If we do not teach our children not to be demanding, inconsiderate, disruptive, selfish, and disobedient, we are allowing them to believe that there are no rules, or no “law”, so to speak. How will they become conscious of sin? How will they know that God has a different way for them, and that they will need Him for salvation and for the power to live a holy life that is pleasing to Him?
Passionate Legacy Principle #2: Accept your right and responsibility to train your children to biblical morality (Proverbs 22:6). The parents have been given the responsibility to train, care and provide for a household. With that comes the authority to determine and enforce the principles that will be lived out in the home. Be confident in your authority. Parents should not feel guilty for directing or disciplining their children. If your child doesn’t like you once in a while, that’s okay! Don’t make being a buddy such a high priority that you can’t be an effective leader. Deep down, children desire consistent boundaries; they provide protection, security, freedom and peaceful coexistence with others. Structured moral training in the early years is essential because self-control is gained through moral training, and all other virtues are dependent upon self-control.
While her mother ordered their fast food lunch, five year old Molly demanded one thing and then changed her mind and demanded another … several times. Molly repeatedly interrupted her mother by yelling, “No, I don’t want that,” making rude noises, and pounding on her mother’s leg. When the family and I went to choose a table, Molly chose a different table and demanded that her mother move. Her mother obeyed. Then, Molly changed to yet another table and ordered her mother to change again, but her mother refused. Molly began to scream and yell, argue and accuse, whine and cry, and finally verbally assault her mother with name calling. Her mother tried to grab her arm, but she darted across the room and under a table. Her mother did not go to get her but instead told me that she had tried everything, including spanking, and nothing had worked. Molly would not cry, would not apologize, and her behavior would not change.
Parents have been given the responsibility to train their children. In First Samuel 3:12-14, God says he will judge Eli’s family forever, because Eli knew his sons were committing sin but failed to restrain them. Sometimes we know our children are getting into things that they shouldn’t, but we are too engrossed in Facebook or our favorite show to deal with it, so we let it slide “just this once.” We hear our children in the other room treating each other with hatred and violence but we don’t stop what we are doing to teach them how to resolve conflict. At times we know that our children are being disrespectful to teachers or bullying others at school, but we leave it to the teachers to deal with. Training our children is our responsibility, and restraining them when they sin, is part of it.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” The book is Proverbs. A proverb is an observation of life that is generally true, it is not a promise because of course there are exceptions to these general principles and observations of life. Many principles in Proverbs are repeated with different wording throughout the book. So looking at other proverbs in the context can provide clues to the meaning of this proverb. Let’s look at some surrounding parenting Proverbs. Proverbs 19:18 says “Discipline your son, for in that there is hope, do not be a willing party to his death.” This verse teaches that there is an actual right and wrong and if we don’t discipline when wrong is done, we are allowing our children to die spiritually or physically. Proverbs 22:15 says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” This verse teaches that every child has folly (or foolish rebellion) in his heart, and we need to discipline him to drive it out. Because of these surrounding verses, I believe that the clear meaning of Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it,” is that there is a specific “way” that he should go, not his own way, or his heart’s way*, but God’s Way, and that if we train him in that way, when he is old, he will most likely go that way. It is not a promise, but a general principle that if we train children when they are young to go God’s way, when they get older they will continue to go God’s way. Ephesians 6:4 reemphasizes our responsibility to train when Paul instructs fathers to “bring your children up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” It is our responsibility to give our children this training and instruction of the Lord.
*Some recent and quite creative interpretations of this verse have made their way into popular literature, articles, and sermons. Interpretations that claim that this verse is teaching that we should try to follow and train according to a child’s “natural bent” or “temperament” go against the context of the book of Proverbs, represent a misunderstanding of the historical and literary context, as well as display an anachronistic misunderstanding of psychology and the Scriptures.