When our children were small, I often heard mothers excusing the behavior of their children with such sayings as: “He’s just a child,” “Children will be children,” and so on. And, of course, it’s true. You can’t expect maturity from a child. Are children responsible for their actions?
Once, a boy tried to throw rocks around eight inches in diameter at our kids. His mother’s reaction? “He’s just a boy.” She didn’t say, “I’m so sorry that happened. I will make sure he never does that again.” No. She just excused him.
Another child stole things. The father’s response was denial: “He didn’t take anything.” But he did, and we could prove it.
Are children responsible for their actions?
The Bible says yes. Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right (Proverbs 20:11).
I don’t know at what age a child is responsible for sin. That’s not what I’m talking about here. In this post, we’re looking into a child’s actions. Children are known by what they do.
Yes, children naturally do things like throwing fits, making small dramas into big ones, and so on. And, they bump into things, spill milk, get themselves messy, and leave toys out. That’s what normal children do. They are not teens or adults. I believe it’s perfectly fine for children to be themselves—while you teach them manners, how to look out for danger, and how to care for their home.
What should we look for in teaching our own children? How can we help them to be known for good works?
1. One of the most important things to teach them is to heed our voices. The Bible says, My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother (Proverbs. 1:8).
2. Teach your child to obey you. Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise) Ephesians 6:1-2.
Our family was picnicking in a narrow park next to a street. A child’s soccer ball went out into the street with a little boy running after it. The child’s father yelled, and the boy stopped immediately, turning around to face his dad. A car would have hit him had he not listened to his father and obeyed immediately. The car actually grazed the soccer ball. The outcome could have been tragic, but the child listened to his father and obeyed right away. This incident was a great object lesson for our grandson, who watched it unfold.
3. Teach your children their good works please you. My experience as a young mother was that it was easy to get caught up in disciplining and correcting and forget to praise. It’s important to do both, of course. Let your children know that their obedience, thankfulness, thoughtfulness, sweetness, and giving please you. Praise these things. Thank your children. Notice the things they do well and compliment them. You’ll see their eyes sparkle. They want to please you. A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother (Proverbs 10:1b)
4. Teach your child to love God. This is the most important thing you will do as a parent. Show your child what it means to love God.
This begins with your own faith. And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up (Deuteronomy 6:5-7).
Teach them what God has done. This will mean reading them Bible stories, sharing your family’s answers to prayers, and making the Bible come to life as you share your own spiritual journey with your children.
I’m a grandmother, and it’s such a satisfaction to see how the biblical worldview and love for God that my husband and I passed down to our children is getting passed down to theirs.
We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children (Psalm 78:4-6).
5. Expose them to God’s plan for salvation. When our first child was very small, my husband and I talked to her Sunday school teachers and asked them specifically to tell the little children—probably around three years old at the time—that Jesus died for their sins and rose again. We wanted the gospel woven into every lesson. Our desire was that she would begin to understand what Jesus did for her. Now, she is a mother. After a move, she and her husband were visiting area churches. One of the factors in their choice was the children’s class. In several of the churches, three-year-olds were kept in a nursery with no Bible stories at all. In the church they attend, the gospel was taught—with fun activities—to all the children in every age group.
Make sure the gospel is also taught at home in your family devotions. You don’t have family devotions? You can begin now. We used to do them at the table after our main meal, but you can choose any time the whole family is together. For small ones, keep it short and sweet. Prayer, Bible story or Bible reading, and that is enough. Don’t make them hate it by having long periods of prayer requests. (I used to go crazy with those!) Change it up. Sing a hymn sometimes. Just make sure your family focuses on the Lord together.
When you teach your children respect, obedience, and to love God, they will be known for their good actions. They will be a credit to you. And, best of all, they will be happy.