Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
At first, I took it literally. Teach your kid about God and he’ll be a believer throughout his lifetime. Then the family ministry folks stressed it meant to guide him in the way he (or she, of course) is bent. So if your kid is naturally strong-willed, take this into account. But what kid isn’t naturally strong-willed? Then with future vocations in mind, the philosophy was to resist trying to change a future artist into an accountant, but to make sure he’s a godly artist.
Well, I guess I’m back to what this verse likely means. How many ways are there that God really cares about? The correct answer: His way. We’ve only got a few years to “train up” and we’d better dedicate ourselves to teaching the essentials. What are God’s core values? Well, read the Proverbs for starters. The reality check to parents is, your child is bent towards evil. Face it.
So model God’s ways, teach on all occasions, relying on God’s power and wisdom. And don’t go soft on discipline. Proverbs 22:15 says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.” I will let this verse stand without comment.
I like the way my dad handled various incidents worthy of corporal punishment. You tell the truth, or fess up, and he stopped after the stern lecture–which could itself be terrifying! But he was pleased that I told the truth. Think about the psychology of that methodology. Kind of like Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
One last thing. Pray a lot. Sure, kids have minds of their own, but we pray earnestly that the Holy Spirit takes up residence in that mind as soon as possible. So account for the kid’s proclivities, but major on the majors. Get him to the finish line, and that’s on the knee of Jesus.