This morning I got stuck on this verse from Proverbs: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) Pretty straightforward, isn’t it? If I just teach my children right from wrong they’ll pick right when they get old. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.
I had to dig a little deeper into that verse because something wasn’t sitting right with me. I thought, it sure would be easier on me to put that verse on them – as in, “I’ve done my job. You know right from wrong. So now it’s on you kids and we’ll just wait until you’re older and then pick right every time.” Wrong-O, sister.
Let me share a little of what I learned. (BTW, if you’ve never actually read the “extras” in your Bible like the intro to the books and the footnotes, READ THEM. They are there for a reason & very helpful.)
First off I wanted to know exactly what a Proverb IS and what it IS NOT. “The proverbs contained in this book are not to be interpreted as prophecies or their statements about effects and results as promises.” Okie dokie. Got it. The book of Proverbs IS NOT a bunch of prophecies and promises. So what is it?
“Proverbs was written to give ‘prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young’ (1:4), and to make the wise even wiser (1:5). The frequent references to ‘my sons’ emphasize instructing the young and guiding them in a way of life that yields rewarding ends. Acquiring wisdom and knowing how to avoid the pitfalls of folly lead to personal well-being, happy family relationships, fruitful labors and good standing in the community.” (Introduction to Proverbs, NIV – Italics all mine)
Yeah, the well-known light bulb chain was pulled “on” and that made a whole lotta sense to me. It’s not a bunch of promises (although the ones concerning our enemies we sure would like to see play out, i.e. “the wicked will go hungry” – 13:25) but a book of instruction for the young that will lead them to rewarding results.
Well that brought up a whole new question to my mind: when is a child no longer young? When is he or she grown? When do you stop instructing, teaching, guiding, and disciplining your child?
I’d like to give you an firm answer, but I’m still working on that myself, seeing as how I have two children, one 19 and one 14. Talk to most parents and they’ll tell you around the age of 12 or 13 the sweet, never in trouble, respectful child all of a sudden starts rolling his eyes and expressing the “my parents are so dumb” attitude when a parent tries to correct or instruct them. And geez – discipline? The time-out chair has simply lost its effectiveness so you have to graduate to taking his third hand (his PHONE) away, or threaten to keep him from playing golf all weekend (oh, the misery…).
So what’s my answer to when a child is grown? I have no earthly idea. I think it’s different for each child. Right now it’s hard to imagine I will ever stop instructing, teaching, guiding and yes, even disciplining. (Sorry, my 2.) It’s what God put me here for – it’s why he gave me those 2 beautiful, challenging, growing, pain-in-my-rear-at-times, awesome children.
I have realized the methods of my parenting may change, but it is ALWAYS Biblical to “Train a child in the way he should go.”
And since I couldn’t find the age limit on the word “child” in the Bible, I stand here today – and every day – hoping to instruct and guide my children in Biblical truths so that when they are grown (whatever age that may be) they will choose a way of life that “yields rewarding ends.”
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