Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
On Friday I listed for you five of my favorite Bible verses related to parenting. The one above topped the list, probably because I believe there is so much wisdom packed into that short verse.
To begin with, there’s the word “train.” To me, that implies being proactive instead of reactive. If I desire that my child behave in a certain way, it is my responsibility to show him what I expect rather than wait until he is in the situation and then react when he doesn’t do what he should.
This can apply to many aspects of a child’s life, both large and small. One of the most obvious applications would be obedience. Decide on an act that you feel your child should be able to follow through on given his current age and developmental level, then begin to train him in that area.
It seems to be easiest to start at home with little things – for example, calling him to come to you and then showing him what you want him to do. Practice it a few times, then plan to call him several times throughout the day, expecting him to come right away and being ready to deal with him if he doesn’t obey. While doing it this way takes a lot of time and work, it’s much better than waiting until you are out in public at a store or other location, trying to call him and having to chase him down if he doesn’t come to you. While there will always be moments when a child tests his parent, training can save a parent and child from some of those trying times.
As for the phrase “in the way he should go,” isn’t it neat that every child might have a somewhat different “way” to go? Of course the way each child should go involves accepting God’s gift of salvation and learning to discern between right and wrong, but I think another aspect involves me as a parent recognizing the fact that all children are different in their makeup. One may have book smarts while another can disassemble and rebuild a motor by the age of twelve. The key is for me to invest the time it takes to really know each of my children so that I can guide them in the way that is a fit for them.
Now we come to “…and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” I’ve heard two different explanations on this; some say it is a promise, others that it is only a principle that is generally true. I can say that I know children who appear to have been raised in Godly homes, yet have made decisions of their own free will that have taken them far from God. Our girls are still young and I know the coming years will hold many challenges. One thing that I am confident of is that by teaching my daughters about God and the principles He gives us in His Word, they will certainly be more likely to make wise decisions and follow in the footsteps of Christ. Many days I feel inadequate as a mother and know that I need to constantly be praying to God for His wisdom in guiding these young lives He has entrusted to me.
I’ll continue with more on the other four parenting verses I listed in the days to come. I’m always looking for good books on parenting and rearing children, so if you have any to recommend or just have further thoughts on this particular verse, please leave me a comment.