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If you remember back to our first post in this Early Years series, we talked about a parent’s chief duties. Do you recall what those two duties are?
1. “To form in his child right habits of thinking and behaving,” and
2. “To nourish a child daily with loving, right, and noble ideas” (Vol. 2, p. 228).
Both of those duties come into play as you cultivate your preschooler’s spiritual life. Charlotte Mason’s practical suggestions will help you lay a wonderful foundation for your child’s walk with God. Here are just a few of her ideas.
Right Habits of Thinking and Behaving
Watch your own attitudes and conversations around your child.
The atmosphere in which your child grows up will have a deep influence on his thoughts and actions. So carefully cultivate your own walk with God, for it is out of your heart that your attitudes and words will overflow. Then be sensitive to the little ears that are listening and the little eyes that are watching. “We see how the destiny of a life is shaped in the nursery, by the reverent naming of the Divine Name; by the light scoff at holy things; by the thought of duty the little child gets who is made to finish conscientiously his little task; by the hardness of heart that comes to the child who hears the faults or sorrows of others spoken of lightly” (Vol. 2, pp. 39, 40).
Instill a love for God’s Word.
“What is required of us is, that we should implant a love of the Word; that the most delightful moments of the child’s day should be those in which his mother reads for him, with sweet sympathy and holy gladness in voice and eyes, the beautiful stories of the Bible” (Vol. 1, p. 349). The accounts in the Old Testament and the Gospels lend themselves nicely to reading aloud in the Early Years.
Pray for your child and with your child.
“How many times a day does a mother lift up her heart to God as she goes in and out amongst her children, and they never know!” (Vol. 2, p. 55). Pray with your child, both as a matter of routine (bedtime, mealtime, etc.) and spontaneously throughout the day. Let your child hear you thanking God for His goodness.
Noble, Right, and Loving Ideas
In addition to cultivating good spiritual habits of thinking and behaving, Charlotte encouraged us to present ideas about God that will especially minister to a child as he encounters various issues of life. Here are some of those noble, right, and loving ideas that you can give your child at just the right times as you walk through life together.
Christ is the Joy-giver.
Young children can quickly embrace the idea that Jesus gives us every good gift and brings us joy.
God is an ever-present help.
“Not a far-off God, a cold abstraction, but a warm, breathing, spiritual Presence about his path and about his bed—a Presence in which he recognises protection and tenderness in darkness and danger, towards which he rushes as the timid child to hide his face in his mother’s skirts” (Vol. 2, p. 47).
God is our Heavenly Father.
“Perhaps the first vitalising idea to give children is that of the tender Fatherhood of God; that they live and move and have their being within the divine embrace. Let children grow up in this joyful assurance, and, in the days to come, infidelity to this closest of all relationships will be as shameful a thing in their eyes as it was in the eyes of the Christian Church during the age of faith” (Vol. 3, p. 145).
Christ is our King.
“Next, perhaps, the idea of Christ their King is fitted to touch springs of conduct and to rouse the enthusiasm of loyalty in children, who have it in them, as we all know, to bestow heroic devotion on that which they find heroic” (Vol. 3, p. 145).
Jesus is the Savior and Forgiver of sins.
“Many a naughty, passionate, or sulky and generally hardened little offender is so, simply because he does not know, with any personal knowledge, that there is a Saviour of the world, who has for him instant forgiveness and waiting love” (Vol. 3, p. 146).
Charlotte had much, much more to say about cultivating a young child’s spiritual life during the Early Years—ideas like pointing out God’s handiwork in creation, not using the Bible to berate a child for his faults, as well as tips for keeping Bible reading time fresh and delightful. Perhaps that explains why the Spiritual Life chapter is one of the longest in our new book, The Early Years.