Yesterday at church I made reference to Proverbs 22:6, a classic verse that states: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
I chose to talk about this verse because at school, my kids are now at an age that they get commended when they succeed and behave themselves, and well…not so much when they do something wrong. It’s times like these that make a parent look at this verse and realize how much work they have to do. The King James Version says, “Train up a child…” Don’t just steer them, train them. While I would love for this to be an intense one-day training, I realize that’s just not possible. Training takes a long time and is filled with moments of victory and moments of feeling completely defeated (for both the person being trained and the trainer). However, no matter what challenges you face, you press on knowing that the outcome will be worth it.
Now I will be the first to admit that it is difficult when your child is not heading in the direction you anticipated. In fact it can be downright deflating when you, as the parent, get lectured by a teacher because of your child’s behavior. And there is no doubt that it can be twice as defeating when the “ADD talk” begins. As a Christian, a father, and the head of my household I have to make choices to better my family. God has to direct change in our homes. It cannot come from any teacher, doctor, or any other authority figure in your child’s life. It starts at the top. When problems arise, as a parent you officially switch into “Coach of the Year” mode because you realize there is some intense training that needs to take place. May I share a few steps from my playbook with you? My hope is that through my transparency, you will be able to take away a few things and apply them to your families.
First, we simply need to pray more. It goes without saying that we need to pray often. We should pray together with our families around the dinner table but we must, as husbands and fathers, take the lead and pray for our families on our own. Just the other night I was frustrated and stayed up until midnight just walking up and down the hallway of my house praying over my kids and my wife. I have faced enough attacks from the enemy to know what needed to be done and let me say, the next morning my intense praying had paid off. We began to see things change for the good and knew that we had turned the corner. This cannot be overstated: we must be people of prayer.
Second, stop playing the “I’m too busy” game. What is so important that you cannot take a little time away to just be goofy with your kids or go out with your spouse on a “date night”? I realize life comes at us hard but the fact is that we can and must make time for what we really want to do. Even if they can be challenging, our kids need us. And spouses need each other too! Those dirty dishes can wait. We must take time for each other.
Most importantly, we must have times of prayer and reading together. I guess you could say the old church would call this “Family Altar.” It has gotten to the point that if we do not pray before a meal or before going to bed, my kids call us out on it! I love that. We have always prayed with our kids each night and I think that sets a good standard. I am so thankful that my wife comes alongside me and makes this happen. We take it a step further and read to our kids 98% of the time before they go to bed. Occasionally it is something that won't directly help their spiritual walk, but it is important to stay up on Curious George and his antics! The love, time, and thought behind the act of reading with our children is what matters. That is what they will remember as they grow older and eventually raise families of their own. Recently, I came across a family devotional entitled “Grace For the Moment For Kids” by Max Lucado. It is a 365 day devotional for the whole family that is easy to read and great to discuss. We now read the devotional, talk about the questions or thoughts posed at the end of each message, and pray for each other. It is vitally important to do these things each and every day to promote the development and health of our families.
Going back to the original Scripture from Proverbs, I have noticed an assumption that needs to be addressed. As parents we cannot train a child in the way he/she should go unless we know which way he/she should go. Many of the things we do to train our children must also come with understanding of our own. We must start from the ground up and lay a strong foundation of the basics before we can expect our children to be like mature believers. We fail our children when we try to make youngsters think and act like adults. Remember, God delights in small beginnings (Zechariah 4:10).
We ought to always do our best as parents to lead our families well. Is Proverbs 22:6 a promise? No. It is what theologians would call “wisdom literature.” If we are willing to put our selfishness aside, things ought to turn out well as we honor God. We cannot control what will happen in the future, but if we do our best to give our children solid ground on which to stand, they have a much better chance at succeeding as they grow older.