Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Child training works. You can make your children great in the sight of God and men. If you do not train them, you should not have had them. Children not trained will default to the foolishness and sinfulness they were born with, which leads to their pain and trouble.
Child training works. But you must get a vision of it right now. It takes wisdom and effort. It takes the instruction of God and Solomon found in this book of Proverbs. It must be done sooner than later, so do not procrastinate in any training that your children need.
A properly trained child will fear God and live a wise and righteous life as an adult. An untrained child will not fear God or live a wise and righteous life as an adult. Only a miracle of grace can undo poor child training, and God has not promised to bail you out. Do not question this promise. Exceptions you see do not alter the rule. Believe it. Do it.
There is no secret or mystery here. Slothful parents hunt for special methods to train their children. They are always worrying, reading, buying books, and attending seminars, but they are hardly ever training. Action is far more important than technique. Consistency is far more important than intensity. Stop looking for an easier or smarter way. Get busy.
This proverb is a commandment, not a suggestion. It is a promise, not a possibility. Bible believers trust this rule as much as any other verse. They are not intimidated by the task before them. They put their trust in God’s precious scriptures, and they get to work, today. They know the Creator God and King Solomon knew more about child training than all others combined. They could not care less what the world’s experts think.
Solomon said, “Train.” He did not say raise. You raise vegetables, but you train children. Feeding a child nutritious meals, providing warm clothing, giving him his own bedroom, and kissing him good night is not training. Most every species of animals does these things for their young. Training a child is calculated instruction and discipline to form long-term character and wisdom in the fear of the Lord and knowledge of Scripture.
You train them “up.” This describes the period from birth to maturity. Training can begin early, as infants can be taught a feeding schedule and that not all crying gets immediate attention. It progresses from a control stage to an instruction stage, and then to a counseling stage. It continues through puberty and a whole new set of issues. It continues to maturity, when a young adult creates a new home and starts the process over again.
You train them up “in the way.” Parents cannot train every step, but they can train the direction (Gen 18:19). God gives children to parents with a blank slate for a mind. You fill that mind with godly knowledge and wisdom. As Scripture does not dictate every step of your life, allowing much individual liberty, so you train them in the way of godliness.
They are to be trained up in the way “they should go.” It cannot be the way they want to go. Each child defaults to foolishness and sin from Adam. Without training against that default instinct, they will grow into committed and hardened sinners. No training is default training – you will have a fool for a child (Pr 29:15). The way they should go is the way of righteousness laid out plainly in Scripture (Deut 6:4-9; 29:29; Eph 6:4). It must not be the way the world would have them go, for that is Satan’s way (Eph 2:1-3).
When they are “old,” they will follow the training. Here is a promise to be believed, but it also allows for possible difficulties during adolescent, teenage, or youthful years, before they are “old.” Properly trained as a child, the teenage years do not have to be difficult. If trained consistently, they will revert to their training as an adult. Believe it. Count on it.
What is child training? It is a consistent example of righteous living that the child can first feel and then observe as they grow up. It is teaching the existence of God and the absolute authority of the Bible. It is enforcing God’s rules and parental authority strictly and severely. It is teaching by reproof and the rod. It is teaching by repetition throughout the day. It is using both positive and negative reinforcement for behavior. It is a very open relationship with children, allowing them to know you and learning them well.
What is not child training? Yelling is not child training. Sending them to a Christian school is only a weak part of child training. Browbeating or nagging them is not child training. Spurts of rules and punishment are not child training. “Time out” is not child training. Playing catch in the yard is not child training. Sesame Street is not child training. Putting the mother in charge is not child training. Rocking them tenderly is not child training. Giving them an allowance without labor is not child training.
Previous generations grew up on farms observing the training of animals. If they did not train certain animals, the family would either starve or be severely handicapped. Child training was easy after breaking colts and training mules for the plow. There is no rocket science here, and the search for new or creative techniques misses the mark. Any parent can train their children, if they will flush their selfishness and slothfulness and get busy. It is a modern shame that seeing-eye dogs can be trained, but children cannot.
The children of this generation are a mess. Most are arrogant, foolish, ignorant, lazy, immature, profane, rebellious, selfish, or wasteful. There is a cause of this personal and social dysfunction. Their parents were too busy, selfish, or lazy to train them. The consequences are a generation of fools, which will beget more and worse fools. America’s future is bleak, not because of Washington, but because of foolish parents.
Let the righteous arise! Every godly parent should seize this proverb as his own and get to work. Godly and wise descendants are one sentence away (with a little regular effort). Make a reasonable and consistent investment, and trust the Lord for the rest (Ps 127:1-2). He can multiply a few loaves and fishes to feed a great multitude with much left over. He can bless your efforts to bear the fruit of righteous children, who will rejoice your heart. There is no reason to be defeated; there is every reason to be elated. God be with you.