vigorous and robust; which makes the true perfection of the body, without mentioning the vast advantage which the mind draws from it.”
Training our children in the way they should go requires the influence of attractive righteousness and is a far greater influence than the violent pleasures to which Fenelon refers. I find it interesting that 325 years ago children were being influenced by violent pleasures—hundreds of years prior to the invention of video games! In order to successfully influence our children to love what is good and hate what is evil, we need to separate them from—and encourage them to separate themselves from—these deadly attractions.
Our children will succumb to deadly attractions unless we, as parents, pursue and provide healthy alternatives. I will never forget the time I took a teen on a mountain hike. The vistas were breathtaking. The rock climbing was incredible. But the teen spent most of his time texting his girlfriend. He was so distracted that he couldn’t enjoy or benefit from this once in a lifetime experience.
So here’s a proposal. As a family, consider going on a thirty-day media fast. This means no video games, no TV, no movies, no Facebook, no radio, no newspapers, no Fox News—nothing related to the media. The first week will not be easy. But soon your entire family will begin to experience an unusual freedom. You will begin to do things that you haven’t thought of doing for a long time. You will begin spending more time outdoors. You will spend more time talking, playing games, creating, reading, and building lasting relationships.
In 1 Peter 2:11 we read, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (ESV). Friends, there is a war being waged against our souls. In 2 Peter 2 we read that Lot’s righteous soul was being vexed from day to day by the things he saw and the things he heard in Sodom and Gomorrah. Notice that Lot didn’t do those things; he just saw and heard them. The word vexed means “to be tortured or torn apart.” Our children’s souls are worth fighting for!
We have been given instructions by God to “train up” our children in the way they should go. This involves training within restricted boundaries. It’s time to remove the idols that are so easily accessible and cultivate in our children an appetite for what is good and lovely and just and beautiful and worthy.
Books to Read
Children aged 2–5:
Sanji’s Seed by B.J. Reinhard
Teddy’s Button by Mark Hamby
The True Princess by Angela Hunt
Trusty Tried and True by Mark and Deborah Hamby
Trusty Gets Off Track by Mark and Deborah Hamby
Ages 6 and up:
Basket of Flowers by Christoph von Schmid
Basil, Or Honesty and Industry by Charlotte O’Brien
Ishmael by E.D.E.N. Southworth
Lamplighter by Maria S. Cummins
Little Sir Galahad by Lillian Holmes
Rosa of Linden Castle by Christoph von Schmid
Struck By Lightning by Catherine Grace O’Brien
Audios to Listen To:
A Peep Behind the Scenes
Hedge of Thorns
Sir Malcolm and the Missing Prince
Videos to Watch
Captivated by Phillip Telfer
People to Meet
Phillip Telfer is the founder and director of Media Talk 101, which he began in 2005. He is author of the book What Wouldn’t Jesus Do? Media choices in the light of following Christ and has ministered to youth and families over the last twenty years, sharing at camps, retreats, conferences, Christian schools, and church services around the country.
He has recently written and produced a documentary called Captivated, which addresses the impact of media in our culture and the growing need for discernment. Captivated was awarded as Runner-up for Best Documentary at the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival and was selected as a Finalist for Best of Festival. Phillip has served in various pastor roles over the years and is passionate about family-integrated church and ministry. He served for several years as a co-pastor at Living Water Fellowship in Bulverde, Texas, with Richard “Little Bear” Wheeler. He and his wife Mary have been married for twenty years and home-educate their four children.
Mark Hamby is the founder and president of Lamplighter Ministries, where he serves with a dedicated staff to make Lamplighter Publishing, Lamplighter Theatre, Lamplighter Guild, Lamplighter Life-Transforming Seminars, and Lamplighter Moments Daily Radio Broadcast a reality. It is his mission to make ready a people prepared for the Lord by building Christlike character . . . one story at a time. You can read or listen to the most recent Lamplighter production at www.lamplighter.net.
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the June 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: March 28, 2014
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