One of the very best parenting books ever written, especially for those trying to build a good foundation, is the book of Proverbs. Proverbs is written as a father (Solomon) instructing his son on how to be a godly man. The phrase “my son” is found twenty-three times in the book of Proverbs, as the writer instructs his son in the way he should go. Looking at Proverbs 2, what is the process of teaching your children the precepts of God?
First, we must look at the issue of rewards. It is good to let our children know the benefits of obedience. When we ask them to do something, what can they expect? What incentive is there to do as we are instructed to do? Proverbs 2:5 says that when a child will seek wisdom, “then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.” This is an important reminder. The ultimate goal should be to lead our children in the knowledge of God. To know Him through wisdom should be the ultimate goal of our upbringing. Verses 7 and 11 talk about God’s preservation as a reward for obedience. Verse 8 talks about God’s guidance on our path. Just as God gives incentives for obeying Him, we also should seek to tell our children about the rewards that await obedience.
Second, we must carefully lay out our goals for our children. Verse 1 urges: “Receive my words!” Tell your children your goals for them on a regular basis, and model those ultimate goals in your life. Point out to them when you are unable to do something because it would not please God. “We can’t go to the casino for supper: that would not honor God.” “I read my Bible because I want to know God!” After we tell our children our expectations, we must help them to internalize them. The next phrase in verse 1 says: “hide my commandments with thee.” Psychologists tell us that we have three voices that guide our thinking and decision-making. The first is our child voice, which is when we whine about what we want. The second is our parent voice, which tells us what we should do. The third is our adult voice, which asks which of those we should obey. We want our children to hear the voice of God as their adult and parent voices, and to internalize it, so that instead of asking “What would Mom want me to do?” they will ask “What does God expect of me?”
Next, we want our children to lean into our sayings. Verse 2 says: “incline thine ear unto wisdom.” The word “incline” means “to slant.” When you put a ball on an uneven surface, it will roll to one side or the other. When your children are faced with decisions, where do you want their ball to slant? Do you want them to make decisions that would roll in favor of obedience to God? What are you doing to shape the slant of their lives? Verse 2 also says: “apply thine heart to understanding.” The word “apply” is translated in other places “stretch out.” It is the idea of building a tent in the wilderness. Jesus talked about this in Matthew 7, saying: “Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock.” We want our children to start applying our instructions, and Scripture, to their daily lives.
Verse 3 urges our children to cry after knowledge, and lift up their voices for understanding. It is our job to cultivate a desire for our children to seek God’s wisdom. We want them, in time of need, to seek for God’s wisdom. While secular parenting analysts urge our children to independence, we want our children to be dependent: on God.
Finally, we want our children to obey the words of Proverbs 2:4, which say: “If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures.” We want our children to treat the commands and teachings of Scripture as treasure. We want them to see the value so much that they treat it like something to spend their lives on, like the man of Matthew 13, who “found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” A surface understanding and surface obedience will not do: we want our children to be thoroughly Christian, and to walk with God. The next article will talk about how to go about these goals, and how, with Christ’s help, to start your children “in the way he should go.”