Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
This verse has always held my attention, even before I was a parent. You see, I know of many wonderful Christian parents whose children are no longer followers of Christ, and that can be hard to marry up with the fact-like statement here in Proverbs. But like many of the sayings both in and outside of the Bible, I think the idea to present a general truth rather than a hard and fast rule. Whatever the interpretation, however, it is clear to me that if you want to give your child the best chance making good choices in his future, you need to train him when he is young. (Please note – my use of ‘he’ here is not meant as an offence to women but as a simple way to refer to singular person!)
I have read of people comparing the training of children to the way one might train roses or other garden flowers. Being a terrible gardener (you only have to look at the pots of dead plants on my balcony to know I do NOT have green fingers) I will not be making any such comparison. However, before leaving the topic of gardening altogether, it would be worth noting that since I have no idea what I am doing in the garden, one thing I don’t do is ‘train’ any plant at all. Perhaps that is why they are dying…
A comparison I will make in place of gardening, is to Tae Kwon Do. Not your typical comparison I’ll admit, but if you know me well enough you will know of my love for this martial art! Years ago I used to train at Tae Kwon Do weekly at my local TAGB club (sadly I had to give it up a while ago due to various factors). A typical week of training would involve general cardiovascular exercise, stretching, strength and muscle-building, technique practice, and pattern work (memorising patterns of moves and performing them with the best accuracy and technique possible). The result of this training is that I progressed up the belt levels and grew better and more advanced at Tae Kwon Do. There is no way I could have reached these levels without the training I received. I would not have been able to know and perfect the techniques needed to progress had I not spent regular time learning from my instructor what to do, where I was going wrong, and how to improve.
Like my weekly Tae Kwon Do training, we need to actively and intentionally train our children up to be stronger, fitter and more advanced in their spiritual walk. We need to exercise their spiritual muscles, teach them how to deal with temptation, show them where they are going wrong, help them learn to react the right way, build their faith through learning from the Bible. Without this training we cannot expect our kids to stay strong when they are put to the test.
I think it is easy for parents to slip into the mindset that parenting is simply about taking care of their children’s physical needs, and making rules for their children to (hopefully) follow. This is not enough! The word “training” means so much more. We need to think about every moment we spend with our children as an opportunity to teach them eternal truths. We know that we are in a constant spiritual battle, and that Satan will spare no trick to catch us and our kids out. He wants us to fall, to fail, to deny, to be apathetic. He knows that we are prone to laziness, not just physically, but spiritually too. But we must fight against the spiritual forces of darkness, and train our children to do the same.
Let us not grow weary, but delight in the law of the Lord. Let us rise up with wings on eagles and renew our strength. Let us actively and intentionally train up our children in the way they should go, and pray they will never turn from it.