Quotes & Notes: 3 Keys to Aiming Your Child Toward Success

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Proverbs 22:6Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (ESV,Pr 22:6)

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How many times have you heard this verse used in the context of raising your children?  If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it 100 times.  This is one of the most common recited verses from the bible about child rearing.  However, if you’re a parent that currently has a child that’s rebelling, this verse loses it’s “punch”, and may make you wonder about other bible verses.  Let me take a few minutes to unpack this verse and then share three things that have helped my wife and I in our parenting that I think are important for you as a parent to keep in mind when you look at the totality of raising your children.

>  The word “train” actually has the connotation of “dedicating” as in the dedication of a house.  It also includes the idea of  setting aside or narrowing.  The Egyptian word that is closely aligned to the Hebrew word translated train in this passage carries the meaning of “setting up something for divine purposes”.  So, this word could be read, “Set aside your child by dedicating, preparing and training him in the ways of God”:

  • Key #1:  Remember that children are a gift from God and are really on loan to us as parents.

Our first responsibility is to model for them what it means to “dedicate ones life to God”.  First and foremost that means to pray for them, over them and with them as we dedicate them to God.  Dedication is an offering of something for divine purposes.  As such, our children our divinely meant to be aimed toward a lifetime of loving and knowing God.  It’s hard to give them something we don’t have.  If our lives aren’t characterized by an authentic searching and following after God (don’t read as living perfectly), it will be very challenging to aim them correctly from the start.  It doesn’t mean that all is lost if you are late in parenting from a biblical foundation, it simply means that the chances of having our children wander off course is greater than if they had been instructed in God’s Word from early on in their life.  Yet, even then, there are no guarantees of them following the path that has been laid out for them (see Key #3)

>  The phrase, “In the way he should go”, has been used in many different ways.  Some translate it to mean in the way they are skilled or where they have interest.  But the literal meaning of the word translated “way” seems to carry the notion or meaning of a path or journey.  “Should go” is literally, according to the mouth of, or in accordance with what a superior says.  So, one way to say this is that there is a path or journey a child is meant to take as the son of a father who’s following the Lord (it is written by Solomon).  There are right and wrong ways to turn in this life.  This word also carries the notion of “aiming” or “bending” the bow.

  • Key #2:  Setting an environment to aim your child in the instruction of the Lord.

When our children were young we listened to a lot of people who had children that were older than ours and whose children seemed to be heading the right direction in life (and were fairly normal :)).  We also listened to FamilyLife Today and Focus on the Family to get biblically grounded advice on raising children.  My wife and I are certain we haven’t done it perfectly.  And, we know that we’ve done things that are likely to mean counseling sessions for our kids at some point :).  But, one thing I can say with certainty and by God’s grace, we did raise them to seek after God and point them toward Him.  They are at ages now that require them to own that relationship and not rest on “mom and dads” faith relationship with God.

>  The Proverb shares that if we do the first two things that our children won’t depart from that when they are old.  Yet, I’ve known more couples than I would ever have imagined who raised their children in this way, and their children are not in a close relationship with God.  If this is a biblical principle, how come it doesn’t work all the time?:

  • Key #3:  This is a Proverb of wisdom, not a promise that it will always be the result.

From “The Bible Knowledge Commentary”, A proverb is a literary device whereby a general truth is brought to bear on a specific situation. Many of the proverbs are not absolute guarantees for they express truths that are necessarily conditioned by prevailing circumstances. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (1:953).   When I first heard this, it really helped free me from the pressure of the result to focus on the things that I as a parent could do.  I can do the first things in the Proverb.  First, I looked at my foundation as a follower of Christ.  (remember–you can’t give what you don’t have).  Second, we made time to share God with our kids through memorizing scripture (trying to make it fun) and reading them stories and discussing them with practical applications to their lives.  We were also careful about what we allowed them to watch on TV,  but did spend time explaining things from different perspectives so they weren’t “sheltered” from the world completely.

Bottom Line:  Parenting is a challenging endeavor in the best of circumstances.  Unfortunately, we are almost never given those kinds of circumstances.  There are things we can do as parents and then, most of the rest is out of our hands.  In fact, even what we can do is from God.  Remember, it’s never too early or too late to pray, love and lead your children in an appropriate way according to their age.

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