Summary: In raising children we soon come to realize each of our children are unique. We can’t raise our children with a cookie-cutter approach
Training Up: Parents or Children
Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
I’m sure there are some Christian parents who would like Proverbs 22:6 to read this way: “Rear your children as moral, upright, God-fearing, church going kids. Be sure they carry a Bible to church, attend lots of Sunday school classes, and each summer attend Christian camps. Enforce your rules and regulations with consistency and discipline. Make sure they learn the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, and several key verses of Scripture. Teach them to pray, and be sure they come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. They will rebel, but when they’re old and decrepit – they’ll come back to the Lord…but only if you raised them right.”
There is a lot more to understanding and applying Proverbs 22:6 to raising children than an idealistic view of the verse. Many of us would agree with John Wilmot who wrote: “Before I got married, I had six theories about bringing up children, now I have six children and no theories.”
With our four children my wife and I were often the ones in training. Our first child seemed to be in control. At every little cry we were on the alert to take care of him. We trended to be very lenient. We didn’t want to scar his soul.
I heard one father say that when their child cried at night he would get up and go to his child and sleep with his child. His child had a great night’s sleep. The next morning the child was full of vim and vigor and vitality. The father dragged through the day with lack of sleep.
Proverbs 22:6 teaches several lessons:
I. Raising Children is a High Calling “Train up a child…”
In raising children we soon come to realize each of our children are unique. We can’t raise our children with a cookie-cutter approach. Children raised in the same environment can be totally different. This fact has been true since the beginning of human kind. Adam and Eve gave birth to Cain and Abel. Cain loved the outdoors working the fields and Abel was a shepherd caring for the flocks of sheep and cattle. The sons of Isaac, Jacob and Esau were opposite in their character. Esau was an outdoorsman and Jacob loved hanging around the house and cooking meals in the kitchen. The oldest son of Jesse, Eliab was opposite of the youngest son, David.
To give adequate training to our children requires that parents get their own training for the task of parenting. During our early years of raising 4 children Carollyn and I did a lot of studying of books on parenting. The popular book of our day was by Dr. Spock. Dr. Spock has a lot of good things to say, but for the most part Dr. Spock’s permissive child raising instructions don’t work.
The best approach to child rearing is being a teachable parent. As a parent we tend to be either rigid or flexible in raising our children. We need to adjust our discipline according to the temperament of each child.
Ideally it takes two, mom and day, to raise healthy children, but God’s grace is available to help single parents raise healthy and well balanced children who honor the Lord and honor their single parent father or mother.
There are many important virtues needed by parents in raising children. I would say that near the top is unconditional love. Consistent love the quality of love taught in I Corinthians 13 is paramount in training up a child. “Love is patient and kind, love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable and keeps no record of when it has been wronged. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” When adequate love is missing the outcome is often damaged emotions.
Sue Thompson, a popular speaker with a master’s degree in clinical psychology, tells about her brother’s struggle with life in her book, The Prodigal Brother.
Her parents adopted Sue when she was an infant. A few months after he adoption her adopted mother was thrilled to know she was pregnant. A new baby brother was born two months pre-mature. For weeks the baby lived in an incubator. In 1957 the medical field didn’t understand the importance of parent bonding and love to an infant.
In her studies in clinical psychology, Sue Thompson, came to believe that her stepbrother was emotionally damaged by not having his parents hold him every day and tell him of their love.
When the baby was finally taken home he seemed to cry constantly, and nothing seemed to satisfy him. In first grade he would bust into screaming, crying and cussing without any cause. He was violent, destroyed property and laughed while harming animals. No amount of discipline made any difference in his attitude.