Proverbs 22:6 says: “Train the child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn away from it”. The Lord has given parents a great responsibility: to lead their children in His ways.
After giving you some basic tips to follow to best accomplish this mission here is on the contrary what you must avoid doing in the spiritual education of your children.
5 mistakes to avoid when educating your children in the Christian faith
1. Force them using violence
Children are the most adorable beings, but when they have an idea in their head, nothing stops them. And yes, our little angels can sometimes turn into “monsters” and be very stubborn.
But our patience has limits and when the straw breaks the camel’s back, we can be tempted to get angry and force them by using violence, especially when it comes to the things of God. Yes, it is important that your children go to church and start reading the Bible, but if you force them, you risk disgusting them.
Do not be legalistic but show balance. Rather than coercing them with your parental authority, try to motivate them by arguing, calmly explaining why it’s important for them to do so. Show them that they have a lot to gain and that contrary to what they may think, it is for their own good and in their own interest. Violence solves nothing, especially with children.
2. Not adapting to them
The adult world is a very strange universe for our children. They don’t understand everything, which is normal, and we shouldn’t introduce them too soon. This is why in what you wish to inculcate in them, you must always show adaptation: to their age, their character, their maturity, their sensitivity… Each child is different and understands things subjectively. Not adapting to your child means taking the risk of developing in him a feeling of incomprehension, inferiority or even rejection.
3. Scare them by presenting God as the big bad wolf
Some parents, thinking they are doing the right thing, show their children the portrait of a “big bad wolf” God, accepting no lapses or missteps and correcting us very severely for the slightest sin. Thus, some children grow up with the image of a not very sympathetic God and put aside all the greatness, goodness, tolerance and love of the Father.
When we speak of God to our children, we must paint a balanced portrait of Him but seek to favor His protective aspect: God is good, great, wonderful and patient, but when we make mistakes, He corrects us out of love. Indeed, children have a very Manichean way of thinking: there are good guys and bad guys, none of them.
Thus, if in a couple, it is the husband who is the most severe, the child will tend to say that he prefers his mother to his father because “dad is mean”. If you insist on the negative aspect of God in order to frighten him into walking straight, there is little chance that he will later seek to develop his own intimacy with the Lord.
4. Present yourself to them as a perfect parent
We all have a less than glorious past. Looking back on certain events in our lives can be difficult, especially in front of our children. However, our past can be a real lesson! Trying to be a perfect parent is a good thing, but children never see it very well. Indeed, they have the impression that to be taken from above and that we take ourselves for more holy than what we are.
Yes, you must set a good example for your children, but that does not prevent you from sharing your mistakes and bad experiences with them when they are old enough to understand them. Children must be prepared to face unpleasant situations in which they will be responsible for their actions.
Telling them about our difficult times, our testimony and the way God has worked in our lives is a very good way to teach and counsel them, to draw closer to them and to present ourselves not as a perfect Christian, but as a human who can sometimes make mistakes.
5. Prevent them from making their own mistakes
As parents, we would obviously like to prevent our children from making the same mistakes as we did in our youth. Thus, we often tend to overprotect them by preventing them from having their own experience of life. Our role is to warn them, to teach them, to present to them the reality of the world and what awaits them.
But beyond these great moralizing speeches, our children must also learn from what is called “the school of life” and in the same idea, from the “school of God”. Let them make their own journeys and mistakes. God has an eye on them and will be able to guide and correct them when necessary.
Dear parents, educating a child according to God’s principles is not a simple thing. Our zeal can sometimes lead us to make mistakes which, rather than bringing our children closer to the Lord, will disgust them with it. This is why we encourage you to pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you, to always listen to your children and not to hesitate to seek advice from other parents.