Train Up a Child

A child does NOT come to us as a blank canvas. If you must use an innate analogical object to describe the arrival of a child, might I suggest a wrapped package? What image did you see when I mentioned a blank canvas? Most likely, everyone pictured just about the same thing. What did you imagine when I mentioned the wrapped package? Ah, now the answers might get interesting. Big. Small. Colorful. Brown paper. Postal service. Bubble wrapped. The ideas are endless. Just as the diversity of humanity.

In most child rearing seminars given in a Christian context the following scripture gets mentioned.

Proverbs (of course, where all the great child rearing verses go to have a nice cup of tea and chat) 22:6.

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

It has been taught that there is ONE WAY for all children to be raised. If you are a self respecting parent with even an iota of good old fashioned holiness in you then you better find out what that ONE WAY is and make sure you march your children right along that behavior pattern or you can simply find the nearest exit and don’t let the door hit you on the way out of our perfect little kiddos club. That’s right, folks, ONE WAY or the highway. I can testify to the stench of that daily dousing of slop-bucket guilt on my head as I tried to find that elusive ONE WAY for my kids to behave. How oppressive.

Help!

My mom gave me a wonderful book about discovering the gifts of our children. I gleaned from its pages a very powerful thought.

Children are very different from each other. Thus, they need to be parented differently.

Let’s pick this verse apart a little bit.*

Train up – “properly to narrow; figuratively to initiate or discipline: – dedicate”

Looking at each child, I have the glorious privilege to help them ‘narrow down’ who God has made them to be. Then I get to initiate the discipline necessary for them to dedicate themselves to that design so they may have the fullest and most satisfying life available to them. Has God given them a lean towards music? Fill their life with music and help them develop that gift. Has God given them an analytical and logical mind? Place them in problem solving situations and stimulate their brains. Does the child have a great capacity of compassion? Give them opportunities to serve and care for others.

In the way  – “a road (as trodden); figuratively a course of life or mode of action: – custom, journey, manner, passenger, through, toward”

See, it’s not ‘the one way we all should go’. No.  It’s ‘the way he should go’. Have you considered the way that your children should go based on their strengths and personalities? Yes, there is an accepted comportment for every Christian. And ascribing to a lifestyle governed by love must be part of how we raise our kids. I am not so sure, though, that this verse refers to comportment. A road. A path. A course of life. A journey. Take a look around. What a great many paths surround us. God has entrusted us as parents to help our kids find their unique way.

Should go – “the mouth (as the means of blowing)”

How often we forget the power of a soft answer. Ours words breathe hope or despair into the hearts of our hearers. Kids have this amazing ability to believe. Simply believe. Why do we forget to give them something to believe? We blow them in the right direction, in the way each of them should go, by encouraging the talents we see in them. Instead of nagging our children about their faults and deficiencies we should choose to bolster their strengths and gifts. Imagine what they could do with those talents, and then deliberately speak about it.

Depart – “to turn off (literally or figuratively): decline, eschew, leave undone, be past, pluck away, rebel, revolt, turn (aside, away, in), withdraw”

It amazes me how many young people, on the crux of adulthood, have no clue what they are going to do with their life. How much time, money, and resources are wasted by these floundering ones? How many false starts? How many missed opportunities? I am not assuming that we play the part of fortune tellers and demand our kids follow the course we deem most viable for them. Rather, we can raise our kids to like themselves. Raise them to see value in our diversity. Help them to be proud of the way God has made them. Praise them when they take steps to develop the goodness inside of them. Then they won’t wonder around directionless. They won’t turn away from the true self God intended them to be. Allow them to be confident.

A wrapped package has been delivered to you. As time goes by the corners will be pulled back to revel small parts of the glorious person before you. Get excited as you see the unique personality of each child glimmer through. Don’t expect the next one to be anything like the one that came before.

Expect uniqueness. And celebrate it.

I do not parent each child the same. As a parent of five, spread across a decade, I can tell you that every day calls for a greater dependence on the grace of God in this mama. Each age, stage, and phase require a special touch. What a supreme honor. What a wonderful challenge. What a great hope fills our family as we watch His good plan unfurl.

May God grant us gentleness as we unwrapped the gifts He has placed in our hands. May he grant us a perceptive heart to see the strengths of our dear children.

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