Any good parent is interested and committed to seeing that their children receive the very best education possible. I know that Paula and I are very serious about having that happen for our kids.
Here is a a caution as we seek to educate our children. It is a mistake to educate the mind apart from a moral context of character. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is a bogus education. ACT and SAT scores do not tell the entire story, only a part of it.
I think Bob Jones Sr. put it best, “The purpose of education is not only to teach one how to make a living, but how to live”. A wicked person without a moral compass that is very learned will not use his education for good, but for his own selfish means and even to incredible destruction.
It is my personal conviction that the Bible is the most important and practical book ever written. It speaks to the issue of the training not only of the mind, but of the heart. When these two are tethered together it yields a powerful result of blessing and impacting many people through one’s life.
We find this emphasis on education and training in the book of II Timothy. Paul was writing instructions to a young pastor (Timothy) about how to be effective as a leader in ministry. In fact, it was the last letter Paul wrote before his death.
Part of the letter included personal remarks concerning Timothy’s background and what had influenced him to be a great man. It is a very interesting and helpful book, especially for spiritual leaders.
One of the themes of II Timothy is how to effectively educate and train our children, using Timothy’s life as an example. There are four components of a balanced, quality education that especially focus on helping our children learn how to live. These will be the pillars around which my posts will be written.
Having children that are well-behaved, disciplined, and contributing to society is not an accident. It can be done and must be done if we have a chance to influence our culture for good. I believe in academic disciplines and helping our children to excel in those areas, but this is only part of the equation.
In fact, without the foundation of character in one’s life it is folly to try to instruct a student. I would go so far as to say it is a complete waste of time. Apart from discipline there is no attentiveness in the classroom, assignments are ignored, and behavior problems are inevitable. If the teacher doesn’t have control of the classroom, there is no learning environment. It’s a zoo. Teachers didn’t sign up to work in a zoo nor did sincere parents send their children to school to waste their time.
Let me give a personal example. I coached baseball for over twenty years and was very intentional in my goals for the team. My practices were planned carefully, even to the minute and we focused on basic skills to help each person contribute to the team’s success.
The first time we got together as a team I taught them two things that on the surface had nothing to do with baseball, but everything to do with their ability to succeed as a person. Great teams are made up of individuals that subjugate their personal feelings and goals for the good of the whole.
The very first practice I taught them a definition and even had it written on a card I gave to them. We would rehearse that definition often throughout the season so they could remember it’s importance.
What was the word I had them to memorize and learn? It was an operational definition of obedience. I knew that if they didn’t listen they wouldn’t learn and if they didn’t apply what they did hear me say that we were all wasting our time. I was a volunteer and wanted a return on my investment in their lives. And the return I wanted was more character-based than winning. In the long run, those with character will outperform those with talent because of the consistency of their effort and application of their knowledge of the smallest details of the game. (The same is true of any enterprise for that matter).
Here’s the definition for obedience I had them to memorize: obedience is doing what you are told, when you are told to do it, with the right heart attitude. I would divide them into three groups and give them one of the phrases and have them give that part of the definition when I pointed at them. Then I would change the phrase for each group. I drilled it into their minds.
We had some good teams, but I felt the greatest good I could do for them was that at the end of the year that each player understood obedience in a measurable way. Most all of them had never been taught what obedience looked like in a tangible way and a lot of them had never been expected to obey. I enforced it ruthlessly (and kindly).
I wanted them to do precisely “what” I said and exactly “when” I said to do it and to have a “good attitude” about their response. I was consistent with my expectation and felt that most of the parents supported me because I was helping them, too.
The second area that I taught them was to be attentive. You cannot have obedience without attentiveness. The foundation of obedience is attentiveness. My players heard this from me so many times, “You can’t obey if you are not listening”. I told them that when I was talking they were to look at me in the eyes. My desire was that they do the same for their parents, teachers and others in authority.
If I was teaching them or just talking to them after a game in the dugout, frequently, especially in the early part of the season, I would stop and say, “Look at me in the eyes. How do I know you are listening to me?” And they would all respond, “When we look in your eyes”.
I’m sure to some of those boys that I was the meanest coach in the world, not because I had a temper, but because I refused to allow them to not obey or to be inattentive. It was a struggle, but it was worthwhile for me as a coach in order to teach them anything. Better yet, those that applied it will later see success others around them, even those with more gifts and intellect, will not have because of the power of (1) being attentive and (2) obeying completely and with a good attitude.
If you were to ask my children they would say they heard those two things many, many times when they were growing up. As parents, Paula and I weren’t just trying to teach them how to make a living, but how to live.
The coming posts will deal with this vital subject in very practical terms for parents. Here is a simple thesis for my covering this topic: parents educate their children best when they initiate it, accept responsibility for it, and model it. The “it” is primarily character-based training though I think parents can teach their children academically using the same approach.
It’s never too late to start doing what is right. My heart is to be an encouragement to parents. God is a God of second chances (and third and fourth!). There are no perfect kids and there are no perfect parents. All of us are a work in progress.
I hope these words from the Bible will give you some insight and strength to continue doing that most important task God has given to us, to train our children to know and to serve Him.