This article gives practical guidelines for parenting younger children, those aged six to twelve. The author promotes teaching children the principles of the Christian life and giving them catechism instruction

Source: The Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth, 2004. 3 pages.

The Duties of Parents: Younger Children

In this article we indicate how parents ought to give their children religious instruction from their sixth to their twelfth year, and beyond.

Rehearse with them questions concerning the knowledge of divine truth until they can answer them correctly and completely. Explain every question and every answer to them until they begin to understand them to some degree.

Then let them commit the articles of the faith and the Ten Commandments to memory. Explain these articles and commandments to them in private conversation. In this manner, then, you shall explain to them what they must believe, and tell them what they must desire and ask for and what they must do — the first, from the Apostles’ Creed, the second from the Lord’s Prayer, and the third from the Ten Commandments.

Although their ability to remember is usually greater than we think, you must nevertheless be careful that you do not overload them. What they cannot learn in one year, let them do in the following one. Be aware that there is definitely a difference between the memory and the intellect of children, but do let them consistently learn more, so that you do not say it is enough. Throughout all the years of their youth they must continue to learn more, and even then they must not stop learning, though then they should be somewhat able to teach themselves. It is wrong, however, for you to neglect religious instruction as long as they are in your house or under your supervision.

Let them memorize a clear, brief, and succinct catechism about the basic points of divine truth. Let that be within their reach as the foundation of all further instruction. Let them recite these truths repeatedly and retain them thoroughly.

Clearly explain these questions and answers to them, one after the other, until you can tell that they understand to some extent what they are reciting. The ideas must be explained to the children until you can tell from their speech that they know and understand what they say.

After that, let them also memorize proof-texts from Scripture. In that connection make clear what each text proves, then let them demonstrate that they understand what the text proves.

Reserve sometime in the week, not only to go over questions with them but also to catechize apart from them about the fundamental doctrines of truth, a process in which you question them about matters at their level of understanding. Particularly on the Lord’s Day you ought to reserve some time for that purpose. If you do, then begin with a prayer to God to bless this instruction, to open the mind of the child or the children, to reinforce the memory, and to sanctify the heart in the truth so that it may be evident that catechism instruction about the basic doctrines of the truth is an important matter about which we have to pray to God for good fruit.

Because the children also receive catechetical instruction in school and in church, you should also have them learn the Heidelberg Catechism by heart. Talk about it with them every Lord’s Day after a part of it has been explained by the preachers. Let them recite those questions and give them some instruction by explaining the Lord’s Day in question.

Further, tell them the great Bible stories, one after another, with great seriousness and instill them in their memory by rehearsing them repeatedly until they know them. Because stories easily stick in the memory, you should ask them the next time, when you tell them another story from the Bible, whether they still know the preceding one. Thus you must repeatedly treat all the biblical stories, for along with the stories they also readily learn the topics. Be sure to teach the simple sto­ries first and only then those that are more difficult. Do not, however, neglect to teach all of them in due time.

You must bring every Bible story home to them by adding an application that fits their outlook. They must not entertain the histories as mere stories, but they should realize from the start that they can learn something good from them for their instruction in godliness.

Let them also read the stories you have told them in the Bible itself, and then have them give an account of what they have read there. When you are sitting by them and engaged in doing something, let them tell one or another Bible story. Ask them how this or that turned out with one or another character; if something is miss­ing in their account, then complete it to aid their memory.

Also talk with them about the history of the church, about the persecutions and oppressions that God’s children have suffered for the sake of the truth since the days of the apostles, partly at the hands of heathens and partly at the hands of the papists. In that connection tell them in particular about certain martyrs and persecutions, all with deep earnestness.

Therefore, in addition to the Bible let them also read especially in the Book of Martyrs, and tell them what the most important examples are that they should read. When they have finished that, let them tell you what they have read and remembered. Bring this home to them by making some appropriate applications, either to reinforce the truth or to stir up their courage, zeal, and trust. After all, God in a special way stands by those who lean on Him and are willing to speak, fight, and suffer for His truth.

Do all this conformably to Psalm 78:4-5: “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.”

Have them repeat to you the stories about the state of our country and the church which you have told them and which they have read so that you can see whether they understood them and what is still lacking in their memory of them. That way you can supply the details that have been forgotten, make some appropriate comments concerning them for their edification, and add further explanation.

Set aside an hour now and then to present to them as clearly as possible the errors of the papacy as they really are. Also discuss with them the grave errors of the Jews, the Armenians, the Mennonites and the Lutherans, but do not let this be your most important work. Teach them the fundamental doctrines of the truth and, in connection with each main point of the faith, men­tion the dangerous errors of those who are outside. Do this on the basis of texts which substantiate the truth.

Let them read God’s Word daily and make them remember something of it. Let them give an answer to your questions, or let them ask questions about what they do not understand. The same applies to family devotions. When the Word of God is read there, prevail upon them to remember something that is for their benefit. Let them ask something they have not understood, or offer an application of what has been read. In this connection, be pleased with their imperfect but sincere efforts. Do not embarrass them in the presence of others on account of their ignorance, except when they expressly and deliberately refuse to learn anything.

When they attend church, let them not only remember a few things to take home with them, but, while they are in church, let them take notes, as much as possible, of the sermons. Teach them how to distinguish the different parts of the sermon: the introduction, the division of the material, the explanation of the text, the teaching that flows from it, the proof-texts, the course of the argument, and the application. Show them how the application is designed to rebuke, to warn, to examine oneself (at this point the marks of genuineness are usually treated), to comfort, to admonish and exhort, in which connection the grounds for mercy and the means of grace come up.

Let them commit to memory, in whole or in part, a number of particularly important chapters from God’s Word. Repeatedly read these chapters to them and clearly indicate the great, sweet, and profitable things recorded there. You might include, for example, the following chapters: Isaiah 12, 26, 27, 54 and 55; Matthew 5 and 25; John 14, 15, and 16; Romans 8 and 12; Ephesians 1, 5, and 6; Colossians 3 and 4; 1 Thessalonians 5; Revelation 2, 3, and 15.

In particular, let them commit to memory much of the material in the Proverbs of Solomon, because those proverbs are short, clear, and full of meaning. Let them read them numerous times and have them frequently read during your family devotions, and also add a few words of explanation and application. From each chapter of Proverbs I will list a few verses which you could have them learn or write down in a notebook: Proverbs1:20-33; 2:1-8; 3:11-18; 4:14-20; 5:21,22,23; 6:16-20; 7:1-4; 8:13-21; 9:4-11; 10:19-24; 11:17-25; 12:1-5; 13:24, 25; 14:25, 26, 27; 15:8-13; 16:1-9; 17:13-17; 18:10-19; 19:13-18; 20:9-14; 21:1-4; 22:1-6; 23:29-35; 24:30-34; 25:11,12; 26:11-16; 27:1-7; 28:4-9; 29:1, 2, 3; 30:2-9; 31:10-13.

Children must also sing psalms. In this connection it is useful for them to know enough about music to sing the psalm tunes without assistance. Convey to them in all sincerity, from heart to heart, what the psalmist is telling us in the psalms that they are memorizing and what he teaches us, so they may also understand what they have committed to memory and what they sing. Bring up the words of those psalms on various occasions, and show how they can make use of them. They ought to know the following psalms: 1, 2, 6, 8, 15, 16, 19, 23, 25, 32, 45, 51, 72, 84, 90, 91, 100, 103, 111, 116, 130, 139, 145, 146, 148, 149, 150.

Once they have properly learned all the things mentioned above, it is useful and necessary for them to occupy themselves with a more extensive catechism book. By these means they can obtain a deeper and broader knowledge of divine truth and at the same time deepen their insight into the errors that directly contradict them, along with their arguments.

Let them observe a sanctified reverence and attention in everything they learn, recite, and answer when it concerns the basic points of the truth. After all, they are occupied with divine matters. Let them be encouraged, therefore, by your earnestness and reverence to practice a corresponding earnestness, attention, and reverence.

If they learn diligently and well, show that you are very pleased and give them something for it as proof of your love for them, while at the same time encouraging them all the more. If they are somewhat slow and have little interest in learning because, after all, one cannot learn all that material by heart without effort, encourage them with friendliness and gentleness. But if they are unwilling, use your authority to order them to do it, because it is very important to you. Try, however, to make things as pleasant for them as possible.

Add new comment

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.