Tag Archives: Training Children

My Wish for My Sons

My wife and I have three sons and, though we do not yet know the gender, a fourth child due in November. I have been thinking a great deal in recent months about examples for my children. We live in a world that casts actors, athletes, and superheroes as the role models for our children; they should not be. One dictionary defines a “role model” as, “Somebody to be copied; a worthy person who is a good example for other people.” It is unfortunate, but most of the people in today’s world are not worthy to wear that label. Instead, by their actions and decisions, they show that they are nothing more than the most recent lesson of what not to do.

As I consider what I want my sons to be and who I want them to emulate, I cannot help but turn to Scripture. For it is there I find the people I want my sons to resemble. I would like to share with you my wish for my sons and encourage you to seriously consider the same for your children; because who you want your children to be will determine the directions with which you align their hearts.

My sons…

I wish you to have the heart of David. David was by no means the perfect individual. He was as flawed and imperfect as they come, and God was not afraid to show us both sides of his life. However, there is one thing about David that could never be denied: his heart. He was described as a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 16:7; Acts 13:22). He was a man that, though imperfect, was always humble and willing to repent when faced with his sin. His heart was filled with the desire to serve God and the direction of his soul is laid out for all to see in the Psalms. Have the heart of David, the humility to admit when you are wrong and repent; for it will clear your conscience, and save your soul.

I wish you to have the honor of Joseph. There is no individual I can find in Scripture who faced more desperate situations and troublesome strife at such an early age than Joseph. Yet in all of his trials he worked with purpose and served God with honor. At a time in which he could have claimed “I have no choice” with Potiphar’s wife; he instead claimed “I have made my choice.” At a time when he could have despaired at his condition in prison; he helped oversee and care for those around him. At a time when he could have had vengeance on his brothers who meant him so much harm; he took care of them and saw to their every need. Have the honor of Joseph that no matter what comes at you in life you live and work to the glory of God and the benefit of man.

I wish you to have the conviction of Paul. Paul never did anything half-heartedly. He told the Colossians, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Col. 3:23). When he was converted to Christ and became the apostle Paul, he worked diligently for the cause of Christ to the day of his death. His letters show a man who believed in what he taught to the point he could not refrain from helping others along the way. He worked hard at training men to preach the Gospel like Timothy and Titus. He worked to encourage his brethren as with Philemon and the Philippians. As his life came to an end, he had no regrets. He simply said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). Know what you believe and why, and once you know the truth hold onto it with such conviction that Satan and all his servants could not wrest you away from it, for they will surely try.

My sons need to know what I want them to be and why; they also need to know the truth about life, this world, eternity, and why they must obey God’s commands no matter what. I pray that my sons will uphold the values of Scripture, but I know that their instructions and preparations to do so must come from me.

Teach your children to know, love, and obey God. Give them God’s role models to emulate. Teach them the principles of a godly life every day and in every way (Deu. 6:7-9). Show them you love them by training them and walking them down the path of righteousness, not by letting them “find their own way,” for that will only lead to failure and destruction.

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“Train up a Child”

The wise man Solomon wrote, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Pro. 22:6). Parents have heard this verse and bestowed it upon their children for generations. However, the more I have studied and contemplated this passage of Scripture, the more I believe that we do not really understand the wisdom Solomon was presenting. Let us examine each section of this verse and understand the implications of it.

Train up a child

Most parents consider the word “train” to mean teach or prepare, but that is not the meaning of the word used here. The Hebrew word is chanak and it means, “to initiate, dedicate, discipline, or train up” (Strong). Of the five times it is used in the Old Testament, every other occurrence is translated “dedicate” or “dedication.” The emphasis of “train” is far more than simple teaching, it is a dedicated regimen that directs, regulates, and impresses upon the child, in every manner of life, the path to be taken.

The word for “child” in this verse is the Hebrew word na’ar and it defines a child as a boy or girl from infancy through adolescence. This training is not intended to start at age 5, 10, or 13, but instead from the moment the child leaves the womb. It is the same form of reference to a child that Paul makes concerning Timothy in Second Timothy 3:15. Therefore, this dedication is to begin at birth and continue to adulthood.

In the way he should go:

The term, “the way” is defined as a road or the path of a journey. It is not a simple direction toward which to be pointed, but a specific path to be chosen. This goes against the grain of many parents’ philosophy whereby they point their children in the general direction and then allow them to “choose their own path.” The manner of direction Solomon dictates is a singular devotion to a particular path of life, thereby removing all others.

Additionally, the phrase “he should go” is an interesting one. Of the more than 500 times the Hebrew word peh is used in the Old Testament, this is the only time it is translated with this phrase. The word carries with it the basic meaning of “the mouth” or “the instruction of the mouth.” In other words, Solomon is not stating that parents are to point their children in the direction they want them to go and let them be on their way; rather, they are to take them down the path instruction dictates they must go.

And when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Parents have often argued from examples of children who were raised in “Christian” homes and did not follow the path of their parents that this is not a one-size-fits-all statement, and that it would be more proper to state “and when he is old, he SHOULD not depart from it.” The only problem with that is, the statement is emphatic in the Hebrew, without exception or exemption. Also remember the statement is given by the inspiration of God; therefore, man should not be trying to change the validity or intention of the statement as given. Solomon’s statement is absolute; thus, if a child does not turn out as he should, the problem lies not with the truthfulness of the statement of Solomon, but with the application of the parents in enacting the instructions. God is emphatic that if we enact this principle, our children will follow the path dictated.

Applying the Proverb

What is Solomon, by inspiration, telling us? Let us put all the facts together. Parents need to dedicate their children to the path instructed from the time they are infants. This dedication means to focus on this singular path above all else, and if any part of life leaves that path, that part of life is left behind. Dedication requires full devotion to the path selected.

Is this what we do with our children? Unfortunately, for most parents, it is not. They take their children, point them in a direction and hope they do not get distracted, meanwhile they bombard them with every distraction and side-track imaginable that could veer them off the pointed direction. Parents state they want their children to be Christians, but then constantly place before them athletics, school activities, entertainment, worldly fashion, peer-pressure, and all other forms of distraction that pull them away from the stated goal; then the parents wonder what went wrong when the child follows those things instead of following God.

As parents, our responsibility is not to “point them in the right direction,” but from their earliest moments on this earth to place them on the proper path, by means of example, instruction, and guidance, and to ensure that there is never any deviation from that path as they are growing up. This does not mean no accessory activities can be a part of life; but from the beginning it must be understood that when those activities leave the path of service to God, those activities are left behind.

The instruction must be absolute, unwavering, and unapologetic. The parent’s responsibility is not, as most in today’s society believe, to allow the child to try everything and see what they like; instead it is to give them constant doses of the right thing so that everything else is in perspective. It also means the parents must live a life of example before their children. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can be allowed to stand between the parent and God. God must come first in all things. For the parent cannot direct the child down a path the parent is not walking. When the parent veers off the path, he gives the child cause to do so as well. For this dedication to be complete, it must be absolute both in the parents and the children.

This method of child-rearing is not popular, nor is it fashionable, but it is godly, authorized, and acceptable. God has told us that if we fully and completely dedicate our children to the path of service to him, without deviation or dilution, the outcome will be faithful servants of God. Are we willing to take God at his word?

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Are You Teaching Your Children Wisdom AND Understanding?

The Book of Proverbs is the single greatest volume devoted to personal development in the Scriptures. Its 31 chapters bring into focus every aspect of our lives and decision making. It is evident throughout the book that wisdom is the central theme of Proverbs. Solomon will address many of the writings in the book to his son, and he defines the purpose of this book to his son with these words, “To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding” (Pro. 1:2).

We oftentimes use wisdom and understanding interchangeably thinking that they are essentially the same, but such a belief is a flaw that keeps us from understanding to the fullest Solomon’s, and by extension the Lord’s, intent. The term “wisdom” is used 54 times in Proverbs. It is best defined as the knowledge of right action. Wisdom is the ability to make the right decisions in a given situation; to consider a problem and find the right answer; to direct one’s steps down the right path. Wisdom is the principal attribute to obedience. It is for that reason that wisdom is so often compared to foolishness in Proverbs. Wisdom proclaims righteousness, foolishness proclaims selfishness.

However, it must be comprehended that wisdom and understanding are not the same. Understanding means perception or discernment. It centers around, not what the right action is, but why that action is the right one. There is equal emphasis in Proverbs upon both wisdom and understanding, with the word “understanding” also being used 54 times in the book. The importance of recognizing the distinction between these two words is often underestimated.

To many people’s perception, the difference between wisdom and understanding is so small that it is not meaningful. To the contrary, I would contend, it is the lack of comprehension of the difference between these two terms that has the church in such difficulty today.

As parents, we often tell our children to do something and the first word out of their mouth is, “Why?” We have given them wisdom, but not understanding. It is also the case that often the response to that question is – “Because I said so.” Again, we have delivered wisdom, but at the same time we have refused to give understanding. It is recognized that the present circumstance is not always convenient or appropriate for a long diatribe on the reason for the necessity of the action; but how often does the rationale never come? Oftentimes we can be found training our children with wisdom, but at the same time completely neglecting their understanding.

The same holds true in the spiritual arena as well. There are many Christian parents who bring their children to services regularly, teach them the correct actions and beliefs (The plan of salvation, the commands of worship, the foundations of faith, etc.), but they don’t ever answer that question of why those things should be so. Once again, there is wisdom delivered, but it is void of understanding. Therefore, the child grows up and leaves home knowing what Mom and Dad say are the right things to believe and practice, but having no comprehension of why they are right. Then we set back and wonder why we lose so many of our young people. It is because, in practice, we have been raising them as children with an inherited faith. They have all the wisdom of the parents, but none of their understanding, and hence, no true faith of their own.

Solomon is trying to give us the formula to alleviate those issues, but we have to recognize the importance of it. It is far easier to say, “Because I said so,” but it is not nearly as beneficial. As God has seen fit to deliver to us the reasons for his commandments and the explanations of what they should mean to us and why, so we must be willing to do the same for our children. We need to think before answering with a simple, “Because I said so,” and instead begin teaching our children with useful understanding why such decisions and actions are important; and if we don’t know the answers ourselves, it’s time we were better educated.

Solomon wrote, “Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding” (Pro. 4:5-7). May that thought be always before us as we seek to raise faithful servants to God.

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