Training up a child for the Lord is not easy but the rewards are great


AS A Christian mother of two sons, aged 21 and nine, I have been richly blessed by the Lord. The older boy is now studying in the United States, while the younger one is studying in Primary 4. Being a stay-at-home mother, I supervised the school work of my two sons and would like to share some of the principles that I try to adhere to in helping them meet their challenges in school.

School shoes
I always believe that children should wash their own shoes so from day one, both boys had to do that. My explanation was that I used to wash my own school shoes. It is hard not to wince when you see their shoes every Monday. Sometimes, they still looked kind of black but I learned to close one eye.

School bags
I can never understand why school bags need to be so heavy. Why can’t textbook publishers use lighter weight paper? I have always been grateful to those teachers who collected the activity books at the beginning of school and took the trouble to ease the burden for their students.

Even though both our sons were on the thin side, I insisted that they carried their own bags because I was thin too and could not handle the weight of the bags. There were days when I took pity on them and tried to help but not very often.

When the children come home from school, they have their lunch, rest, bath, homework and free personal time routine in that order. No two children are alike, so it was a challenge to get them to follow this routine.

However, I found that discipline and perseverance together with many screams and threats did the work. What was most challenging was that our sons are at two extreme ends of the character spectrum. It took me a very long time to realise that what worked for the first son did not motivate the second one at all. I am still trying to find the right key for Son No. 2

My rule for homework is very strict. Each child is responsible for his own work no matter what the subject. I found it hardest to stick to this rule for Art. Several times I helped him paint or colour so as to complete the work faster, but that was dishonest. It is difficult to teach our children the Ten Commandments and then break one of them.

It was also very difficult to rein in my helping hands where projects were concerned. However, I felt that my discipline was worth it because it made my sons learn the lessons of perseverance and taking pride in their own accomplishments.

Revision for examinations

Examinations seem to strike a natural terror in the hearts of children and parents alike. Some parents are so terrified that they even start revision in the first week of school.

In our home, the first day of examination revision depends on the date of the Chinese examination. Using that date, we would total up the number of passages in all the chapters of the textbook which were to be examined. By allocating one day per passage, and subtracting all the Sundays in-between, we would count backwards from the date of the Chinese examination and arrive at the magic date for starting revision. I am happy to say that this method seems to work for my sons despite their struggle with the syllabus. I taught them Chinese by myself until they were in Primary 3. By then, I had reached the limit of my competence. We hired a personal tutor for the older boy when he was in Primary 4. As for our younger son, he is now registered at a Chinese tuition centre.

Revision for the other subjects usually started later and I would allocate the number of days needed for each subject according to the ability of each child. However, I do not believe in excessive drilling, so assessment books are kept to a bare minimum.

Where Mathematics is concerned, I usually set them tests which ranged from 20 to 60 minutes based on their weak areas. This meant looking through their worksheets and identifying sources of weakness, then selecting sums from the assessment book, past year papers or designing my own set of questions.

Keeping the Sabbath
Sunday is a day of rest for us. We made it a home rule not to do any school work or take part in extra-curricular or enrichment activities. Therefore, all homework must be completed by Saturday. There were several occasions when we had to break this rule because of heavy homework assignments, or when someone absolutely forgot he had homework, or horror of horrors, he forgot to study for a Monday test!

“The Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” — Psalm 121:7-8.

You can never pray enough for your children. This is something you can do anywhere and at any time, for example, while you are ironing or washing dishes. I use the book The Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian as a guide. Do cover your children with prayer every day before they leave the house. My favourite verses are found in Psalm 121.

Training up a child for the Lord is not easy but you will find the rewards are great. If you are not bound by financial circumstances, take a step of faith and stay at home to look after your child or children. You can also try working part-time or working from home.

Ng Ai Boon worships at Barker Road Methodist Church.