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For parents

New Year's resolutions that can change your children's lives

Issue: "Year in Review 1999," Jan. 8, 2000

The fundamental responsibility of Christian parents is to bring up their children "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" using "all the means of God's appointment." If we don't attempt this with diligence and persistence, we have failed as parents. If we do it, we have done for our children the most important thing we can do.There are some practical lessons that grow out of the biblical commandment:

Resolve to teach your children the value of diligent, competent work-of working hard and doing your best. "It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young" (Lamentations 3:27). "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might ..." (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Paul puts the Proverb in a distinctly Christian setting: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men" (Colossians 3:23). I think it's especially important for us to give all our children-boys and girls-experiences of physical labor. If they are called to manual labor, then they already have the experience of it; if not, they will understand it, respect it, and be prepared for the labor required in keeping a house and yard.

Resolve to teach your children the right use of money. They should learn with their first jobs the duty of tithing to the Lord as the first step of budgeting and then the joy of giving above the tithe. They should open a bank account and deposit their earnings promptly. An amount should be agreed upon as "entertainment money"-the money they set aside from earnings for "fun"-and, when that amount is spent, no more is available until the next paycheck. Make sure that they understand that God distributes to different people different talents, opportunities, and financial rewards; that they may not be envious of those who have more or disdainful of those who have less; and that they do not have a "right" to material things. Teach the responsible use of credit and warn about the dangers of debt.

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Resolve to teach your children, whatever their station in life, to treat all others, whatever their stations in life, with respect. In an earlier time many parents aspired to bring up their boys to be gentlemen and their girls to be ladies. That aspiration was not consistent with modern egalitarianism. But the first principle of being a gentlemen or lady was respecting the dignity of all others. If you earned special honor, it was because of your character and conduct, not your title, bank account, or club membership. A young person who enjoyed some of life's special privileges was taught to carry himself or herself with an unpretentious dignity.

Resolve to teach your children proper manners. Manners are not an expression of "snootiness" but a set of behaviors meant to show respect for others and to refrain from giving offense. It's good for a child to know proper conduct at the table, especially on special days and when there is company. It's important to know how and when to show respect for a woman or one's elders. We do not have to use formal manners all the time, but we should always have them at our disposal. It's a disservice to a child to send him or her out into the world without the knowledge and experience of manners and without the wisdom to know when to use them.

Resolve to teach your children proper dress for different occasions. I'm referring not to modesty, but to appropriateness. No young person should reach adulthood thinking that dress doesn't matter. He or she should know how to dress for work or church, for wedding or funeral, for graduation or theater.

Resolve to teach your children to read, speak, and write the English language. There are some children who, through no fault of their own, are unable to learn these things, but there are many, many more who do not know proper usage, grammar, and punctuation because their parents and teachers won't teach them. We should always have at our disposal the best use of language.

I know that at 51 I may be showing my advanced years. But I think I'm writing about being and doing our best for God; about having respect for God, ourselves, and people; about serving our Lord and others; about living as sons and daughters of Christ's kingdom.

William H. Smith
William H. Smith

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