The book of Proverbs contains wise sayings that are generally true. This means that there are exceptions to the rule, but they do give general principles of wisdom that guide us. One of those that is been often referred to is Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go:And when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
The idea of this proverb is that those who intentionally work at guiding, training, and teaching their children in the correct way will find that they are not able to depart from it. That does not mean that they will not make mistakes or go against this teaching, but what is taught in their youth will stick with them the rest of their lives. It will impact all the decisions they make.
Other advice from Solomon for parents is regarding discipline and chastening. Five proverbs talk about correction:
- Proverbs 13:24 – “He that spareth his rod hateth his son:But he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”
- Proverbs 19:18 – “Chasten thy son while there is hope,And let not thy soul spare for his crying.”
- Proverbs 22:15 – “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child;But the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”
- Proverbs 23:13–14 – “Withhold not correction from the child:For if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.Thou shalt beat him with the rod,And shalt deliver his soul from hell.”
- Proverbs 29:17 – “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest;Yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.”
A big part of training our children is:
- discipling them when they do wrong
- chastening them early (‘betimes’), while there is hope (while they are young)
- chastening them even though they will cry and not want us to, realising that loving correction and discipline that our children feel is ‘killing them’ will be the means of their soul be delivered from hell
- realising that children are born with foolishness bound in their heart and parental discipline is the thing that drives that foolishness away
- correcting our children and it will bring rest and delight in the long run to us as parents
Clearly, parenting is not for cowards. It takes courage, wisdom, determination, persistence and intention. Children need parents who are proactive, who care enough to say, ‘No’ and who have the courage to do what their children need at the time not what they say they want.
If we follow God’s instructions about child-rearing, we will reap the rest and delight that comes from seeing our children not depart from our teaching. Again, they may, as an exception, drift from the path, but generally speaking that training will bear great fruit in the lives of our children.