By Joanne Putnam
We were on our way to the airport. Our three children were returning from a month’s vacation with Grandma and Grandpa in Ohio and things were going great. We left quite early and had made plans ahead to include a couple of errands on the way to pick them up in San Francisco.
Our first stop was a men’s store to pick up a jacket for my husband. We had some extra time, so we tried on a few sale items, then we went next door to the shoe store to see what bargains they had.
The plane was due to arrive at 11:35 a.m. and we still had plenty of time. After all, we’d picked up hundreds of people at the airport, what could possibly go wrong.
We were on the San Mateo Bridge at 10:30, just minutes from the airport, when the traffic came to a dead stop! We sat for a while but we weren’t really worried. We still had nearly an hour before their plane touched down. Every few minutes we would move a car length or two, but eventually everything came to a complete halt.
There we sat, and sat, and sat. I definitely began to get anxious. By the time 11:15 rolled around, I was in tears. I knew that the two youngest children would be okay, but I was worried about our oldest. I was afraid she would panic when she realized we weren’t there to pick them up. I had been praying, but my prayers became more earnest as it drew closer to their arrival time.
All I could think of was `”How could this be happening? Of all the people we’ve ever picked up at the airport, these are the most important to us! Lord, why this time? Why is this happening to them?”
Cell phones weren’t nearly as prolific as they are now and I kept asking my husband to walk ahead to see if he could find a phone to call the airport and tell them what had happened to us. Finally, I convinced him to go in search of a phone in someone’s car.
By that time it was after 11:30 and we had seen a plane fly overhead that we were sure was theirs. Worriedly, I began to cry just thinking of them landing and not seeing Mommy or Daddy there, wondering what they would think.
It was beginning to get stuffy in the car and there was nothing I could accomplish by sitting there crying, so I got out to join all the others that were out of their cars enjoying the crisp breeze in an attempt to air their frustrations.
Just as I got out, the man in the car parked beside ours, spoke up, “Boy, I pity anyone who’s on the way to the airport to pick someone up!”
I immediately spoke up, “That’s us! We’re on our way to pick up our children who have been gone for a month and we’re sure they’ve already landed!” I was nearly in tears again.
At that moment, he turned to look me straight in the face, and asked, “Do they know how to pray?”
When he said that, the Lord touched me in the most miraculous way! Instantaneously, He took all my anxiety and fear, and gave me the sweetest peace and comfort!
“Yes,” I responded calmly, “They do know how to pray!” In my heart, I rejoiced because I had prepared them for this very situation a long time before it ever happened.
In just a few minutes, my husband sent word back to me that he had found a phone and that the children had landed safely and were with the staff of the airline. He had found a kind man who was willing to drive him all the way to the airport should we get separated from each other in the confusion of the traffic jam.
Traffic finally broke and we arrived at the airport at about 12:30 to find three tired, but excited children. The first thing they said was, “Where were you?” The second thing was, “We weren’t scared, we prayed and we knew you were coming!”
What a lesson the Lord impressed upon me that day; the awesome responsibility that we as parents have to teach our children to serve God for themselves.
My husband and I were not raised in the church and our prayer, before we even had children, was “Lord, help us to teach our children to love you and serve you for themselves!”
Unfortunately, we had seen people who were raised in church, but weren’t serving God. They were in the church as far as their presence was concerned, but they were apathetic, cynical, rebellious and callous toward real worship, reverence and service to God.
In the scriptures, we are told over and over to teach our children the faith diligently, and that we do so by example as well as experience.
“Gather the people together… that their children which have not known anything may hear” (Deuteronomy 31:12-13).
“Come ye children, hearken to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Psalm 34:11).
“My son, forget not my law, but let thine heart keep my commandments” (Proverbs 3:1).
“And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (II Timothy 3:15).
Teach Them To Pray
We need to teach our children how to pray and we should rejoice with them in their answered prayers. Our children have seen over and over, the hand of God as he has met our needs. When we were in Germany, Sharon, our youngest, immensely wanted a bathrobe. We didn’t have the extra money to purchase it at the time, so I encouraged her to pray for it. It wasn’t long before one of the ladies in our church gave us a huge bag of clothes. Before we even opened it up, I told Sharon that her bathrobe was in it. Sure enough, there was a blue and white terrycloth bathrobe that fit her perfectly! We rejoiced together!
God still hears and answers prayer. He has never changed. He wants to meet our needs whether it is spiritual, emotional, physical or financial. We need to teach our children how to seek God daily in their life.
Teach them to pray in Jesus name. “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14). God is still a healer, if you are sick, before you run to the medicine cabinet, have your children pray for you that you will be healed. If your children are sick, place your hand on their forehead and pray that God will touch and heal them, ending the prayer “in Jesus name.”
“Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” (James 5: 14, 15). Jesus is the name of the Lord.
There have been many, many times when we have prayed as a family for particular needs and God has answered in miraculous ways. God’s word says that He is no respecter of persons and that He is the same, yesterday, today and forever, so I know that if you go to Him in faith, believing, He will hear and answer your prayers and those of your children.
Build Their Faith
We can teach children to have faith that their prayers will be answered by sharing our own testimony of answered prayers. Many of the miraculous things that have happened in our lives happened before we had children. They have no way of knowing about them unless we take the time to share with them.
Teach them that God is still in the miracle working business. Teach them that He still heals today.
We need to teach our children to love not only others, but themselves as well. We must help our children have a positive self-image.
When our children were little, we used to play a little game around the table that we called “Who Loves…?” We would insert one of the names of our family members. Then we would all cheer and get excited about loving that person. One night, my son didn’t raise his hand when we called out his name. I asked him why he didn’t raise his hand and his response was, “You’re not supposed to love yourself.” My heart nearly broke. All I could think of was the negative self-image I had grown up with and how hard it was to overcome. I didn’t want my son to go through the same struggles.
As a family, we talked about the fact that if you don’t love yourself in a proper way, and you were made by God, how could you really love anyone else? The Golden Rule itself is based on the simple fact that you are to love others as you love yourself. “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31).
These things must be discussed with our children. People who do not love themselves seek to destroy their own body with things in the world that do not satisfy. Satan’s goal is to kill, steal and destroy and that is exactly what he is doing to the temples that God created to worship Him as people pierce, cut, tattoo and mutilate their bodies today.
Respect is not a value replete in our modern society. Radio stations, television and movies are rampant with foul language, lewd remarks and blatant disrespect for anything and everything. Road rage is at epidemic proportions because people have no respect for one another on the highways. Some would rather shoot you than think you cut in front of them and got away with it.
Children need to learn respect for God. He is not “The Man Upstairs,” as some people like to refer to Him. He deserves the utmost of honor, reverence and respect. An entire line of clothing based on the term “No fear” touts the lack of awe and reverence of God that is due Him. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…” (Psalms 111:10). Children need to learn to respect the church and how to act in God’s house. They need to respect the pastor, to respect his standards and not talk about or berate him. You are not teaching respect to your children when you “roast the Pastor for Sunday dinner,” by talking about him and criticizing him.
They need to know how to show respect to their parents, teachers, the elderly, guests, other people’s property and each other. When children are allowed to hit, punch, and bite their parents, they are being taught the height of disrespect. Teaching children to honor their parents is the first of the Ten Commandments that has a promise with it: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12).
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good” (4I Timothy 3:1-3).
We are such blessed people in our country that we often take things for granted. We want our children to have it better than we did, so we lavish gifts on them that are beyond their age in appropriateness or that overwhelm them in volume. Consequently, they often go unappreciated.
Saying “thank you” does not come naturally, it must be taught. Jesus talked about the fact that in the last days there would be a thankless generation. I have tried very hard to go against that grain. I want to be known as a thankful person and I want my children to know how to say thanks verbally and on paper. Showing appreciation and thankfulness for things people do for you should be automatic to anyone professing to be a Christian. Even if you don’t like the food they fixed for you or the gift they gave you, say thank you and find something to compliment. If someone opens a door for you, thank the person. If they give you a cup of water, thank them.
The best way to teach this to your children is to model it. Let them see you compliment people for things they have done for you. Write thank you notes and teach your children how to write them. Start when they are young even if it is simply drawing a picture to send to the giver.
Teach Them to Communicate
Children need to know how to speak to adults and how to introduce people to one another. They need to learn to wait their turn in a conversation and that if they want their parent’s attention, to wait for a break in the conversation.
We’ve all seen the “fits” thrown at the checkout counter by children who think they are going to die if they don’t get a candy bar or pack of gum. I’ve known parents that have succumbed to buying two or three treats to get their child to stop screaming. When you give in, you have lost all sense of discipline in that child’s eyes. What you have done is rewarded your child for misbehaving. The child learns that he is the one in control and that he can manipulate you in public. Our rule was, if you asked politely you had a chance of having a treat, if you threw a fit, there were no treats. Children need to learn that there are proper ways of communicating their needs and wants.
Teach Them Discipline
Today discipline seems to be a dirty word. Without it, our culture is becoming chaos.
Children need to learn discipline and we need to encourage self-discipline. Allowing your children to drink soda and eat potato chips for breakfast is feeding them a diet that will cause undernourished, sickly bodies. Allowing your children to do what they want when they want will cause undernourished, sickly souls.
Teach them the benefits of following the rules by rewarding them. Help them to learn to budget their time and their money. Make them pay for superfluous items that are wants rather than needs.
Teach them to discipline their time. I remember walking into my oldest daughter Amy’s room one day when she was in junior high, and seeing a list of goals that she wanted to accomplish that particular day. I was really proud of her! She was learning the self-discipline that later helped her to graduate from college with a 4.0 grade point average!
Teach Them To Share Their Faith
Our children need to learn not to be ashamed to share their faith. As Christians, we are compelled to “go into the highways and byways and compel them to come in.” Children are not exempt from this heavenly assignment.
Sharing our faith is not teaching the do’s and don’ts of the church, but rather the Love of Christ and His desire and ability to change our lives.
Teach Them Life Skills
Limit the time they spend playing computer and video games and the time spent watching television and videos. Or, do as many families have done, and eliminate television altogether. Encourage them to develop a skill or hobby that they enjoy. Encourage them to read.
Don’t push them to play a particular instrument or go into your field of work unless they show a sincere interest. Don’t be dogmatic, expecting them to do everything to perfection. If they have an interest in the things you do, encourage them in that light. If they like to work on cars or build things but you don’t feel particularly qualified in those areas, find someone who can mentor them in that area.
In essence, give them the tools that will enable them to grow in God’s ways and equip them to be able to serve God for themselves! It may not be easy but in the end it will be worth it.
I am so thankful that the day my children arrived at the airport and Mom and Dad were nowhere to be found, they knew what to do!
This article “Preparing Children For Life” by Joanne Putnam is excerpted from her book, Growing In All The Right Places.