Train up children in the way they should go…

teacuppamela.pngI think about this verse a lot — I’ve thought about it a lot over the years. What does it mean and how do I practically apply it? What do we, as parents, needs to keep as our focus when we’re training up our children in the way they should go? I think a lot of us started out thinking of this verse and using it as sort of a boundary verse. You know, train up the children in Sunday School and church, pray with them at their bedside after they’ve brushed their teeth at night… be sure they know the books of the Bible and John 3.16 – throw in the 23rd Psalm and Amazing Grace and they’ll pretty much have a firm foundation (and hopefully, cavity free teeth).

Well, the long longer I’ve lived and, actually, the longer I’ve been parenting, I’ve come to see this verse as much deeper and much more important than my earlier understanding from the first cursory reading and subsequent years of listening to radio programs or hearing child-training talks at retreats or homeschooling conferences or when reading how-to books on child rearing. Now, I’m not disparaging the use of oft cited verses for support of parenting methods or directives – not at all, what I mean to say is that there is much, much more to each verse than might be initially understood – or, rather, I think we too often take a very simplistic view of a particular passage. We too often focus on the outward behaviour — and that is very, very important – but what we want to do is reach the heart — train the heart.

Take the Deuteronomy 6 passage, for example. We read it, accept it, believe it and *say* we want to apply it. Now, do we? Do we really? Or do we, in reality, just want to believe it — want for it to have been applied when we look back at our parenting years. I mean, it’s an exceedingly worthy — but extremely challenging standard to bear and goal to attain.

Consider: “… shall teach them diligently unto thy children… shall talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them… and thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house and on thy gates.” (for emphasis, italics mine — Deuteronomy 6.6-9)

Train up a child in the way he should go… I think we, as parents of young children, are so busy with the dailies and the tyranny of the urgent, that we lose sight of the long haul or the end result — the *way* they should go. We get caught up in the “today they shall go” instead of the long “way they shall go.’

Train up a child in the way he should go.
Train up a child in the way he should go.
Train up a child in the way he should go.
Train up a child in the way he should go.
Train up a child in the way he should go.

Too often, we get ahold of some training book, parenting method or homeschooling program, or we go to some seminar or join some organization and we attempt to implement all the right stuff and think that in doing so, we’ll come out with children all trained up the THE way – we see sparkling faces and think: that’s what I want, shining children. We think if we put in all the right stuff, we’ll pull out perfect looking children. And I think we miss a whole bunch. I know *I* did (and, sadly, still do sometimes). We miss the deeper stuff of what God is teaching us in His Word. His Word is great, it’s deep and it’s worth mining. And minding.

I think I erred or missed in the early days the training up a child in the way he should go – bcz God has a specific and marvelous plan for each child. Each child is a story – each child has a story – each child is a unique gift going a unique way and needs unique training for the way he/she should go. O, my, I think I missed that early on. I thought I understood the training — the shaping the will without breaking the Spirit… (Yes, a product of the 70’s parenting and Dobson’s Focus on the Family 6 week film series) the daring to discipline and all of that. I was wanting to do everything right for a proper immediate response and was not focused on the very long term end result so much. You know… sort of like in Willy Wonka… when Mrs. Salt says, “Happiness is what counts with children, happiness and harmony.”

I/we was/were looking for a happy, ‘well adjusted child’ and we did have that — but somewhere along the way, I missed a key point in the training of the first two boys – we both did, my husband and I. We mistook outward obedience for a yielded heart. We see that we really ought to have attended more to very specific idiosyncrasies of each boy – each boy’s bent – or, the way each *he* should go. We knew we were to instill a love for the Lord, a love for His Word – but I think the heart wasn’t always yielded. In the end, it’s to Jesus, it’s for Jesus, it’s with Jesus. So, what I am saying is that there is a way each child should be treated – though using the same material, the same information, the same everything — perhaps the way it’s delivered or the style, etc., will occasionally be unique to each child – thus, a child trained up in the way he should go.

I know we’ve sure had ample opportunities to implement this ‘theory’ over the years. What ‘works’ for one child will not or does not necessarily ‘work’ in or for another one. One discipline method for one would be totally excessive for another. In the initial training phase, one child can hear a direction and I can be fairly certain it will be obeyed – another child can hear the same command and will always probably need to be supervised or checked on. After the initial training is done, the discipline to follow through will be different with both children or more. My goal is still the same – my method is not necessarily the same.

In the end, my hope and prayer, my only desire is that our children walk in Truth and that they love and follow Jesus. Wherever He takes them. Whatever the cost. I pray none be lost and that all be found occupying, serving the Lord till He returns.

timothy pounding fufu
Timothy in Ghana

kathryn chicken
Kathryn in Uganda
kathryn village



0 thoughts on “Train up children in the way they should go…

  1. O, yes—- this is the only reason I have come to the conclusion I have: hindsight = it is 20/20.

    It is now this curious mix of hindsight and foresight that I am/we are training up the last bunch… tending the children like we do the garden. Sort of seeming hard with the initial pruning, then pruning as the errant sprouts or fruitless sprouts appear; taking time to smell the roses, drenching the roots in fresh water, lots of Son-shine and good food according to need and then setting the blooms around for everyone to enjoy… bending the twigs more gently and shaping the wreaths while they’re green so that they’ll be of great use and beauty long after we’re gone.

    Long after I’m gone I want people to say, my-o-my, those children sure are a blessing.

    Thank you, both… with love!

    blessings, pamela

  2. I so hear what you are saying about training up a child in the unique way that child is to go. I think it is so much easier to see the idea you are trying to share after you’ve been parenting for awhile. I think those first years, young parents are so just trying to survive, plus those little people just seem to need so much training just to get through the day. Teaching a two year old self control is no small venture. I think for me, I had no creativity for different ways to handle different personalities. So, all of my brood pretty much received the same treatment, even if their personalities could have used a little variety. Alas, the redemption of God comes in hand, and that love covering a multitude of sins!! You are a blessing Pamela. Joyfully, Pam R

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *