KEYWORDS: decisions, lord, children, right, way, decision

Teaching Children to Make the Right Decisions

Karen Zerby

—By Maria 5/89 DO 2533 Maria #96

1. In an illustration on childcare training in a book we just read, it cited the case of a mother who was encouraging her child to make a decision on his own with no help from her. In this specific instance, the mother evidently had no particular feelings one way or the other as to which choice was best. When this is the case, then of course you should let him make his own decision.

2. Most of the decisions that our children make, however, even seemingly minor ones, are important ones because they affect you, they affect the other children, they affect the Lord's Work. One choice is usually a much better choice than the others, & because of that‚ we usually have pretty good reasons for trying to encourage them to choose what we know is best.

3. Even in little decisions like, "What should I wear today?", where we have been taught by the System that children should be free to make up their own minds‚ we often must look ahead to how it will affect our overall sample. Our lives are not our own, we're bought with a price, & we want them to learn as we are learning, that every decision is important & needs to be what the Lord wants.

4. In other words, almost everything our children do, they're doing it for the Lord.—Either as part of their growing up & learning to be mature, or for the Lord's Work & to be a good sample to others. Everything is geared towards that goal of helping them be good samples. So almost all of their decisions are important & have an effect on the Family as a whole.

5. Of course, we can & should encourage them to decide what clothing to wear—unless they're going out busking or participating in some public ministry, in which case we probably would need to guide them. But when we must add our voice, we can still be teaching them to make decisions, not just dictating to them our answers & choices. We can make them think things out by asking questions: "How would the people there prefer to see you? How would you be a better sample?" You can guide them by questions, & help them make the right decision.

6. Unlike the System, we're not only concerned with them feeling good about themselves: "You do what you would like to do. You do what you feel comfortable with," because we have goals in mind. We're training them to be able to choose what's best for the Lord & His Work.—Not just to make them feel comfortable with themselves & able to logically & rationally choose one thing over another. And furthermore‚ even above making decisions for themselves, we're trying to teach them the importance of yielding to having decisions made for them. In our Family, they have to get used to yielding, like we all do, to someone else's decisions‚ most of all the Lord's.

7. In our Family Homes, everyone can help in the decision-making, but usually the Lord's Work dictates the decision, so that everyone more or less just has to roll with it. Most decisions are more or less made for you. As a body, you don't operate independently, & no one has the luxury of consistently making their own decisions—especially the children.

8. But at the same time we are also trying to equip our children to be able to make decisions when they have to. We certainly should let them make their own decisions where we can‚ & at the same time help them to arrive at the right ones.—Not just say, "OK, I'm not going to say anything to you. What do you feel? What do you think?"—Without giving them any help or spiritual guidance along the way.

9. However, when we do give guidance, often we are too heavy-handed in our dealing with our kids & we don't give them enough leeway. Instead of dictating & laying down the law to them, we should try to lead them by questioning.

10. They need our guidance because they're not yet old enough to have gained the experience that we have, nor do they have enough of the Lord's Word or His principles, nor do they always know how the Lord works in different situations. Most of the time there is a right & a wrong, a black & white, a yes & no or a better & best decision to make. However, we need to try to refrain from laying down the law, "Here it is & this is it!", & try rather to guide them to come to that conclusion themselves. Then if they still make the wrong decision, if it's that important‚ you might have to lay down the law, but at least you've given them a chance to agree.

11. That's the way Dad does it. If he knows he's right & something is the Lord's Will, there just isn't any other option. There isn't any leeway. However‚ he starts from the very beginning‚ explaining to you why, helping you to arrive at the same conclusion with him. You see he's right & you want to agree. It's like you start saying "yes, yes" & you keep saying "yes" all the way, & you finally get to the same conclusion—the right conclusion that you should come to. He is helping you to make the right decision. But there is no other choice. He is not going to let you decide on your own to do something else or come to a different conclusion, since it would be displeasing to the Lord.

12. He knows what the correct answer is when he starts, & he's helping you to arrive at that same correct answer, & he won't countenance any other answer because he knows it would be the wrong answer. He stays with you until you understand & are convinced in your own mind.

13. The way Dad does it is exactly the way it should be done. I think he has given good examples of that in many of the Letters—how he starts out asking questions & starts out leading you to say, "Well, yes‚ that's true." And "Yes, if that is true then isn't this true?" "Yes." "And if this is true, this must also be true!" "Yes." And you agree.

14. So I think that's the way we as parents should do it. Dad's definitely controlling the whole situation & guiding you to think a certain way. But because he knows that's the right way, why should he not do it? The System's way is ridiculous!—They're so afraid of being accused of making their kids think a certain way, or they're so afraid the kids won't be able to think for themselves, that they let them think what they want to think, even if it's the wrong thing! But remember, you can't just dictate to them; you must lead them into it step-by-step and get them to decide on their own that what you're saying is right and that they want to believe it, too.

15. First of all, even before your guidance in the form of questions, you have to listen. You should listen & say nothing for awhile, but then when it comes to "active listening," when it comes to participating yourself, you should try to guide at the same time. In the case in this book, the mother first listened to her child. She said, "I just decided not to tell him what to do."

16. I think in our situation we would say to our children, "What do you think are the pros & what are the cons?" If he doesn't know‚ you would want to help him by saying, "Can you see that on this side are these different points? And on that side are those. What do you think the positives are? And what are the negatives? What reasons would there be for continuing your class? What reasons would there be against it?" I think you would ask them some questions to help them consider all that's involved in the decision they're about to make.

17. We have an even greater interest in helping our children make the right decisions than does the System. The System emphasises helping them make decisions; we emphasise helping them to make the right decisions. The System does it to help the child to become a well-adjusted citizen in today's society. Whereas we're doing it for a much more important reason than that.

18. We want him to be a well–adjusted citizen of our society, but we also want him to be a full-fledged 100% dedicated leader for the Lord!—And that has a much greater importance. We're playing for a lot higher stakes than the Systemites! So our guidance is much more important, because we know that we're giving the Lord's guidance. We have a Message from the Lord for our children & we know what the Word says & it is our duty to teach it to them.—And if we fail to do that, then we are failing them!

19. The System has some good things to say to their children from their wisdom & experience. But it's minuscule compared with what we have, because we're giving them the Lord's Words & the Lord's principles!—And we've got to do it, no matter what. That's our job! We're responsible to give it to them!

20. The problem usually comes in how we do it. Sometimes we push it down their throats, & of course with that method we'll see negative results. Or we can try to get them to see our viewpoint by getting them to agree with us from the beginning & leading them into it. The problem isn't that we give them lots of counsel & instruction & direction. We need to do that. But we need to learn to do it more acceptably, so they can agree more readily with it, without feeling that we're constantly nagging them or shoving it down their throats.

21. We're going to have to try to treat our kids like we're selling them a product, instead of assuming that they're going to accept it just because they're our kids. When we go DTD, we are on our best behaviour. We don't say, "Here, you take Jesus! You've got to have Jesus! Here‚ bow your head & pray!"

22. We now, thankfully, have learned a little more & we're a little more mature & responsible, & we try to relate to outsiders first & talk about our children, for example, & about the lessons we've gone through, & answers we've found. We talk about the problems with their children & try to relate to them without acting like we're pushing anything down their throats. We speak from our experience & give our testimonies.

23. That's the only way we're going to get anybody to agree with us. They refuse to have things pushed down their throats, & if they're going to accept it, it has to be their idea! You've got to try to help them agree with you, & think they're coming to the right conclusion on their own, because they're not going to do it just because you say they should.

24. So we should have almost that same attitude with our children, that we're really trying to win them. We should do everything we possibly can to be on our best behaviour & use our best strategy, instead of just hitting them over the head & saying‚ "Here it is! You've got to take it!" Our kids are one of our most important ministries. We brought them up, we've spent years pouring into them, & we certainly don't want to mess things up & wind up losing them after all that!

25. Our older children have had so much good training that many times they will be able to come up with good decisions on their own, if we just give them a chance. If you wait a little bit, & if you don't jump in there too fast, the child is often going to come to the right conclusion on his own. But‚ if within a very short time he doesn't show any signs of making the right decision or knowing what to do, then you need to start guiding him.

26. So I think for us, the most important caution is: Don't jump into things too quickly! Wait‚ don't talk, listen! And then you can talk later. Then you can guide him by questioning. Then you can ask, "What do you think about it? How do you think you'd feel if such-&-such was the case?"

27. Even better, if possible, don't make it obvious that you're guiding them. Like I said to Techi as she went by with her snack on the way to her room: "Would you like me to come in & help you get the stool‚ Honey?" I'm sure it sounded much nicer to her than, "Don't sit in bed & drink your snack. Instead, sit on your stool." In other words, "You've got to sit on the stool instead of on the bed to drink your milk, otherwise you'll spill it all over the bed!" Well, I've told her that quite a few times‚ so she already knows it. So this time I asked: "Would you like me to come in & help get the stool for you? Your hands are full. I could help you get the stool so you don't have to get it yourself." So she was duly reminded, but without being nagged. That's just a tiny example, but it illustrates one of the best ways to guide children, not only into making the right decisions, but into getting them to do their chores or carry out household rules: To question instead of to state.

28. So in helping children to make decisions‚ first you listen & try to keep your mouth shut. They will often come to the right conclusion through talking to you about it, just as we often do when we talk to the Lord about something. But if they don't, then you can start trying to help them come to a right decision, by guiding them with specific questions. (AMEN!—D.)