“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
When I became a parent, I vowed that I would do better than my parents and not quote this verse as a behavioral corrective to my children. But when a child of mine misbehaved, I found myself thinking about it as I punished my child. I knew the verse had to be about more than discipline. As I started to mull over this verse, I saw the intent behind it.
This verse is instrumental in laying a foundation, but it was never meant to be bandied about like a threat because Colossians 3:21 cautions parents not to provoke their children to wrath, lest they become discouraged.
Here are some things you should know about this popular parenting verse.
Training is more than disciplining your children
In case there’s any confusion, parents must train. Parents are responsible for their children, for shaping and molding their character. A child left to his own devices will fail miserably. Children need parents to help them develop. And this involves more than punishing bad behavior. Training is consistently modeling behaviors that we want our children to adopt.
Train children in a way that is godly
But what is the way each child should go?
First and foremost, it’s in a godly direction. The book of Proverbs points out the folly of fools and the wisdom of God. God’s way is wisdom and the overriding should.
Secondly, this verse seems to take into account the temperament of each child.
Parenting is hard. It would be easier if parents could apply the same principles to each child and get the same result. But since each child is different, some adjustments will be made.
Training up your children takes a lifetime
There is a definitive time for training, especially when a child little with no knowledge of godly ways. But as a child grows, our training looks different. It’s a lifelong process for the child and the parent.
There is sometimes a waiting period between training our children in the way they should go and when they are older, not departing from it. Sometimes the hardest part for us parents is the time in between. It is in this stage that praying may be the most important training we can employ.
Godly training is the parents’ responsibility
The timing is not up to the parents. Parents do not control the time frame of when a child will respond to godly instruction. The responsibility is ours to train, but it is his sovereignty, his working in their lives that will cause them to remember the instruction they received.
We can’t train up a child without seeking God’s wisdom and grace for ourselves. Proverbs provides instruction for life, but it also shows the folly of following our own ways. Even in parenting as Christians, we need to submit all to him so that he can direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6). This is not a guarantee that we will parent perfectly but that with His help we can parent wisely.
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