Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Child training is the most obviously neglected element in raising children today. To be more precise, intentional and purposeful training is the most neglected element. The truth is every day through every social interaction with our children, we are training them in ways good or bad. By what we allow and or do not allow, we are conditioning and building habits and character traits into the lives of our children. The question is not if we are training, but how we are training. Sometimes, the question may even be: Who is training who?
Training can be illustrated with a bow and arrow. The purpose of the bow is to direct an arrow to an intended target. When we place an arrow in the bow and point it in the direction we want it to go, we might say, we are aiming the arrow. But another entirely appropriate word to use would be training the arrow. We train the sites of a gun—or bow—on the target we want to hit. The point is: the aiming or training of the arrow is a purposeful and intentional act.
You don’t just place an arrow in a bow, pull back the string, and hope it hits the bull’s eye. Rather, you take some time and point—or train—the arrow very deliberately where you want it to go. If the arrow has been properly trained, it will—in time—hit the intended target. That is the promise of the proverb above: if we intentionally point—or train—our children in a purposeful direction, in time they will arrive at the desired location.
If you wisely and deliberately train your child to be obedient, in time, they will be obedient. If you train them to be kind, thoughtful and respectful to other people, in time they will in fact do those things. The problem is that many parents don’t deliberately or intentionally do these things. They just hope they will happen or have a haphazard plan for doing so.
Another illustration may help as well. I have planted a number of young trees in my yard. I know that if I do not stake them up by putting ropes that will guide them to grow straight, the Oklahoma winds will bend them over and cause them to grow crooked in time. The purpose of the ropes around a young tree is to guide or train them in the way they should grow. As the tree gets older, its character or fiber is sufficient to withstand the winds and it will continue to grow straight.
In the same way, young children need the ropes of guidance. They need support, restraint and help in withstanding the winds of culture, pressure and self-indulgence so that in time they can do it for themselves. If this training is done, they will in fact, continue in the direction that they have been trained.
So the promise of the Bible is this: If parents will intentionally train their children in the way they should go by leading, guiding and restraining them, as they grow older, the fiber of their character will be set enough for them to continue to go in that direction on their own. It is the daily training we provide for our children that—in great measure—determines who they will someday become.