Our local newspaper spoke of a seminar designed to help parents raise loving, law-abiding, and delightful citizens. That's what most parents aspire to; as a rule we don't start out to raise a hateful, lawless, and bad-tempered child!
The article spoke of a mother who had set out to be a perfect modern parent, getting down on her knees with a rebellious toddler and telling him she understood his anger. Did he want to be hugged? She said she had little success with that method.
Of course, children need hugs, but as this mother found, what was also needed was to make the child understand-even by removing him from his favorite hamburger restaurant-that a bad temper, including throwing things at other diners, was not acceptable.
How can we best help children do what's right and turn away from what's wrong? The Bible gives exceptionally sound guidance. It says that all of us, children included, are made in the likeness of God (see Genesis, chap. 1). Good parenting is really a matter of bringing out in the child what God, who is infinite good, has already given! The Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20:3-17) tell the basics of responsible human behavior: love God and honor Him alone; do not steal, kill, or commit adultery; honor your parents; don't take God's name in vain; honor the Sabbath; don't lie about or think wrongly about your neighbor or covet his or her possessions. These precepts, obeyed, establish individual and collective peace, happiness, security.
The Beatitudes, given by Christ Jesus (see Matthew, chap. 5:3-12), describe the beautiful attitudes and qualities that bring blessings to human life-qualities that we can help children to cultivate. Valuing spiritual inspiration, expressing meekness, striving to be a peacemaker, showing righteousness, mercy, and purity-these actions bring good into our lives. Because they express spiritual qualities that we reflect from God, who is the source of all good, we can see that God is our own faithful Parent, and in turn that He helps us to be good parents to our children.
If, as a parent who is trying to teach the lessons of the Commandments and the Beatitudes, you find yourself quite unpopular with your children, it's nevertheless true that there are lasting benefits to putting their well-being ahead of a desire to be in their good graces at every moment. And praying about this, as Christian Science shows how to do, helps. Explaining the truth of the Bible, this Science reveals the divine law by which each child of God naturally and consistently reflects all the qualities of God, including sweetness, tenderness, alertness, receptivity. Prayer brings out the fact that order, self-discipline, honesty, and respect are natural to children.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote something that helps us help all human beings, including children: "Many are willing to open the eyes of the people to the power of good resident in divine Mind [God], but they are not so willing to point out the evil in human thought, and expose evil's hidden mental ways of accomplishing iniquity.
"Why this backwardness, since exposure is necessary to ensure the avoidance of the evil? Because people like you better when you tell them their virtues than when you tell them their vices. . . . Escape from evil, and designate those as unfaithful stewards who have seen the danger and yet have given no warning.
"At all times and under all circumstances, overcome evil with good" (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pp. 570-571).
Being faithful "stewards" to our children, loving them unconditionally, and "overcoming evil with good" include correcting vice and encouraging virtue. We want to do it because it's essential to a child's happiness. If we really have his or her interests at heart, God will support us as we work and pray to teach, to guide, to correct, to love. To bring out the best in our child. To celebrate all the beautiful, spiritual qualities that are given by God.
What brings peace to families and households is for parents and children both to listen to God, to learn how to ask for and follow His guidance. This will surely lead everyone in what the Psalmist called "green pastures," beside "still waters" (see Psalm 23).