Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Child training works! 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. God is faithful. His Word is true. Do not question this promise. Exceptions 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 looking, reading, buying books, and attending seminars, but they are hardly ever training. Action is more important than technique. Consistency is 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 the precious Scripture, and they get to work, today!
Solomon said, "Train." He did not say raise. We raise vegetables, but we 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.
We train them "up." This describes the period from birth to maturity. Training can begin immediately, 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, 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 again.
We train them up "in the way." Parents cannot train every step, but they can train the way (Gen 18:19). God gives them to us with a blank slate for a mind. We fill that mind with godly knowledge and wisdom. As Scripture does not dictate every step of our lives, allowing us much individual liberty, so we 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 our first parents. 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).
When they are "old," they will follow the training. Here is a promise to be believed, but it also allows for possible difficulties during adolescence, or the teenage 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 that 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 part of child training. Browbeating or nagging them is not child training. Spurts of rules and punishment is 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 hard labor is not child training.
Previous generations grew up on farms observing the training of animals. If they did not train certain animals, they would either starve or be severely handicapped. Child training was easy after watching colts broken and mules trained for the plow. There is no rocket science here, and the search for new or creative techniques misses the boat. Any parent can train their children, if they will flush their selfishness and slothfulness and get busy! It is a shame that seeing-eye dogs can be trained, but children cannot!
The children of this generation are a mess. They are arrogant, foolish, ignorant, immature, lazy, profane, rebellious, selfish, and wasteful. There is an obvious cause for their personal and social dysfunction. Their parents were too busy, selfish, and lazy to train them. The consequences are a generation of fools, which will beget more fools. Our nation'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)! Give a reasonable and consistent effort, 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! Lord, help us!