Proverbs and Proper Training

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

image One verse we should consider in dealing with our children is Proverbs:22:6. It appears in the New King James Version as: "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." We can draw an obvious, direct conclusion from this translation—that proper training will pay off in the long run. This is certainly valid.

It is normal for most children to grow up with, and ultimately adopt, values and standards similar to their parents'—that is, if the parents do a reasonable job of bringing them up. Sometimes, especially when their children are teenagers, parents feel as if they're not getting through. They may wonder whether all their efforts are wasted. But experience shows that if they stick with a good game plan, they will eventually realize the desired results.

Some Bible scholars offer an alternate explanation for the intent of this verse—that "the way he should go" refers to each child's ability and potential. The root word for "way," they note, also has to do with the inclination of a tree, which can break if one tries to rebend it. They also note that the original Hebrew wording refers to " his way"—the child's way—rather than " the way."

With this in mind some would translate the verse, "Train up a child according to his bent, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." In other words, wise parents should recognize the aptitudes and interests of each child and train him to best use his abilities to reach his potential.

Whether this is the intended meaning, it represents another valid approach. Parents should enable their children to develop their natural talents and abilities. Too often a father or mother will attempt to force children to do the same things they do or to be what they are.

Sometimes parents want to live vicariously through their children as they push them to achieve what they wanted to do but couldn't. We need to recognize our children's distinct God-given abilities, then work to help them fulfill their potential.

Still others understand the latter translation to mean that if we train up a child in his own way—that is, through continually allowing him to do whatever he wants and to always get his own way—that he will be stuck in that wrong way of thinking and living for the rest of his life. The verse would then be a warning to parents against coddling and failing to discipline. This concept, too, is certainly valid.

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