A child’s mind has often been compared to a sponge—soaking up knowledge wherever he goes. A child is learning all the time through play, school, home, and life in general. His inquisitive mind is busy figuring out what makes the world tick, what happens when X occurs, and why the sky is blue and peanuts make some kids sick. The curiosity of a child can be a very beautiful thing to behold—sometimes, I wish I still had that childlike sense of wonder as the light of knowledge dawns.
But whether you homeschool or send your kids to private or public school, there are some things that a child should learn from no one but his mom or dad. While we might outsource geometry or literature, we shouldn’t sit back and let someone else teach our kids the important things in life. This list is by no means comprehensive—rather, it’s more of a big picture to get you thinking about what your children should learn from no one but you.
1. Faith. The Bible is very clear that it’s the parents’ responsibility to raise up our children in the ways of the Lord (Proverbs 22:6). While we won’t get bogged down in particulars here, you should teach your children the fundamentals of your faith: prayer, tenets of your faith, why we believe what we believe. These are things we should both model and teach to our children.
One way to do this is through family devotions—a time when you consciously teach your children about the Bible and prayer. There are many devotionals geared toward this type of family interaction, or you could simply read passages straight from the Bible and discuss the meaning.
2. Sexuality. Sure, you can let the schools teach the basic biology but no matter where your child is educated, you should be the primary source of information related to sex and sexuality. This doesn’t have to be heavy conversations about the birds and the bees (although those do need to take place at certain stages of a child’s life), but instead focus on the nuances of sexuality. Parents should also make the most of the natural opportunities granted through the media, classmates, family members, and other events.
“Identity/sexual identity topics should be taught at home,” said Amy Nelson, a South Carolina mother of two boys. “While there are many topics that mold a person, I feel that any topic where there is such controversy and confusion should be address by those who love the child most. This is a highly personal topic.”
Take advantage of everyday life to discuss these topics. For example, we’ve had frank, yet age-appropriate discussions about out-of-wedlock births because a niece and nephew (separate incidents) each have had a child without being married. We use newspaper articles, TV shows, movies, books, pop music, and commercials to talk about modesty, love, sex appeal, boy-girl relationships, etc. By asking questions and providing commentary on current events, we can help our kids think through how sexuality is portrayed in the culture and how that relates to our faith and family values.
3. Values. There are things that you value as a family. Among Christians, much will look the same, but there are things you will value differently, such as family traditions, ways of relating to one another, etc. You should ensure that your kids know what your family values and why. One family did this by using a kind of code phrase as in: “The Smith girls don’t curse because we believe in saying nice things to one another.” You can develop your own way of instilling family values to your children but it needs to be something you do purposefully.
4. Love. We love our kids so much, we probably think it’s obvious to them. But the world presents so many different kinds of love that we should make sure our kids learn real love from us. Show them by example how to love a husband or wife. Show them unconditional love by loving them no matter what. Show them tangible love by doing things for them, like cooking their favorite meal just because, mending their favorite jeans and snuggling over a good book. There are a thousand and one ways we can demonstrate love for our kids. Find little ways and big ways to show your children how much you love them.
As with sexuality, we need to counter a culture that equates love with selfishness. By talking about how love works in a relationship, we can help our kids develop a true understanding of love’s power and passion. I saw a recent Facebook post from one mother that used I Corinthians 13:4-8a to help her kids distinguish between the right kind of love and the wrong kind of love by having the teen replace the word love with the person’s name: “Guy is patient, Guy is kind. Guy does not envy….” This is an excellent example of how to help our kids realize what love means.
5. Santa Claus. Whether you believe in the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy, chances are your child will likely spend part of her childhood believing in that sort of magical figure. You should be the one to tell your child the truth about those figures because you know when the timing and messaging is right and appropriate for your kids.
“I recall an enthusiastic Sunday School teacher who announced to a room of four and five year olds that Santa wasn’t real—three days before Christmas. I’ll never forget seeing those crying children streaming out of that classroom with broken hearts,” said Deb DeArmond of North Richland Hills, Texas, and author of I Choose You Today: 31 Choices to Make Love Last. “I do believe children come to readiness for this bubble-buster at different ages. Not all four-year-olds are mature enough to understand the concept, while some eight or nine-year-olds may not be either!”
6. The Right Thing. Children should learn from their parents that it is important to do the right thing in spite of what others have done. If we don’t provide them with guidelines on what to do when confronted with choosing the right path or the wrong one, our children will be more likely to falter.
“A proper response rather than a retaliatory reaction to negative, hurtful or hateful situations cannot be taught too early,” said Davalynn Spencer of Canon City, Colo., and author of the upcoming “The Wrangler’s Woman” in The Cowboy’s Bride. Spencer suggested that one way for parents to model this behavior is while driving. The parent could point out why he chooses to obey the speed limit even though other cars around him are speeding because it’s the right thing to do.
“Children who see the most trusted individuals in their lives following this biblical principal are more apt to practice it. The law of love is ingrained more deeply when observed rather than merely heard preached by others outside the family unit,” added Spencer.
The most important thing to remember is that we should be the primary sources of information for our children on a host of issues. Keep the dialogue open, listen to their concerns and answer their questions as honestly as appropriate. Don’t fear tackling these and other sensitive topics—instead, view it as another opportunity to help your child grow into a responsible, caring adult.
A certified Leadership Parenting Coach,™ Sarah Hamaker has written Ending Sibling Rivalry: Moving Your Kids From War to Peace. Her blogs on parenting have appeared in The Washington Post’s On Parenting, and she’s a frequent contributor to Crosswalk.com. Sarah lives in Fairfax, Va., with her husband and four children. Visit her online at www.parentcoachnova.com and follow her on Twitter @parentcoachnova.
Publication date: January 21, 2016