Children are unique beings full of energy, emotions and curiosity. They are the future of any family and the country. However, how` far they will go in life depends on how enlightened and innovative their spirit and mind is. As a matter of fact, their education is of paramount need and has to be done for a better tomorrow. Education of a child starts from home and should be done by the parents. This experience should start even as early as right from the very moment of conception.
According to Aristotle, “educating the mind of a child without the heart is no education at all”. This means that any type of education that focuses on one aspect of human origin and existence can never make a well-balanced personality. From creation, man is made up of the spirit (the breathe of God), the soul (the heart of man or the real man) and the body (a physical container of spirit and soul) (Gen 2:7; Heb 4:12). The mind of a man is however the gateway to the heart. The Spirit of God communicates or connects to our spirit which of cause interacts with our soul not the mind or the body. It is the soul of a man that is answerable to God. This links makes the soul (heart) of a man the centre of life.
The soul of a child determines his behavior, feelings and thought pattern. Therefore, soul education will teach them how to connect with God, love, kindness, concentration, will power, strength of character, truthfulness and other higher qualities which make life richer. This form of education will help and guide the child in decision making and in creating goals. It will also help him/her to stay focused and resistant to challenges. This means that soul and spiritual education trains a child for life, no wonder the bible says “guide your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life, Proverb 4:23”.
The mind on the other hand is the centre of intelligence and technical skills. It teaches them how to study, learn and to be skillful. It determines the capacity and the output of the heart. Hence, mind education determines how far and how successful a child can be in life. It is like “the honey on top of the bread”. It brings out the beauty and sweetness of the soul. However, I have searched and found out that most parents focus more on the mind education than on the soul or spiritual education.
How exactly do Parents or Guardians educate their children mind, soul, and spirit?
Here are some few practical steps we can take to train our children. It doesn’t matter how old your child is, you can start now. Failure to do these will result in personal, family and national disaster.
- Understand that we are the first teacher our children have: When a child is born, the mind and spirit is blank, so from point he/she begins to learn overtly and covertly. As they grow, they try to imitate and emulate their parents. The way we live our lives as parents goes a long way to influence our children’s belief, behavior and attitude to life. This is to say that if you want to educate your child’s spirit, you need to get spiritual as well if you want to educate your child’s mind, get mindful. The problem we have as parents is that we leave the training of our children for others such as house-helps, caregivers, school, church, neighbors and so on. Our duty in life is not just to give birth but to train and educate them until they become what God created them to be. The first education a child should have is to learn his/her family beliefs, morals and standards if you do have one.
- Understand that the home is a school of love: The way we interact with one another, the mutual respect, acceptance and appreciation between parents or as siblings and others are all the ways of teaching our children. Our children emotions should matter to us more than the knowledge of English or Mathematics because, it is these emotions that will drive them into personal development or destruction. A child that does not feel personally accepted or loved in his/her home, will ultimately find it difficult to learn.
- Educate their affection: Affection is made up of various feelings and emotions. There is a great need to teach our children how to recognize their affection, how to identify and name them. They need to understand what they are feeling. We educate them on how to manage their emotions and control their reactions. As parents, we need to teach our children how to express feelings in a positive way. We must help them connect to God their maker. All these will help them develop a healthy affectivity in which feelings are recognized, valued and channeled appropriately.
- Teach them to get out of themselves: Life necessarily requires giving oneself to something. John Mason said that “our business in life is not to get ahead of others but to get ahead of ourselves”. It is important to teach our children to recognize their potentials/gifts and how they can use these talents to affect themselves and people around them. We need to teach them not to settle for less and not to be comfortable in little things. In all these things, we must make sure that they don’t compete with others but themselves. As parents, we must daily give our children assignments and responsibilities according to their age. Give them freedom to fulfill their responsibilities. This will make them feel satisfaction and give them sense of purpose.
- Be present and listen to them: An important aspect of expressing our love for our children is simply to be there for them. We need to spend quality time with them, participating in their daily lives whenever possible. This means that we have to put aside other tasks (or our cellphones) for a moment to actually devote ourselves to them, play with them, show interest in what they are doing, or ask their opinion. We must show that we are not just physically present but that we are also mentally there for them. If they feel sad for a good reason, we should share that feeling – and let them know we do. We must pay attention to their ideas and concerns, and try to respond to their questions, even if we don’t have all the answers.
- Trust and respect them: We as parents need to give our children some freedom so that we can prove to them that we believe in them. Despite the worries that we might have based on our personal experiences, we should not forget that kids are different people than we are. They might succeed where we failed. If we exhibit confidence in them, they also feel confident. ’Warnings’ are healthy but it is as important as to encourage and challenge them even when they failed. By allowing them do new things, we will make them become gradually more independent on us. We need also to respect their desires and wishes. This does not mean that we should treat them as equal before they reach adulthood but it means to carefully respect their visions, goals, ideas, preferences, choices and so on as they mature.
- Be protective (but not too much): If we protect our children, they will know how important they are to us. However, we must be careful not to over-protect and destroy what we are trying to achieve. When we are too forceful, they will probably end up either agreeing with us but develop feelings of inferiority and insecurity or rebelling against our protection. Hence, we must find right balance so that our children feel safe and unrestricted.
- Set limits: Children right from birth learn every minute of every day, so there should be framework and boundaries for this learning process. It is the parent’s role to know how to set limits and create rules. There should be time for everything- time to watch movies, sleep, pray, read etc. our children will inevitably push the limits and test their boundaries, but they will also learn to appreciate them, especially if we are ready to give them the reasons for the rules with explanations appropriate to their ages. Sometimes, it takes them seeing the bad results of not respecting limits either in their own lives or in that of their peers for them to fully appreciate discipline. In this limits, we should remember not to be too restrictive or giving them free rein.
- Be honest to them: we must not lie to our children. They love and trust us, and if they find out that we have lied, they will end up feeling upset and betrayed. They could even think that we are lying because we don’t love them – they might conclude that lying is the way of life. If we make a promise to our children, we must keep it. When it seems difficult to explain something to a child, we must stick to the truth. You can simplify it or use images or metaphor until the child is old enough to understand. Honesty is a sign of trust and respect, and is necessary in a child’s education.