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What Can Parents Teach?

Parents will often ask, “What can I teach my children? They learn math, English, history, sports, computer, etc. from their teachers. I don’t have that knowledge or those skills. So what can I teach my children?”

The Bible answers this question emphatically. One of the most important things a parent can teach is about associations and friendships. In the Proverbs we read, “Hear, my son, a father’s instruction. And do not forsake your mother’s teaching” (1:8). The instruction is about standing firm to do the right thing. It is about not being enticed to go with the crowd or the majority of your friends when they are going to do something wrong or evil. The example is given and the consequence laid our (1:8-16).


Parents can teach their sons and daughters to seek wisdom and instruction. But notice how this is done. The parents explain that “if you incline your ear” and if you “treasure my commandments” and if you incline “your ear to wisdom” then you will come to understand the fear of the LORD and the knowledge of God (Proverbs 2:1-7).

In Proverbs 3 the parents are pleading that their son or daughter not forget their teaching or let their heart forget the commands and advice. Then comes the good advice about “kindness and truth. They are to be worn around the neck and written on the tablet of the heart. And if done, the son or daughter will find favor and a good reputation before God and humans (3:1-5).

Parents need to advise that the correction that comes from God should not be despised or taken lightly. Just as a parent corrects the child s/he loves, so God disciplines those He loves (3:11-12).

A parent should repeat and repeat again with different words emphasizing the value of wisdom and discretion. Never should a son or daughter let sound wisdom and discretion depart (3:21-22). In Proverbs 2 sons and daughters were urged to seek wisdom like it was gold and silver. Once you have it don’t forsake it or let it get away. Good wisdom will give you discretion = good sense. There are so many people in this world who seem to have no discretion. They don’t bridle their tongues, they don’t control their actions.

Again in Proverbs 4 the maturing person is urged to “hear and accept” the parental sayings. And if they do heed they will walk unimpeded and run without stumbling. Wisdom is their life and will guide them away from evil paths. Sons and daughters are again advised strongly to avoid evil people and not follow their paths (4:10-18). Again the instruction outlines the end result of the evil way.


In Proverbs 4:20-27 the parent urges the child to pay attention and give ear the teachings. The son or daughter is urged to keep them and not lose sight of them but to put them in the middle of their heart. The heart is the center of our moral, spiritual, and intellectual life. The teachings the good parent gives are “life” and “health.” Thus the son/daughter is urged to “watch over your heart” (NAS). We must guard our moral, spiritual and intellectual center. We must keep it from being polluted.

We do this by keeping focused. “Let your eyes look directly ahead, And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. 26 Watch the path of your feet” (vs. 25-26). We are urged to watch our steps and to avoid evil.

Proverbs 6:20-23 urges to observe the commandment of the father and not to forsake the teachings of your mother. We are urged to tie them around our neck like an amulet so they will guide us when we walk and keep us even in our sleep. For the commands are like a lamp and the teaching is akin to light. And reproofs – that leads to discipline -- are the way of life.


In the New Testament Paul urged that parents not anger their children. From social psychology we know that people don’t follow, learn from, and imitate those they dislike. That’s why ads are often done by acceptable movie or TV stars.

Paul goes on to write that parents should rather bring their children up in the discipline – which means the act of providing guidance for responsible living –and the “instruction” of the Lord. This Greek word translated “instruction” or “admonition” means counsel about avoidance or cessation of an improper course of conduct in living. See Ephesians 6:4. A companion passage is Colossians 3:21. Here Paul writes to parents to tell them not to “exasperate” their children so the children will not lose heart. To exasperate a child is plainly not fair. For a father to belittle and criticize the child or insult the child when the child cannot answer back because of the disparity of power would cause the child to lose heart.


In Proverbs 7:1-5 the son/daughter is exhorted again to keep the parents words and treasure parents' teaching.


There are obstacles to self-control. One is using alcohol or drugs that affect the mind and bring about addictions. Another obstacle is physical or mental disease that can affect the mind or emotions. Still another is staying in the presence of temptation – a lure to do wrong or evil. But perhaps the most common cause of loss of self-control is anger – the welling up of emotional heat that fuels bad words and wrong actions. The Bible says that a person slow to anger is better than a man of war and one who controls his spirit (mind, attitude, temper) is better than a person who can capture a city (Proverbs16:32).

Teach your children that when they have self-control they can utilize this proverb: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (15:1). A study of human relations reveals that when a person is angrily accused but answers in soft, slow, and modulated tones, anger is turned away or subdued. The sound of an angry or harsh human voice stirs anger in those to whom it is directed.

Teach young men and women that it takes great control to answer softly when another is screaming. Rudyard Kipling captured the power of self-control in his famous poem, “IF.” “If you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you…you’ll be a man my son.”


We are told that patience and soft speech can persuade a hard judge because a “soft tongue can break a bone” (Proverbs 25:15). It is important to teach our children to “cease from anger and forsake wrath” (Psalm 37:7-10). This is because a “hot tempered person stirs up strife but the slow to anger pacifies contention” (15:18 NAS). The NIV reads, “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.”


We read in the Bible that good sense, discretion and wisdom give a man patience and make him slow to anger. See Proverbs 19:11 in various translations. But the last part of verse 11 reads that it is a glory to a person who can overlook a transgression. Some people are so easily offended by anything that happens and they want immediately to defend or go on the war path. But it is a person's glory to overlook and forgive a slight, a sin, a transgression, an offense.

We mentioned above that alcohol and drugs are obstacles to self-control. Another obstacle is physical or mental disease that can affect the mind or emotions. Still another is staying in the presence of temptation – a lure to do wrong or evil. But perhaps the most common cause of loss of self-control is anger – the welling up of emotional heat that fuels bad words and wrong actions. The Bible says that a person slow to anger is better than a man of war and one who controls his spirit (mind, attitude, temper) is better than a person who can capture a city (Proverbs16:32).

The Bible tells what to teach our children. We can teach children that being prosperous or rich is better than being poor in general but that being poor is no disgrace if you work hard and are honest (Prov. 28:6). In addition, teach them that they always need to be open to accepting new information and correction (Ecclesiastes 4:13).


Friends are important in life. Teach children the value of keeping friends and not discarding them. People are to love not to use and discard. Teach them also the meaning of Proverbs 27:10 – paraphrased – don’t forsake your own friends or your parents’ friends. The other lesson contained in this verse is to be friendly to neighbors because a neighbor that is close is better than a relative (brother) far away.


Here is another important thing to teach children: “A good name is better than precious ointment” (Ecclesiastes 7:1). A good name or reputation is what you build through your words, actions, or inactions, deeds or misdeeds, hard work or laziness, etc. Using this principle we need to teach children the value of family loyalty – “Our family name is important and we all must work to keep it honorable and respected.”.


Getting focused on a goal is better than wandering around and not settling on anything (Ecclesiastes 6:9). We can often have several goals in our lives. But we must give focus to whatever one we’re working on at the moment.


“Open rebuke is better than secret love” (Proverbs 27:5). Teach your children that being corrected, instructed in better ways, or censored for bad behavior is better than someone loving them in silence. Teach them that God Himself is a Father who disciplines every son that He loves (Hebrews 12:6).

Teach children the value of being around people who can mentor, correct, instruct, teach, and even rebuke them. The Bible has much to say about the value of discipleship. Jesus had his disciples. Paul also had young people who worked with him. We so often learn from those have experience.

In many professions a person must become an apprentice or trainee. In the process the apprentice is likely to make mistakes, be corrected and learn from them. Teach children that making mistakes is not the worst thing in life. It is a most valuable tool for humankind – we have learned so much from our mistakes. So it is better to hear the rebuke of the wise than to run after the song of fools (Ecclesiastes 7:5). Being corrected by someone who loves you and has your best interests at heart is a blessing (Psalm 141:5).


Here’s a proverb with a lot of meaning. “Like one who takes a dog by the ears Is he who passes by and 1meddles with strife not belonging to him” (Prov. 26:17 NAS). Not only is this proverb good advice but it also brings up a greater principle that parents need to teach and observe themselves. This is the principle of boundaries. Note what the passerby does. He meddles in business or strife that does NOT BELONG to him.

When parents teach boundaries they need to emphasize what it is that belongs to each person. Who owns it? That applies to physical things like hair dryers, brushes, and clothing. But it also applies to intangible things such as problems, opinions, values, beliefs, decisions and the like. Parents must teach and enforce boundaries and property rights.

One of the characteristics of dysfunctional families is their “undifferentiated ego mass.” They all own everything and each thinks s/he has a perfect right to mind everyone else’s business. This is t he cause of arguments and conflicts and even wars.


Another boundary issue is found in Proverbs 6:1-5. Here the parent warns his son or daughter not to become snared by making a promise to stand responsible for another’s financial obligations. And it that mistake is made, do everything in your power to get out of it.

This principle applies to many types of responsibilities. It is important that we not let ourselves come to a place where we have the responsibility but not the authority to do the job. Being held accountable for another person’s actions but not being able to control those actions is serious.

Teens often want total freedom to go, do, spend, etc. but want parents to stand legally responsible for their debts and obligations.


In the light of teen suicides, it is important to emphasize this passage from Ecclesiastes: For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion (9:4). No matter how bad things may get, or how discouraged one becomes, there is still hope as long as you are alive. No matter how difficult the problem or even how embarrassing, it will pass with time and things will be better. “This too shall pass.” God’s loving-kindness never ceases therefore we can have hope (Lamentations 3:21).

But in the grave we cannot give thanks and we cannot praise God (Isa. 38:18). So the message is: STAY ALIVE and this too shall pass.


The two major decisions that affect a person’s future happiness and life satisfaction the most are: work and love. Who we marry and our vocation.

The Bible talks a great deal about these and place two verses together talking about them. The Bible tell is to live joyously with the wife whom we love all the days of our fleeting life (Ecclesiastes 9:9). This is considered a reward in this physical life.

The next verse (10) tells that whatever our hand in work finds to do we are to do it with our might – physical energy and mental attention. Implied in this verse is that there is no work or activity in the grave.

In fact the Bible tells us that there is nothing better than for a person to eat and drink and to find satisfaction in his or her work. This is considered from the hand of God (Ecclesiastes. 2:24).

Another passage tells us that there is nothing better in this life than to rejoice and be able to do good deeds. In addition, to be able to eat, drink and see good in all one’s work (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13).


How do parents teach the dignity of work? First, help children become familiar with various kinds of jobs. Second, when passing workers “at work” point out what it takes to do that kind of job. When you go to a doctor, dentist, chiropractor, lawyer, optometrist, etc. talk to your children about his or her degrees, preparation, education and what it takes to become that professional. When you pass by buildings, or houses, point out that workers had to lay a foundation, put up walls, put in the wiring and plumbing, etc. Let them know that all these jobs are necessary in our society and all make a contribution.

When you walk through a store, point out that appliances had to be made and designed. Do you think you would ever like to design something like that? Airplanes had to be designed in every detail just like houses. As you point out these things you are opening your child’s mind up to many possibilities. Each child will put him or herself into that situation and weigh it against their own talents, abilities, and inclinations.

Explain that whatever they do, it is good to be able to see good in it and, if possible, to enjoy it (Ecclesiastes 3:22; 5:18).

It is also good to point out the lessons of the old cliché – “all work and no play make Jack (Jill) a dull boy (girl).” It is important to have some fun along the road of one’s working life. That seems to be the meaning of Ecclesiastes 8:15. That passage points out the value of having some pleasure in your life. This makes hard work bearable by refreshing one’s mind, body, and outlook. .

We covered the issue of work last time. But romance and marriage are even bigger decisions. Children should be taught that it is not to be taken lightly or entered into casually.


For girls the Bible states that kindness is what is important in a man (Proverbs 19:22). There has always been a worry over daughters (usually physically weaker) marrying a man who becomes cruel and abusive.

But the Bible does state that finding a spouse is a good thing and the one who does so finds favor from God (Proverbs 18:22). But some spouses are better than others. We find that an excellent wife is the crown of her husband – she makes him a king. But she who disgraces him is like cancer (rottenness) in his bones. The same could be said of a disgraceful husband. He either will make her a queen or be cancer to her bones.

Parents need to point out examples of excellent spouses. “Do you see what a great husband you Uncle Jim is to his wife?” Or, “Isn’t Aunt Mary just a wonderful wife to her husband?”

On the other hand bad examples abound in our society, on TV, in the movies, and in the Bible of spouses who brought shame and stress to their mates. Point these out and the wrong behavior that was done. “A wise woman builds her house but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands “(Prov. 14:1). The same can be said for a wise or foolish husband.


One of the ways people tear down their own marriages is by taking their problems outside the marriage to friends or relatives. Every time some bad thing happens between them they run and tell parents, friends, sisters, brothers, etc. They try to get people on their side but at the same time they are ruining the reputation of their own spouse. They don’t even realize that people will wonder about them: What wrong with you to stay with a person that is as bad as you describe?

Keep the problems of your marriage private. If you must see someone then go to a professional who must keep things confidential. Friends and relatives will gossip and spread your issues. They will, in general, not help you but side with you and against your spouse. They may even contribute to the breakup of your marriage.

Teach children that when they get married they need to work things out with their mates. Just as marital relations are private, marital arguments should be also.

As you can see by reading this article there are many things a parent can and should teach their children including practical things like using money, buying plane tickets, dealing with police and others in authority, dressing properly for job interviews, how to take care of cell phones, computers, automobiles, appliances, etc. Parents can and should teach sons and daughter health principles and hygiene principles. Teach them what foods are wholesome and will build health and what foods will destroy health and bring on disease by running down your body's immune system.

May you as a parent always remember: You are your child's primary TEACHER!

David L. Antion for Guardian Ministries