As the Twig Is Bent

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Are you neglecting one of the most important elements in raising your children? Do you fully understand the one, often neglected thing you should be doing that will give you joy, comfort and satisfaction throughout your life?

Parents usually devote about 18 years of their lives supporting, housing, clothing, raising and educating a child. During this time a wise parent recognizes the need to deliberately teach that child to be employable and marriageable. Judging from our welfare state and high divorce rates, knowing these things is not inherent within children. They must be taught with words and example.

But there is a step beyond shaping your children to have good work ethics and to make someone a loving mate for life. This aspect of a child’s character we are going to explore, needs to be taught from the cradle. It needs serious attention As the Twig is Bent. It will pay great dividends to you personally. It will be one of the best investments you can make in your children. This principle is to teach your children to love, honor, and care about and for their parents.

In this self-esteem, me-generation, far too many children have been, and are, growing up to have little or no appreciation for what their parents have done for them. By the time your children reach their mid-teens they should be employable for a part-time job. After you spend your hard earned money to send them to college, and maybe graduate school, they may be even highly employable and have good marriages. But if you haven’t taught them to love, honor, and deeply care about you, their parents, you are likely to be neglected in your old age. Work, the good life, and other things may keep them too busy for parents who sacrificed to get them where they are. Heartrending stories you may already know that illustrate this. But I hope a couple of examples will make it more vivid.

After a lady’s husband died, she built her home, at her daughter’s insistence, – on the daughter’s property. The widow falsely assumed the daughter was being caring and this arrangement would be good as she neared her sunset years. But the daughter seemed to have her own needs in mind. The widowed mother became her grand kids’ chauffeur, served her daughter at every beck and call, and worked in her business for almost nothing.

As time went on, enjoying success became too important to the daughter. She owned two businesses, her girl was in dental college, and her son was picked for Major League Baseball. Life was too good to worry about her widowed mother. Paying her mother in a timely manner and seeing to her health needs weren’t her priorities. The mother’s Social Security check alone simply couldn’t sustain her. Yet her daughter and son-in-law would head off on vacations, neglecting to pay the mother her much needed small salary.

One of the most heartrending, yet worthwhile, things you can do is to visit a nursing home. While walking down the hall to visit my brother, who is in a nursing home, I see so many elderly, lonely, neglected, and even hurting old people lying in their beds, or sitting in wheel chairs staring at the wall. Often they have nothing to look forward to because no one cares enough to visit them, take them out for a meal, or into the light of day. As the English sit-com TV program is named, they are Waiting for God.

Is this how you want to end up when you’re old? If you have children, this will depend so much on how the twig is bent. If you’ve made home a haven where your children were taught to love and care deeply about you, you’ve reduced your chances of this happening to you.

Children should be taught from the earliest ages to express affection to their parents and tell them they love them. They should be taught to respect their parents. They should be taught to participate in family celebrations and share the planning and work. If there’s a wedding in the family, everyone pitches in to make it a joyous celebration. If there’s a death in the family, children should be taught when and how to lighten the load and express sympathy. They should be taught the importance of going to visitation and the funeral, and appropriate decorum for the occasion. If there is a graduation or an accomplishment in the family, children should be taught to give special honor and recognition to that person.

A child should be taught to open the door for his mother, allowing her to go through first. She should be taught to speak to parents with respectful terms. He should be taught to help with chores. He should understand that parents get tired and sick too. When they do, they need extra help and care. There are times her own pleasure has to be sacrificed so her parents’ needs are met. And this should be done cheerfully. Children should be taught to visit their grandparents. They should be taught to stay in touch with their aunts and uncles, attend family reunions and get-togethers. Create a family bond that no one can sever.

I was at my 94 year old aunt’s funeral last week. She was never blessed with children of her own. Fortunately, her second marriage provided her with children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren who loved and treated her like she was their birth mother and grandmother. How beautiful to see. But even more important is the care, safety, protection and love they gave her. Her life could have lacked this nurturing had it not been for these caring relatives. As the minister said at her funeral, hers’ was a home of love and laughter. No one was excluded and everyone was welcome.

There is a cause and effect As the Twig is Bent. Home carries deep emotions and some of the best memories. It’s like buying an insurance policy of happiness to bend the twig to love and honor its parents.

O give us homes with godly fathers, mothers,
Who always place their hope and trust in Him;
Whose tender patience turmoil never bothers,
Whose calm and courage trouble cannot dim;
A home where each finds joy in serving others;
And love still shines, tho’ days be dark and grim.

The book Ready for Responsibility covers these topics, preparing children for the life ahead, and is a must in child rearing.

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Image Credits: Joel Montes de Oca