By Doug Reynolds, Head of School
Raising children, in many ways, is a matter of helping them grow into people who can develop and sustain healthy, mature relationships. While this may seem obvious when it comes to coaching our children as they navigate the increasingly complex waters of friendships with peers, it is also important to cultivate their relationships with other aspects of life, including various subjects, authors, and texts. My wife, Julie, and I have found this process to be one that is not instantaneously achieved – perhaps similar to getting our children to eat healthy food. They may prefer the good tasting chicken nuggets over a healthier option. But over time their tastes have been cultivated as we consistently put really good food in front of them (and remove the options of solely eating other junk or comfort foods).
The process has been similar to developing their taste for good literature. Systematically providing well written, classic children’s books over time has resulted in favorite authors and the desire to read and reread beautifully written texts. They have formed relationships with these texts and with the authors. They become part of our ongoing conversations in daily life. Again, this doesn't just happen overnight but is cultivated over a long period of time and requires placing the right books in front of them (and avoiding others that might be more tempting, but ultimately less satisfying).
We have all heard the expression that life’s lessons are more easily “caught” rather than “taught.” That’s also true when it comes to cultivating good taste in our children. They need to see us reading good literature (and eating our vegetables); they need to hear us get excited about re-reading a Dickens' novel for the sixth time; they need to hear us read aloud to them the very books we want them to read.
These habits of cultivating good relationships with ideas and authors also apply to the Bible, as this relationship directs our view of all other texts. As parents who are followers of Christ, what more do we want in our children than to have them eager to read and meditate on the ultimate text – God’s Word? We should keep in mind, though, that this desire is not something that develops overnight, but is a process developed over years. However, it is never too late to start.
In his book Age of Opportunity, Paul Tripp writes, "Everything we learn from Scripture should be attached to a biblical system of thinking." He then provides a list of helpful questions for us to ask ourselves and our children when we read the Bible aloud with them (try these with the Clapham Bible Curriculum):
- What does this passage teach us about God, his character, and his plan?
- What do we learn about ourselves, our nature, our struggle, and the purpose of our lives?
- What does this passage teach us about right and wrong, good and bad, and true and false?
- What instruction is here about relationships, about love, authority, etc.?
- What does this passage teach us about life, its meaning and purpose?
- What does this passage teach us about the inner man, the heart and how it functions?
- What have we learned from this passage that would guide the way we live and make decisions?
- How does this passage help us understand and critique our culture?”
What I love about these questions is that they help us consider the relationships that Scripture points to: relationships with God, his Word, others, and ourselves. Seeing our children develop a relationship with great texts finds its ultimate satisfaction in seeing them eager to carry on a lifelong relationship with the Bible itself.
Our own children this year, without any prompting, decided to read through the Bible in 2011. We see them reading it in the morning on their own and discussing it together periodically at the dinner table. It’s a joy to hear them talking about the instructions the Lord gave to Moses in Leviticus about the ephod the high priest was to wear, or the colors of their garments and asking questions about how that compares to the color of the Lord’s robes in heaven. These are priceless discussions that have eternal value in the here and now, helping our children grow in relationship with not only God and His Word, but others by extension.