Children are a precious gift from the Lord (Psa. 127:3). They are a source of great joy and pride. Most parents are eager to show off pictures of their sons and daughters. What mother has not pointed at a family picture on the wall and identified her children? Though we usually think of children as ours, we must recognize each soul belongs to God (Eze. 18:4). He has simply entrusted them to us for a while. With this trust comes the responsibility to take care of these souls. After all, God loves the children too! He wants each one to grow up to make Him proud. How they will turn out depends to a large degree on the training they receive during the formative years.
Parents are naturally protective of their newborns. These little babies are so dependent and defenseless. The Bible speaks of the natural affection people have for family members (cf. Rom. 1:31). Part of this natural love is the desire to protect them. Though we may wish it were not so, this world is full of dangers. Mom and dad will not always be there when difficulty arises. As such, parents need to teach their children to recognize the dangers of this world and how to deal with them appropriately.
Most parents do a good job instructing about physical hazards like playing with fire. Yet, spiritual threats are often neglected. When viewed from eternity, it will matter greatly if one did not properly confront evil. Just as playing with fire can lead to burns, playing around with sin can lead to the eternal fires of hell.
How then should parents teach their children to protect themselves from sin? Children learn through verbal instruction, examples, and personal experiences. Fathers are commanded to "bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4). Mothers bear a part in this duty as well (cf. Prov. 1:8).
Parents teach a lot by the way they live. Little boys often say they want to grow up to be just like their dads. It is a vain effort to tell children, "Do as I say, not as I do." More often than not, they will imitate the behavior they see. Of course, kids also have other role models. Sometimes it is an older sibling. Sometimes it is a friend. This is why it is extremely important to teach children to choose their friends wisely (cf. I Cor. 15:33).
Personal experience can be a tough teacher. Countless young people the world over have lamented at one time or another, "How I wish I had listened to mom and dad!" The young man cried out - "I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined my ear to those who instructed me! I was on the verge of total ruin, in the midst of the assembly and congregation" (Prov. 5:13,14). He committed sin with an immoral woman and paid the price of personal shame. He played with fire and got burned (cf. Prov. 6:20-29).
Parents should be teaching their children about purity of life. This extends to thoughts, words, and deeds. Once a reputation is soiled by sin, it is hard to restore. These lessons must be taught when children are young and reinforced consistently over the years. It may be too late to warn teenagers about the powerful lure of fornication when hormones are raging. When children are not taught how to resist temptation, Satan's lie that "everyone's doing it" sounds convincing. Yes, many may be doing it, but many will be lost eternally for their choices too (cf. Luke 13:23,24). Is this what you want for your child? Teach your children to protect themselves from "the snare of the devil" (II Tim. 2:26).