A Voice in the
"Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Pr22:6)
This sounds like such a 'simple' verse. But as anybody with children knows, many complications come along the way. A recent e-mail asking what to do about a couple of teen-agers, made me realize that we've never really touched on this subject before. I am no 'expert' in these matters, nor do I have children of my own. But I have taught in church, classroom and private settings; and have driven school bus. I'm a 'people watcher' and, ...-I- was a 'child' once, too, believe it or not...as, I -think- were most of you. But, most of all, we have Scripture. Each family situation is unique to that family, but we can understand some basic guidelines that apply to all. God gave what He 'figured' was adequate information to handle the matter successfully.
First of all, let us understand the times in which we live. These are times fulfilling Scripture prophecy. "the boy shall act proudly against the old man...children are their taskmasters..." (Is3:5,12) Their characteristics are given: "Knowing this also, that in the last days grievous times will be on us. For men will be self-lovers, money-lovers, boasters, proud, blasphemers, DISOBEDIENT TO PARENTS, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, unyielding, false accusers, without self-control, savage, despisers of good, traitors, reckless, puffed up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God..." (2Tm3:1-4) If you are having 'problems' with your teen-agers, you'll recognize one (or more) of their problems in these verses.
How do we train and interact with children? Two basic passages. "..fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (Eph6:4)
First of all, what about this "provoke to wrath" bit? There are easily two understandings and applications of this. In today's climate of permissiveness and witch-hunts against Biblical discipline, the word "abuse" comes up most often. Certainly, abuse does enter the picture. "For truly they chastened us for a few days according to their own pleasure.." (Heb12:10) Unlike our heavenly Father Who knows -exactly- what is "for our profit", earthly fathers are often beset by frailties. And as I can attest to from my childhood, abuse -does- happen; even when a 'minister' is wielding the Scriptures as he does it.
But corporal punishment -IS- Scriptural, when administered justly. "Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die." (Pr23:13) Consequences and 'pain' are excellent deterrents. When a person is burned on a stove, he tends to 'learn' not to touch a hot stove. When a child is given 'pain' in response to rebellious behavior, he tends to remember, and not want it in the future. You see...God made that fleshy part of the anatomy specifically, partly, for this purpose; so that pain could be experienced, and -remembered- for a while when sitting down, without doing permanent damage.
What is the goal? "You shall beat him with the rod, and shall deliver his soul from hell." (Pr23:14) Those guilty of -abuse- misappropriate this verse. There have been notable cases where parents have nearly beat their children to death, attempting to "drive the devil out of them." Is -that- what this verse is saying?! Not hardly!! This fits in with the 'other' understanding of Eph6:4 (above). "Do not provoke [them] to wrath." When the child is 'abused' the "provoke" is an act of "exasperating" in "anger". But if "provoke" is "rousing to" wrath, it can be a very different matter. What/Whose wrath is in question? Who has promised wrath? The "wrath of God". (Rom1:18)
"..but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" This is it. How will your child escape God's 'wrath'? If they know the Lord. They are admonished, "Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, while the evil days do not come, nor the years draw near, when you shall say, I have no pleasure in them. (Ec12:1)
Yes, you give them discipline to steer them away from evil and to learn the good. But hand-in-hand with that, you teach them about God. How is that done?
"You shall carefully teach them [God's precepts] to your sons, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up." And everything about your house; its decorations, the pictures and plaques you hang, the magazines that lie around, the TV shows you watch, the music you listen to, the entertainment you engage in; should all be tools of teaching your children of God and His holiness. (Deu6:7-9) This has to be done during their formative years, so they learn of Him during the "days of [their] youth".
You see...this nurturing is an "active" process. -You- shall teach them to -your- sons. -You- shall do all these things around the home. In the Ephesians passage it says "fathers" are responsible for their children. Day-care nurseries cannot be their training grounds. Don't leave it up to the ungodly education system to teach them right and wrong. Parents, it is -your- responsibility. Yes, mothers are included, too. (Tit2:4, 1Tm2:15,5:14, 2Tm1:5)
So, what happens when they become "teen-agers" and want to spend time with their peers? After all, society almost 'demands' that children be given "freedom" to explore themselves. Well, when they are at the mall doing who-knows-what, and you are at home, you are not -with- them are you. Do you -really- think they are being totally honest with you when they come home and answer your questions regarding 'what-they-did' while at the mall? Oh...you say you didn't 'ask' them?? Well, -shame- on you!
They go to "youth-group" activities. What happens to-and-from the event? Who are they riding with? Is there adult supervision? You're not sure? Well, make it -your- 'business' to find out. And even...go along. If standards have been established and there is a relationship of communication between you and them, they will not be "embarrassed" to have you there. If they are, that's a sure sign 'things' are going on which are at variance with your established guidelines. But you won't know if you're not there, or paying attention when they are talking on the phone with their friends, etc.
What about their "friends" that come around? Suppose they are wearing tongue, belly-button and eyebrow pierced rings, black/purple lipstick, green/orange hair, black clothes, etc. They bring along their CDs of the latest Rock and grunge bands. You object, and your teens retort, "Don't judge the book by its cover." (because of their appearance) Your teens start staying out late, going places without telling you, making up stories to other people about what you told them your rules were, etc. What do you do? Hopefully, if you've brought them up in Godly admonition, this won't ever happen. But suppose in your younger years you were not as committed to the Lord and failed in their upbringing, and -now- you are paying the consequences? Or, perhaps you had some momentary lapses, erroneously thinking you could 'trust' your kids, and -now- they are headed down a wrong path? What to do? Parenting does not come with a "how-to" manual does it. You can't 'practice' on some dummies, and then do the "real thing" with -your- kids. They come out the womb, and "bam!" ...there you are! Learning as you go...on-the-run!
Well, remember the prime objectives. Nurturing them "in the Lord" and "saving their soul from hell...God's wrath." What is the path to those goals?
If you make a point of checking out their CDs, rather than simply dismissing them out-of-hand; check the lyrics, investigate the performers...most of them now have websites. You'll discover life patterns in drugs, sex and demon worship. If your child listens to that music, that is the path they will be drawn to. So, the obvious choice is to get rid of the CDs. Right? Remember, demons travel with those CDs.
In being around these 'peers' your children learn to sass back at you, lie to you, disobey you. You soon discover that the "cover" of the book is what's inside, because the inside is what -it- is. The cover does not make the book. The book makes the cover. "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.."(Mt15:19) Your kids will not "win" them to the Lord by being around them, disobeying you, but they will bring your kids down...to hell.
With the 'demonic' origins of much that today's younger generation is into, your children are in peril of demon possession if you allow them to associate "as friends" with them. If they have started to slide into it, it may take drastic steps to "rescue" your kids. (Jude23) In some cases you will be, literally, "snatching them out of the fire".
They may "hate" you for whatever steps you may take. But you must resolve in your mind and heart...do you -LOVE- them? If you do, you will not want to see them for eternity in hell. The world comes after them in all shapes and sizes. But you must be astute. Do not be "ignorant of [satan's] devices" (2Cor2:11) This includes CDs, video games, concerts, movies, TV shows, parties, friends, ETC. Be involved in your children's activities. -KNOW- what their lives consist of. And rather than being merely RE-active to their behavior and what they -did-, be PRO-active in guiding them into what they are -about-to- do.
In removing these things from them, and them from these things, you are teaching them, practically, about -not- "making provision for the flesh" to fulfill its lusts. (Rom13:14) If they spend their waking moments around these things, they will become like them. If you don't want them to "turn out" like that, you must make a LARGE GAP between them and these things.
Suppose you conclude that -nothing- available 'out there' is suitable for your child's holy upbringing, will his/her development be 'stunted' if they are kept from those things? Well, look at it this way. How did the poor ol' frontier children survive without their local video arcade and computer games? Families did things together. Do it.
Remember... steer them away from "wrath", and "nurture them" in the things of the Lord. Underline these two passages in your Bible, and make a 'post-it' on your fridge: Eph6:4 & Deu6:6-9 And remember, you cannot do these things with/for your children if you do not have God's Word "..in -your- [own] heart." (Deu6:6b)