Understanding the “Why” of Training Your Child
A famous proverb says, “Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old, they will not depart from it.” We are going to look at Four Ingredients for Child Training, and today we will look at the first ingredient: understanding the “why” of training your child.
So why does the proverb say “train” your child? It could say “love” your child, or “teach” your child, but the word is most definitely train your child. In order to answer this question, we need to consider another question.
What is the most important thing our children need? Is it good manners? How about education? What about diverse experiences?
As important as all of those things are, the most important thing our children need is to accept Jesus as the Lord of their lives. He is their only hope for spiritual freedom and fullness of life! So, another question arises: what is the most important ingredient to accept Jesus as Lord? Simply put: humility. In order to freely accept anyone as lord over us, we need humility. That is why pride has consistently been considered the chief of all sins. Pride keeps us from accepting Jesus as Lord. In contrast, if we have a general posture of humility and submissiveness in our lives, our hearts are prepared to realize we need a Savior and when we are faced with our sinfulness, to accept Jesus as Lord.
This brings us back to why training our children is so important. If we train our children to obedience (in a healthy way), we are instilling an element of humility and submissiveness in them. This will prepare their hearts to be ready to truly receive Jesus one day, not just in a “religious” way, but in an authentic, living relationship.
Obedience does not come naturally to any of us! From the time we are toddlers, we have rebellious hearts. That is why it is so crucial from the earliest age to train our children to obedience. At that age, they will not learn it just by us telling them they should obey. We have to train them to obey. If we wait until after the toddler years, it is extremely difficult to make up that lost ground.
Another practical need for training children to obedience is that they become people who are less likely to hurt others and themselves. The reason so many parents are desperate to have time away from their kids is because their children have never been trained to obedience and become very unpleasant to live with. Even more tragic is that children who haven’t been trained to obedience are more likely to rebel against teachers, future employers, and continue in a cycle that hurts themselves and others.
So, we train our kids because we truly believe that is what is best for them. We believe that if we don’t train them, they will hurt themselves and others more than they already will naturally do in this life. This means that one of the greatest kindnesses we can do for our kids is to train them, even though it may not feel “kind” at the time. Sometimes love is soft, and sometimes love is tough. Granted, there are some kids more naturally compliant than others, but the question remains, “Do I love my ‘strong-willed’ child enough to do the hard work of training them?”
The other important part of the proverb is, “train up a child …” A few years ago, Julie and I watched a TV series made by the BBC called “7 Up.” This TV series was begun some decades ago and the major premise of the show was, “Show me a child at seven, and I will show you the adult.” They took a random group of seven-year-old children from England and followed them around at home, at school, and at play. After a while, you got to know the character of these children well. In seven years, they did the same thing with the same group of kids who were now fourteen. They did this every seven years until these people were fifty-six years old. It was uncanny how the older adults were the same basic person they were at seven! The first seven years of life are profoundly formative. How parents train their children in the early years will largely determine who they become.
Let’s come to believe that the parent who truly loves their child, will train their child. We need that kind of love to stick with it when the going gets tough!
Next, we will look at the second ingredient of training children: a healthy relationship.