To Train a Child

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Proverbs 22:6

Seems parenting is always on my mind seeing as that’s what I do almost all day everyday! Lately, I’ve been reading some great books on this very topic of training our children. It seems there are so many “parenting” books out there, and so many good ones at that. As with almost every book we have read on the subject, there are usually those little nuggets that you take with you and those other parts that you leave behind. A couple of these books are not for the…well….faint of heart? Or perhaps for the sensitive parent? They require maturity in their readership and you must be able to use God’s Word as the source for which to draw your truth from. That said, I’ve learned some really helpful things – not so much “new” concepts, but more a reinforcement of those truths we find in the Bible.

Michael Pearl in “To Train Up a Child”,” says this about training:

Train up- not beat up. Train up- not discipline up. Train up- not educate up. Train up – not “positive affirmation” up. Training is the most often missed element in child rearing. A child needs more than “obedience training,” but without first training him, discipline is insufficient. Parents should not wait until their child’s behavior becomes unacceptable before they commence training – which would then actually be discipline. Training is not discipline. Discipline is the “damage control” part of training, but is insufficient in itself to effect proper behavior. Training is the conditioning of the child’s mind before the crisis arises.

So you might ask, “So if I’m faithful in training my child, they will never sin?” Not exactly. Christian educator (and hero of ours!), Charlotte Mason is described by Elaine Cooper in “When Children Love to Learn” as saying:

We see clearly that they [children] exhibit at times sinful aspects of anger, willfulness, and selfishness, but we also observe mercy, patience, and forgiveness. Our role as parents and teachers is to reflect the model of our Lord Jesus in relationship  with these little ones – to come alongside and encourage them in their ignorance and sin toward a better way.

A Better Way. How can our children know what that better way is, if we don’t show them? And what better way to train then to live what we are training. Jack Beckman reminds us that “Teachers ought to be about the business of doing themselves what is required of the students.” We, as parents, are teachers and we need to practice what we preach for “it is through the process of discipleship and relationship that we must make our plea – calling the heart of the child to duty to self, authority, and dominion-seeking in right ways.”

Parents, we must not neglect diligent training! But even when our shortcomings get the best of us (and they will at times!), there is grace to be found. We can see this in our own parenting. When we neglect to require first time obedience, our children learn that it is not really required of them and they lose respect for our authority as parents in their lives therefore making the flow of our home choppy and joyless.  We take full responsibility of the consequences and we have had to sit our little ones down, apologize to them for not parenting them well, and tell them again what is expected of them and begin that training once more. God is always faithful when we are not.

Our girls have memorized the verse, “Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.” Proverbs 20:11 God requires right conduct from our little ones, and we are the ones to teach them! Quick, consistent and loving training are all required of us and we must be careful not to excuse the sin of our children. We need to call sin what it is and lovingly show them there is another way that is pure and right.

May we have courage and boldness to rise up in a culture that caters to selfishness and excuses and may we find God’s patience and kindness to be our ever-strong companion.