Proverbs 22:6 says: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” We know that God has a Plan for our children, and a way that He wants them to grow up. We spent the first three articles in this series talking about how to determine goals for your children. However, having goals and accomplishing goals are two different things. Lots of parents have ideals for their children, in what they want for them, but lack the follow-through. They understand the “in the way he should go” part, but lack understanding in the “train up a child” part.
The word “train” is translated four other times in Scripture as “dedicate” as in when Solomon dedicated the Temple of God in 1 Kings 8. The root of the word means “to narrow.” When you dedicate something you narrow the scope of how that thing is to be used. Our church building is dedicated for the proclamation of the Gospel and the Scriptures. It cannot and will not be used as a drunken wedding reception. We have narrowed the use of it. What does that have to do with children? Training them is narrowing their choices, their paths that they might take. When a child is born, he is a blank slate that can go in any direction. It is our job as parents to narrow the number of paths he can take. If we do it right, we will eliminate the bad decisions and influences. It is the same idea as what a sculptor does. He takes a block of rock and chips away everything that doesn’t look like what he intends to make. He narrows the shape in order to make a work of art. We are doing the same thing as parents: molding a child in the way God wants him to go.
As such, then, we want to get to the heart of a child, and not just change the actions. One trap that many parents make is modifying their children’s behavior without ever getting to the heart. This produces hypocrites who look like good children on the outside, and learn to “play the game,” but never really learn or agree with parents. Ted Tripp’s “Shepherding A Child’s Heart” is a good book for this approach, and how to successfully avoid traps that would focus on the exterior instead of the interior. This is what Jesus always emphasized. He said in Matthew 23:25-26: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.”
We want to teach our children to trust us with their training when they are young. God has designed family in such a wonderful way where when children are young, they can make mistakes in the insulation of a family unit. Little mistakes breed little consequences, which can be forgiven and covered and learned from. However, if your children don’t learn from little mistakes when they are young, they will make bigger mistakes as they age, and older children will make bigger mistakes, which will have bigger consequences. This is why Proverbs 13:24 says: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” The word “betimes” means “early.” Don’t wait until your children are older and can understand perfectly. You’ll lose valuable time. Little children understand more than we sometimes give them credit for.
This is not to say that you parent a teenager the same way that you parent a one-year-old. One-year-old parenting training is largely addressing the exterior, or behaviors. You cannot reason with a little child. They only need to understand that such-and-such is wrong or right. They need to learn early to fear God and your consequences, and the explanation will come later as they age. We will look next at the method of raising children, and in the next few articles, I will say that we need to set forth our objectives clearly to our children, that we need to inform them of their consequences as best we can, that we need to be consistent with our consequences, and that we should be careful to model good behavior in the home. We will also address how much influence we actually have. This is the beginning of training our children to live for Jesus!