Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.Proverbs 22:6

If you are a parent, this Scripture is issuing you a challenge. Mom and Dad, which of these do you want in your home — champions or prodigals? If you want champions, let’s take a closer look at Proverbs 22:6.

To “train” means more than just teaching — or talking, scolding, harping, or nagging. To train means “to prepare for a contest; to instruct by exercise; to drill; to form to a proper shape; to discipline for use.”  Training is not the same thing as teaching.

Training Commences with Childhood

Isaiah 28:9-10 asks, “Whom will He teach knowledge? And whom will He make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts? For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little.” In short, little babies, newly weaned, are learners.

The word way in Proverbs 22:6 implies a bend in a branch, a bow or a river. You can bend a branch when it’s tender and a bow when it’s green. You can change the bend in a river when it trickles into a stream. But when the branch is hard, the bow sturdy, and the river broad and raging, it’s too late. Their shape and course are already set.

Training Communicates with Creativity

The phrase train up implies putting something in the mouth to be tasted. It means literally “to touch the palate.” Children cannot — and should not — be force-fed the Word of God. Try touching your own palate now. It makes you swallow. Parents need to create a hunger and thirst in their children for the things of God by presenting the truths of God in an appealing and compelling way, showing them moment by moment, throughout the “daily-ness” of life, how godly principles impact every aspect of life — and decision-making. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says,

And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Isn’t that exactly what Jesus did? Walking along with His disciples, He would see someone planting a field, and He would say, “Behold, a sower went forth to sow his seed….” Or if He saw some beautiful flowers, He would say, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow….” Hour by hour, day by day, precept upon precept, He would train His disciples.

And as parents, we cannot put anything in our child’s heart that is not first in our own, any more than we can come from where we’ve not been.

Training Connects with Consistency

Now this subject can definitely be an inflammatory argument in today’s world!

Too many people have the idea that their little darlings don’t need to be corrected. But the Bible disagrees and gives three reasons why children need discipline.

First, it is proof of our love. “He who spares his rod hates his son: but he that loves him disciplines him promptly.” Proverbs 13:24

Second, it is the only way to set our children free from foolishness. Proverbs 2:15 says foolishness is found in the heart of a child and is driven out with “the rod of correction,” something such as a switch that stings but does no damage.

Third, correction helps keep our sons and daughters out of hell. Proverbs 23:14 says, “You shall beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell.”

In addition to giving chastisement when necessary, we need to set limits for our children. Without them, children feel unloved and rejected.

Finally, we need to assign responsibilities to our children and then hold them accountable for their assignments.

Training Consummates with Conversion

The ultimate purpose of training our children is to bring them to Jesus Christ. The moment your child can understand that sin is not just naughtiness but rebellion against God, he or she is ready to accept Christ. You need to lead your children to Christ as soon as possible.

People often say, “I just don’t believe in childhood conversions.” Fortunately, God does not agree. Three out of four Christians today were saved before they turned 14!

Remember that Proverbs 22:6 is a principle, not a promise. A parent cannot override a child’s will. You can do everything right, and your child can still rebel again God.

But if you want to do everything right and give your child the best opportunity, you have only to follow the clear plan God laid out for you in His Word.