Parenting is a great joy. It brings many wonderful blessings to both mum and dad. So let me help those who are not so confident, with some Biblical insights.
A command given to parents is to train your child. The Bible also gives advice about what we train into the child. We train the child in the “way he should go”. That means we create in our child a lifestyle they will follow.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Way to Go
We might better understand the phrase “way he should go” by thinking of it as the “lifestyle” the child will follow. The way is not just a couple of key things we want the child to value, such as good manners or going to church. The idea here is of a whole life orientation, not just a select few things.
In past generations Christian parents insisted on certain behaviours from their child, but let the world sow its lifestyle values as well. The child then followed the lifestyle of the world, and may or may not have kept the particular few things the parents taught.
So give some thought to the “lifestyle” you want to create in your child, not just the few token behaviours that are important to you.
Course of Life
The Hebrew word translated as “way” in Proverbs 22:6 is ‘derek’, which refers to a road we tread (a ‘walk’ rather than a highway we drive along), and has the figurative meanings of a course of life or a mode of action. The word is at times translated in the King James Bible as “conversation”, which does not mean talking, but “lifestyle”.
You, as the parent, train your child in the course of life and mode of action. You determine the path they tread and cultivate the lifestyle they will live. You are commanded to do so.
Do Not Abandon Your Child
If you are not training your child you are leaving him to himself. You are warned in the Bible not to do that, because a child left to himself will bring his mother to shame.
“The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself brings his mother to shame.” Proverbs 29:15
Children need training. You are to correct their wrong behaviour and direct their actions into the way you want them to live. If you do not do that, maybe because you think their naughty actions are cute, or that you are supposed to let them discover their own way, you have failed the child and failed God.
A key aspect in training a child is to discipline them for their wrong choices, wrong actions and foolishness. This basic Biblical training method is so essential it led to the saying, “If you Spare the Rod you Spoil the Child”. To ‘spoil’ means to ruin, like food that has gone rotten. It is spoiled. Do not abandon and spoil your child.
Core Lifestyle Values
To train a child in the right lifestyle you need to know what that lifestyle is. Simply stated it is a ‘godly’ lifestyle. It is a lifestyle centred on desire to glorify God and to live as God wants us to. We know this from the prophet Malachi who explained that the reason God created marriage is to produce “godly seed”.
“And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.” Malachi 2:15
Note that being godly is not something we add on to our lifestyle, but is the core lifestyle value. Some people who live for self, money, success, fame or other things are able to go to church, do good deeds and look quite godly.
But someone who is godly at heart has the desire to glorify God and to be blessed by God as their primary goal, not self, money, success, pleasure or those many other things. While on the outside the behaviours may seem similar, at heart they are very different.
Training the Heart
God looks at the heart of your child. God knows when your child loves self, the world, pleasure or other things. It is vitally important for you to train the heart of your child.
“But the LORD said to Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1Samuel 16:7
Since God sees the heart of your child and will reward your child accordingly, you also must look into the heart of your child and train their tender heart to love and respect God.
One way to do this is to have a close, heart to heart bond with your child, so they open their heart to you and you can speak into their life at the deepest level.
King Solomon expressed the father’s desire to have his son open his heart to his dad.
“My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.” Proverbs 23:26
Both Parents Training the Child
Another key point is that training the child is done by both parents. It is not the mother’s job or the father’s job. Both mum and dad have a part to play and they work together to create the best outcome.
The Bible calls children to obey both mother and father, so obviously both parents are training them in the right lifestyle.
“Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.” Colossians 3:20
King Solomon reveals that the mother and father have complimentary roles. He refers to the father’s actions and the mother’s contribution as different, yet obviously working together.
“My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of your mother” Proverbs 6:20
A Godly Lifestyle
To train your child to a godly lifestyle you need to know what that lifestyle looks like. It looks quite different to the values and actions of typical children and youth. Western culture has moved far away from godliness and is based mostly on selfishness and worldliness.
If you allow your child to learn the values of their peers and what is found in everyday music, movies, advertising and role models then they have no hope of being godly. You will not have trained them in the correct way.
Remember that you are training their heart to be tender toward God. You want to develop in them a love for God and confidence that serving God and keeping God’s requirements brings them the greatest blessings, because it does.
Your Own Lifestyle
If your own lifestyle is full of addictions to this world, selfish interest, keeping up with the trends, gobbling down the latest and greatest that the world has to offer, and so on, then you will not really know the godly way to create in your child’s heart. And you will also automatically train your child to be like you.
An important starting point is to humble yourself before God and ask Him to create a clean heart in you and to lead you to love and worship Him fully. As you learn to do that you can then bring your child along in the same experience.
It is not wrong to have things that are in the world, but the extreme danger is when we love those things. We know we love them when we refuse to give them up. Rather than giving up or shutting down those things that could contaminate your child, you will be tempted to find reasons to keep them in your life.
I challenge you to love your child enough to seek God until you love Him enough to clean out your lifestyle of all things that tempt your child to love something other than God.
Parenting is Joy
It is a joyful thing to have godly children you have trained who fill your life with good things.
“Correct your son and he will give you rest; yes, he will give delight to your soul.” Proverbs 29:17
You do not need to be ashamed, pained, disturbed or anxious about your children. The benefits of good parenting are not only enjoyed in your child, but they come back to you as lovely and delightful rewards as well.
The Lord bless you as you give Him your heart and lead your children to love Him too.