Proverbs 22:6 states:
“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (NIV).
How can we train our children in the way they should go? Training is best done from their childhood years; yet, even if they are entering or in the teen years, training needs to take place before situations arise that call for punishment (which, according to Merriam-Webster is “suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution; a penalty inflicted on an offender through judicial procedure; severe, rough, or disastrous treatment”) or discipline (defined again by Merriam-Webster as “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character; control gained by enforcing obedience or order; orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior; a rule or system of rules governing conduct or activity).
**Dr. Phil says: “Children live what they learn.” Youth learn how to parent at home AND in the homes of their peers. We expect our children to behave according to our guidelines; yet, we sometimes bypass the training they need to comprehend our expectations and guidelines. When negative behavior occurs, then, we must assume responsibility for our negligence in “training them up in the way they should go.” One obstacle to effective parenting is that we feel pressured to defend our parenting style, which is neither Biblically based nor expected.
A seeing-eye dog can be trained to lead its master without understanding why! Household pets can be trained in bathroom skills BEFORE there is an accident…or they can just be punished when an accident occurs. As parents, we can discipline or punish over and again, never producing the benefits of front-end training. As **Michael and Debi Pearl (The Gospel Truth) say: “Train up, not beat up. Train up, not discipline up. Train up, not educate up. Train up, not ‘positive affirmation’ up. Training is the most obvious missing element in child rearing. Training is not discipline. A child will need more than “obedience training,” but without it everything else will be insufficient.”
Consider this hypothetical situation: your teenager, Johnny, knows that when he is asked to do something by a parent, he is expected to comply immediately without challenge or question. You ask him to feed the animals, and he whines and asks “why”? He has been pushing the limits all day, causing you to be frustrated, exasperated, tired, and you want to scream and shout all manner of holy words! (Yet, you whisper a little prayer for patience and grace instead). You calmly, yet firmly, state: “Johnny, feed the animals without further discussion!” After Johnny does so you respond with a simple “thank-you.” He knows that, should he further challenge you, there will be immediate consequences! You have trained him in your expectations and corresponding results and, therefore, a conflict should not even occur.
Keeping the lines of communication open with your teenager is paramount to a solid relationship. One of the best ways to make that happen is stated in the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” As difficult as it can be, parents should treat their child(ren) the way they want to be treated. Remember: “Children live what they learn.” The premise is that you will communicate your expectations and, in turn, your child will communicate back his/her understanding. It is not necessary for parents to prove to their children that they are right; it is not necessary for children to understand our reasoning. What is necessary is that we raise our children in the “fear and admonition of the Lord,” according to the Word of God.
So, what are some practical steps we can implement to help our children find “…the way he/she should go…”?
- Pray, pray, pray…and then some!
- Be constantly seeking Godly direction through reading the Word.
- Train your child(ren) early to live according to your expectations. Clearly outline consequences, positive and negative, for choices made. State the why and wherefore of each situation only ONCE. It then becomes the child’s responsibility to obey or suffer the consequences.
- Discipline, rather than punish, focusing on an outcome of changed behavior versus inflicting pain for a wrong decision.
- Say, “I love you” daily; follow through with actions that show it!
- Forgive easily (again remember the Golden Rule) and harbor no grudges.
- Communicate clearly and concisely your expectations. Also remind her/him that he/she are a gift of God, on loan to you as parents, and that your ultimate desire is for him/her to grow up into the man/woman God has designed her/him to be.
Remember that we are training our youth of today to be the leaders of our country tomorrow. When we teach our children how to behave, and we enforce it with consistency, they are learning responsibility. They are learning how to deal with failure. They are learning about rewards and punishment/discipline, and they are learning to be accountable in every aspect of their lives. Our goal when they leave home is to sense our Master saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant(s)!”