A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Josefa Peter on five things she did not need to teach her children got me thinking about what were the 5 most important things we taught our four children.
Josefa Pete speaks about the wonderful value of grandparents and aunts and friends who teach children a wide range of activities which in parent's busy lives which they do not have the spare time to do so. In her case these included riding a push bike without training wheels, playing chess, baking cup cakes and the like.
This gave rise for me to ask a serious question – if I were asked to list the five most important things to teach a pre-schooler that would stand by them in life, what might that list entail.
Deuteronomy 6 certainly gives Christians and Jewish parents a guide as to such a list. The Proverbs too are helpful illustrating the dangers and pitfalls of going down this or that path that leads directly to trouble.
The modern world might consider an entirely different list associated with future career paths and being one-up on the rest when the little darlings start school. These might include becoming computer literate, the camera utility on the mobile phone, even programming developing IT games.
None of these are not as farfetched as one might think. As I travel a great deal as a missionary and being observant, I am no longer surprised to see little ones playing on a 'tablet' – there are many educational apps today such as placing blocks into shapes and the such like.
Little boys are inclined to want to do 'dad things' and when dad is in the tool shed – workshop, it is not uncommon to see little boys doing their wood working thing (or whatever). This would undoubtedly be on the 'practical dad's' list.
Likewise little girls. My wife had each of our three girls when little, annoying her endlessly as she prepared the ingredients making slices and cakes and whatever else. None of this is strange or odd even in our era where little girls we're told should be learning to handle a chain saw and be on the roof securing a solar hot water system.
Our eldest is now 35 and our youngest of four is 24, so it has been some time since their pre-school years as to what we considered to be important for their little hearts to digest for their future well-being.
Now that we have grand-children in this age bracket, some of this has returned but we're discovering that very different agendas apply today. When I was little, now that's a long time ago, my grandparents were quite certain that children were to be seen and not heard.
My wife and I didn't want to return to that family scenario with our children, so there was some give and take but there was a clear demarcation line when following the rules objectified the outcome.
What I see today across the board is this strange idea where a parent negotiates with a child. The child is treated like a little adult where this is weighed against another pathway, there I an endless discussion on what clothes and shoes to wear, what food might be eaten, and on and on it goes.
Back when our children were little, the clear rule was that mummy knew what their little tummy's could take to continue to be healthy and well. That was what was on the plate, that is what was eaten. This was Rule No1 for meals and if that was dared to be breached, revert to this same Rule No1. Each families developed their own set of rules and everyone seemed to survive and thrive.
The 5 most important
Now comes crunch time, to reflect back (on the one hand) and also to consider what is happening today (on the other hand), as to what are the most important 5 things to teach pre-schoolers.
This is my list for pre-schoolers -
Encourage them to tell Jesus about their day and to thank Jesus for their life.
Encourage their imagination with you telling imaginative stories with an eye for the miraculous
Wherever you go, take the time to explain what they are seeing or experiencing with an eye of faith
Laugh a lot and encourage them to laugh at funny things and at themselves as this is sign of true humility
Encourage respect for each person as that initiates love with integrity and ultimately a maturing heart for evangelism.
There's my five!
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html