We’re one month into our youngest daughter’s senior year of high school, and the countdown is on. Not literally, because I’m not ready to actually dwell on that yet! But in the back of my mind, I know that we’re now looking at months – not years – before she steps out on her own.
As parents, we have a lot we want to teach our children in the eighteen or so years while they live in our homes. There are some practical skills that will come in real handy for them – like brushing their teeth, doing laundry, and driving a car. But there are also character traits we want them to develop as they mature.
Teaching our children truth from the Bible is much more valuable than just giving our opinion or sharing our life experiences, though those can be helpful. When our children are young, we can introduce principles very simply, ideally in the form of a story. Isaiah 28:9-10 talks about teaching “precept upon precept…line upon line…here a little, and there a little.” As they become teenagers, we can move into deeper conversations.
I recently went through Proverbs and found seven principles that our children can benefit from. There are many more in this particular book of the Bible, but these are a good place to start.
1. You need to guard your heart.
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” ~4:23
We have to be proactive in setting a guard. In other words, be on the lookout for things that would turn you away from following God. To me this especially means guarding your thought life. Protect it from sinful influences. This could help you explain to your child why your family doesn’t watch certain movies, read particular books, or listen to some styles of music. What we think about comes out in our words and actions.
I pray this verse daily for one of our daughters, that she will diligently guard her heart. Negative emotions like fear, doubt, or a lack of confidence can also cause infiltrate our hearts and cause us to make poor decisions.
2. Sin makes you a slave.
“His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.” ~5:22
We think freedom comes when we get to choose whatever we want to do. Let’s help our children understand that when we choose sin, it eventually makes you do whatever it wants you to.
Too often we think we can commit a sin once or twice, and then walk away from it, but that’s rarely the case. As Christians, we can get the victory, but it takes God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit.
3. Laziness makes you poor.
“How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.” ~6:9-11
Here are the basics. Work hard. Be responsible. Get rich quick schemes don’t work. Let me just add that as parents, one of the qualities we most value in a potential spouse for our children is someone who knows the value of hard work.
4. Don’t talk too much.
“In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” ~10:19
We’ve all had times when we said something we immediately wished we could take back. That goes back to the old adage of “think before you speak!” And no one likes being around a person who doesn’t have an off button! If you talk alot, something you say is going to get you into trouble. And an easy way to be wise is just to get control of your tongue. (Much easier said than done!)
5. Be generous.
“The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.” ~11:25
Give. Not just your money, but your time. No matter how little you think you have, it would appear abundant to someone else. Look for ways to bless others, and you’ll find that you’re blessed as well.
6. If you go looking for trouble, you’ll find it.
“He that diligently seeketh good procureth favour: but he that seeketh mischief, it shall come unto him.” ~11:27
Let your child know that their reputation proceeds them, even at a young age. Don’t let yourself be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pay attention to the people you hang around with and the situations you put yourself in.
7. Listen to wise advice.
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.” ~12:15
Don’t be a know-it-all! Find wise people to advise you when you need to make a decision. Sometimes we want to be in control and forge ahead with our own plan, but listening to the prudent counsel of others can cause us to avoid some costly mistakes.
Teaching our children these seven principles – and incorporating them into our own lives! – can help all of us have good character and walk in wisdom.