One of the most familiar scriptures to every parent is Proverbs 22:6 which says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Yet, knowing the verse doesn’t guarantee taking up the charge in a way which will truly yield the desired results.
As an educator who frequently speaks to parents, one of the common issues among them is their lack of tools and know-how in order to train up their children properly. After all, parenting does not come with a training manual. Often, many parents fall into the habit of repeating the style of their own parents. That can be good or bad.
There is no doubt, however, that this generation is far more challenging to raise up per Proverbs 22:6. With the constant bombardment and full-throated exposure via social media of a world filled with violence, lies, cheating the system, the need for instant gratification, disrespect for life, the elderly and so much more, children are easy prey to a cesspool of evil. With kids as young as a year old pressing the buttons of an iPad, there is literally no time to waste in the spiritual training which must be an integral part of a child from the earliest age possible.
A well-rounded program would look something like this: the entire family attending a congregation on a regular basis, praying before meals (which are eaten together as a family), studying the scriptures and praying together each evening as a family, discussing spiritual issues and challenges, monitoring and limiting worldly content which is seeking to grab and control the tender heart of your child, all with the goal of taking away their innocence and trust.
Of course, the aforementioned practices are great and crucial, but nothing speaks louder to a child than the personal example you, as a parent give them. Are you patient in your dealings with others and with them? Are you cheerful and generally someone who is upbeat? Do you complain about most everything in front of them? Do you speak badly about others in their presence? Do you look for opportunities to speak in or about faith? All of these questions are issues which daily impact your child for good or for bad.
While no parent is perfect, each parent must strive to do their very best to give their children the values, principles and habits, which will serve them best in their adult years and which will avoid unnecessary baggage caused by wounding or harsh words, failure to discipline and correct, lack of proper guidance and counsel and not being willing to monitor and protect their daily routines.
Much of this may sound like “mothering,” but the truth is that more kids have gone astray due to the lack of a strong and ever-present father figure, one who is not afraid to show and communicate love and affection or to build a healthy amount of self-esteem in their child, enough so that they will not sell out to the highest bidder.
Fathers can be instrumental in discussing personal matters such as why not to cave into peer pressure, how to stand in the midst of shunning and belittling of one’s beliefs, and the understanding that a child is God’s precious creation with much potential and purpose placed in them by their creator. It is a parent’s job and high-calling to help their child realize that potential and carefully help craft and mold these little human beings into well-adjusted, happy and fulfilled young adults who are a visual end-product of all that has been sown into them in their youth.
Perhaps the best way to train up a child in the way he should go is to be the best mirror image of a good marriage partner – one who shows love, receives love, relates with respect and deference and speaks kindly to their partner. Isn’t that the way you would want your child to relate to their own future partner?
The whole idea of the second part of the verse: “When he is old, he will not depart from it,” speaks to the idea of creating a value system that you would like to accompany your child right into adulthood and throughout their entire life. That can only be accomplished by personal example and purposeful, habitual behavior.
It will not come by a third-party (whether it’s a believing school or congregation) although those can be helpful, but they are no substitute for the daily home life of a child.
Many of us can probably think back upon our own childhood and wonder why our parents never sat down with us while we were growing up to discuss how to choose a mate, what qualities to look for, or even how to pray about important future decisions. Those things may have made a big difference and may have even spared us from bad choices.
Part of getting there is thinking about what may have helped you to become a better man or woman of God. After figuring those things out, figure out how to make sure your own children receive from you more than you did from your own parents. Evening walks or afternoon talks with your child will go a long way in causing them to feel that they are important enough for you to set apart time for them to involve yourself in their thoughts, hopes and dreams.
Wise counsel is something we all need, but children need it as a constant throughout their formative years. They need loving correction in a way which does not break their spirits. They need to experience God’s love and mercy through you.
Training up a child in the way he should go is not a one-stop, one-time investment. It is a serious and constant involvement done with joy and great care. Your training manual is the Word of God, which will equip you to endow your children with the very character and nature of the One who has been and continues to be our Living Example.
If you’ve dropped out of fellowship or have stopped reading God’s word, your children will most likely follow suit. Even if you send them to a believing school or encourage them to fellowship with other believing youth, your own indifference and lack of spiritual involvement will cause them to wonder why it’s good for them but not for you.
Personal example is the key to making a difference in the life of your kids. There must be a consistency in your messaging, and they must feel that it begins with you.
It’s never too late to start training up your children, but the earlier you begin, the deeper the root will take, and your children just may rise up, one day, and call you “blessed,” because they will have a heart of appreciation for all you sacrificed in order to help them become a whole person whose life is a blessing to others and to themselves.
This article originally appeared on Makor HaTikvah.