God seeks godly offspring (Mal.2:15). He blesses parents with children to train and raise for Him. He commands us to teach them to love Him and His ways (Deut. 6:4-7) and how to be pleasing to Him. God also commands our children to listen to and honor us (Eph.6:1, Col. 3:20).
Children with Down Syndrome (DS) give us yet another way to understand God’s training plan for righteousness within a family.
DS is a common genetic condition in which three copies of the 21st chromosome (location of Alzheimer’s genes) are produced. In general, emotional and neurological development are delayed. However, thoughtful early intervention in a DS child’s life will overcome most obstacles to learning and living a full, useful life for the Lord.
DS children are extremely empathetic and sensitive. Their comprehension is at a much higher level than their verbal expression. They are visual, hands-on learners, capable of learning every skill if the process is broken into basic steps with daily repetition.
How does this knowledge assist parents whose task is to train their DS child for the Lord?
It can be broken down into three simple concepts:
- Teach authority
- Teach obedience
- Teach fellowship
How does this work?
Parents must start with an attitude of unconditional love and a vision of a whole, productive adult in the Lord.
DS children will shut down emotionally and verbally when they sense anger and rejection from other people. On the other hand, they will respond joyfully when they sense acceptance and encouragement from another.
Developing an ongoing, kindly, working relationship with your DS child from birth will help build your child’s concept of “parent/teacher-child/student” or “ruler-subject”, with the goal to always point them towards the ultimate authority, God.
Obedience, in the sense of the Greek “hupakoe”, implies submission to what is heard, in the meaning of both an earthly voice and the Lord’s voice (Strong’s 5218).
When you are actively working with your child, you are in constant dialogue with him or her. Do everything together and the child learns to listen to and follow you on short commands. It is paramount that siblings are included in this process.
As you encounter normal sin issues, you correct them with Scripture and walk them through the standard, the choice to obey or not obey, and the consequences.
We found that physical discipline and harsh words emotionally devastated our daughter. Taking away a particular privilege or toy was more effective.
Each occasion brings an opportunity to train in the habits of confession, repentance, and forgiveness (1 John 1:9-10), and to discuss the atoning work of Jesus and our relationship to Him. This process is within the framework of ongoing reading and discussion of Bible stories and verses. With a phonics-based reading program, eventually they can read the Bible on their own.
At some point, when the child is secure enough in his or her relationship with you, introduce the concept that sin breaks our fellowship with each other and with God. Then, through Jesus, we can have fellowship again with God. This can be illustrated by a handshake. When we sin, that handshake with another is broken. When we repent and confess our sin, we are forgiven and the handshake is restored.
Along with this is the concept that sin is costly and has to be atoned for, paid for, by blood, and that Jesus is the one who has paid for our sin and offers us the way to shaking God’s hand. Working with flannel board stories of Genesis 1-4 is very useful.
When this information is given and the relationship worked through, remember, the Holy Spirit will be at work to prepare your child. There will be a time when that child will understand his or her need for Jesus and accept Him as their Savior!
In summary, to train your DS (child) in righteousness, it is helpful to:
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any other author or an official position of the assemblyHUB team.
- Establish a secure, unconditionally loving relationship;
- Teach principles of authority, obedience, and fellowship;
- Include the concepts of sin and the habits of repentance, confession and forgiveness;
- Show why we need the atoning blood of Jesus to restore us to God, our heavenly Father.