Promoting Schoolwork

The wise in heart are called discerning,
       and pleasant words promote instruction.

Proverbs 16:21

This series of posts is in response to this question and

 I'd like to see you address the topic of motivation in schoolwork
sometime on your blog. How do we use the Scriptures to instill in our kids a
motivation to do their best in their studies? What form should discipline take
for children who do not apply themselves the way they should?

In the previous post we saw that schoolwork is something
given by God. When homework  presents
challenges, we have an opportunity to appeal to the gospel grace of God for
strength and wisdom to complete the task at hand for his glory. In other words,
schoolwork is part of the providential plan of God.

In this post we will look at how to promote schoolwork to
your children. "Promoting schoolwork" may seem like strange language.
Sporting events, school plays, and political causes are promoted, but
schoolwork? However, the Bible uses this language. Over and over, Proverbs
pleads with young people to listen to instruction and warns of the folly of
those who ignore it. Proverbs 16:21 assumes that promoting instruction is a
good thing, and this verse states a simple but profound teaching principle. The
translation quoted above is from the NIV. Let's read three other translations
of the same verse; the additional translations help to clarify the importance
of way in which instruction is given.

 The wise of heart is
called discerning,
   and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness. ESV

The wise are known for their understanding,
      and pleasant words are persuasive. NLT

Anyone with a wise heart is called discerning,
    and pleasant speech increases learning.

Pleasant words encourage and attract us; harsh words
discourage and alienate. Threats may produce fear and compliance, but they are
not nearly as effective pleasant words, which encourage cooperation,
enthusiasm, and affection. Pleasant words promote instruction!

Your children need the encouragement of pleasant, sweet
words to do their schoolwork in a God-honoring way. You want much more for them
than just completed school assignments; you want your children to be wise and
discerning in the inner man, and you want them to be drawn to God's ways. From
the world’s perspective, finishing the assignment and getting a good grade is
all that is required. From a biblical perspective, every challenge carries the
opportunity to know God more deeply. This is where pleasant, gentle persuasion
from loving parents comes into play. Schoolwork provides an opportunity to hold
out the gospel. God’s grace, his help, is available to those who come to him
humbly and ask for it. And God is honored when children depend upon him for
strength to do the things he has give them to do. God is not honored by
attempts to accomplish tasks by the sheer force of human will, apart from the help
and purposes of God (Proverbs 19:21).  Use
pleasant words to help children see that God wants them to trust him, to come
to him for strength for each assignment. That is one aspect of why Jesus died. All
of life is about living out the implications of the gospel, and schoolwork,
too, is an opportunity to encourage your children to turn to Christ for
strength if they do know him, and an opportunity to seek God’s forgiveness and
grace if they do not. Don't miss the opportunity to point them to Christ.

How to do it? Let me give an example.  If your child is procrastinating in finishing
his work, you might be tempted to say something like this in a stern, almost
exasperated, tone: Schoolwork is just part of life; the sooner you finish
the sooner you can play. The Bible says not to complain, so stop complaining
and get to work! When I come back I expect your work to be done. Do you

Now, the parent's content is accurate. Schoolwork is part of
life. When the assignment is completed other things can be done. Complaining is
wrong and needs to be corrected. Setting time limits for getting work done is
often a good idea. Making sure that children understand your direction is also
a good thing. But, as Christians, we have to be more than accurate. We must
also, in addition, speak with love, compassion, understanding and persuasion.
Speaking that way is not natural for parents, any more than it is natural for
children to their work eagerly with a thankful spirit. Parents need the power
of gospel grace as well! James 1:19-20 illustrates the truth of Proverbs 16:21
this way:

My dear brothers, take
note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to
become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God

It is important for your child to know that there is no
alternative; he must do his schoolwork. But how this reality is
presented is also important. What is going to promote instruction and persuade
him to do his work? Sweet, pleasant words delivered with firm resolve. So,
let’s recast the above example from the viewpoint of Proverbs 16:21.

You see that your child is not being diligent in completing
his task. Your tone is pleasant and sympathetic, but it is also firm, indicating
that there will be no alternative to completing the work at hand. Your words
might be something like this: “I know it's difficult to do your work sometimes,
isn’t it? Is there anything bothering you that is keeping you from doing your
work?” If the answer is yes, determine quickly what the problem is. Usually, it
will be best to address the issue after the schoolwork is done so that the
problem itself doesn't become a way to procrastinate. However, occasionally you
may discover something that needs your immediate attention. To continue –
“Okay, I know there are other things that seem more interesting. But remember,
this work is part of what God has planned for you so that you can know him and
learn to follow his ways. God tells us to be diligent . Is there anything about
the assignment you don’t understand, or is there something I can help with?
Okay, then, let’s pray right now for God to help you focus on your work and ask
for his strength to finish. I’ll check back with you soon to make sure things
are going well. I know there are some fun things that you want to do, and I
want you to be able to get to them as soon as you are finished. I love you.”

Obviously, you will have to adjust the language to fit your situation,
but be sure to cover these points in encouraging your child to do his work.

As always, let me know your thoughts. The next post will
look at appropriate disciplinary steps to take when your kids resist doing
their schoolwork. 



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