God created our children-He developed these stages and set them in motion for each child. Until 5 our children are babies. Then they become social sponges who are completely aware of what we are modeling and all that we tell them. This moves into their development of logic as they make the connections between actions and their consequences. They learn by doing. They have to make mistakes so that they can learn from them. We have to guide them as they do this so that they don’t make mistakes they aren’t ready to handle and learn from. And then they begin to reason-to ask what it all means. During this stage we must be present to reason together-to continue our teaching as we help them think through their actions before they are chosen; to help them work through and learn how to determine for themselves the possible outcomes of behavior. Then we turn them out into the world to be accountable for themselves and their choices.
God’s desire is to have relationship with them long before this time comes. In fact, the Bar Mitzvah is when a child stands before their community and commits himself to the faith of his fathers as he has been taught it. As with so much of life-this commitment precedes full understanding of what the commitment means. We speak our marriage vows before we learn what it means to be married-no matter how much preparation we have put into the decision to marry. We give birth and then learn what it means to be a parent. And, I believe, this is what Jesus meant when he said we must come to Him as a little child. We must accept Jesus and His atoning sacrifice without logic, without reason-just on faith!
Does this mean we can’t expect appropriate behavior from our children? Of course not! Appropriate behavior should be taught from birth. As children are able they will behave appropriately in different situations and with different issues. What it does mean is that we need to adjust our expectations of our children and when they can be held accountable for their own choices-when we stop being the one accountable for making sure they succeed.