What It Takes To Raise a Child

Bringing a spiritual perspective to world events and daily life.

Whether they are single parents, members of a family, or villagers, many people are concerned with what it takes to raise children properly. A proverb in the Holy Bible states, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6). No doubt, the early lessons children learn are important, and children who learn to love life, or better stated, who do not have their love of life taken from them, usually have happier and more productive lives as adults.

Mary Baker Eddy, who found the truth in the life of Christ Jesus, established a Church with a Sunday School, where any child can be taught how to live the lessons of the Bible. She wrote, "Jesus loved little children because of their freedom from wrong and their receptiveness of right" (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 236). Jesus himself said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God" (Mark 10:14).

To keep children free from evil, we can recognize and honor their receptivity to the lessons Jesus taught, such as those delineated in his Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew, chaps. 5-7). These lessons show the value of humility and meekness, of being mindful of the sorrows of others, and of showing mercy. They whet the appetite for righteous living and encourage peacemaking as a way of life. They honor integrity and purity of heart and motive, inspiring children to stand for what is right when this may be hard. One of Jesus' lessons may be found in many cultures. Over time it has proved such a valuable guide that it has come to be called the Golden Rule: "As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise" (Luke 6:31).

But what about the child who has not been well taught, or worse has had early traumatic experiences? What comfort can be offered a parent aware of errors he or she has made in a child's upbringing? And what about those who seek political control through brainwashing of children? A saying I've heard goes something like this: "Give me a child until he is five and he is mine for life." How do we undo intended and unintended childhood lessons that are destructive?

When I first began studying Christian Science, and became aware of that proverb "Train up a child . . . ," I was filled with despair. It was the time of communism's ascendancy, and I heard much about the training of children in communist countries. It was accepted that by taking children out of families early in their lives, generations could be molded in the way a state thought best. What hope was there for progress and development if any totalitarian government could irrevocably mold character?

One day as I was thinking about this, I wondered if the important phrase in the proverb might be "in the way he should go." I reasoned that the good lessons, the spiritually based lessons, are the enduring ones, because they have the power of God and of the truth behind them. I recognized that at any time in someone's life, the wrong lessons he or she had learned could be superseded. God's message of good, alive in human consciousness, is always able to correct errors that one has learned.

In my own life, bad attitudes and habits I had copied from a loved parent, smoking included, ended when I learned a better way of gaining satisfaction. And today I rejoice in the many good lessons learned from this parent.

As we said, "Jesus loved little children," and it is this Christly love that educators and parents can seek to emulate. This is unselfish love, uncondemning and unconditional. It is love that flows from our nature as God created us, and it has the power to obliterate the effects of abuse and neglect. Christian Science, which Mrs. Eddy discovered in 1866, reveals the power of God, who is Love, to heal us.

Cultivating this spiritual affection is continuing education of the highest order. Children of all ages thrive under its influence. Love is what it takes to raise a child.

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