Perhaps you have heard this proverb before, “Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old, they will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
Why does the writer, inspired by the Holy Spirit, use the word “train?” They could have said “teach,” “guide,” or any other number of words, so why “train?”
I believe this is an intentional word that is very appropriate to our task as parents. When children are small, they need to be “trained” to obey which cultivates a basic humility in their hearts. This humility is absolutely vital in the parenting task of preparing the soil of their hearts for Jesus. If this doesn’t happen in their early years, especially zero to seven, we are always trying to play catch up and it is a greater struggle.
So how do we train our children? One important way is corrective discipline. There are two main parts to corrective discipline: 1. Speaking wise words to correct what is wrong. 2. Using consequences to shape a child’s will.
First, it is important to note that we must first lay the foundation of obedience by creating a loving relationship through sympathy, encouragement, nurture, and instruction. After that foundation is there, then we are in a place to correct our children well.
When our children do wrong actions or have a wrong heart attitude, they need to be corrected. One of the ways we do that is through wise words of correction. To have wise words of correction, we as parents need to be in the Scriptures regularly to gain that wisdom from the Holy Spirit. Also, when we use verbal correction, it has a greater impact when we practice effective communication skills. For example, we need to speak the truth in love. Sometimes we need to be stern, but that doesn’t mean we need to speak harshly in anger.
Another way that our children need to be corrected is by using consequences to shape their will. The keys to this kind of discipline are calmness and consistency. Our children’s actions say as much about our consistency in training as they do about our children’s character.
One way of being consistent is by training our children to first-time obedience. When I ask my toddler to come to me, we expect them to come the first time. In our world today, this seems so strange, but it is fundamental to training our children to obey. The reality is that even though our children fight against this on the outside, deep down they crave the kind of security and consistency that this brings. “But my child is strong-willed!” Yes, some children are more naturally compliant than others, but the reality is, inside all of us is a rebellious streak that needs to be trained. When we train them to obey from an early age (in love), we cultivate a softness of spirit that will prepare them to walk with Jesus the rest of their lives.
To dive into this more deeply, check out Heartfelt Discipline by Clay Clarkson.