Parenting from Proverbs

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

The often- quoted Proverbs 22:6 can be incredibly comforting or frustrating to you as a parent
depending on the day you read it. Is Proverbs 22:6 a promise to faithful parents or is it just an
empty cliché? As a youth pastor I heard a form of this question numerous times, often from the
mouths of frustrated parents who felt confused over the current path of their child. While it was
easy to offer a quick answer in those moments, I can now feel their frustration and confusion a
bit more as a parent of two young kids.

As parents, we naturally desire to set our children on the “right path” and to do everything we
possibly can to ensure their future protection and success. It is only natural, then, when our
precious child takes a wrong turn, that we both fear for their safety and question whether or not
the words of Proverbs are true. In the midst of that confusion, it is important to remember a few
basic parenting truths that can be found in the world of Proverbs.

Parenting is Hard: Surely this first point is far from shocking to any parent. Yet all too
frequently in our Christian communities we can fall into the dangerous habit of talking about life
in an overly simplistic, ultimately unrealistic manner. Regardless of the real struggles we are
facing at home, we are quick to put a forced smile on our face and use words like “good” when
describing how we feel and “really great” when discussing how things are at home. In the face of
those forced grins and empty words it is tempting, at times, to think “Maybe it really should be
easier than it is. Maybe I am just doing something wrong.”

Let us not forget that Scripture never describes life in a fallen world as easy. The book of
Proverbs references many complex real-life examples of struggles we (and our kids) will
inevitably face. It should come as no surprise that the process of a sinner raising a younger sinner
will be filled with countless challenges. This is a truth the Bible acknowledges and should,
therefore, be one we are more willing to discuss and address with our peers.

Parenting is Important: Although it may not always feel like it is true, parents play a vitally
important part in the lives of their kids. From a young age our kids display a certain expertise in
ignoring parental instruction. At times it can seem as if they truly hear nothing that proceeds
from our mouths. Yet the fact remains that parents play the biggest role in shaping their kids.
Proverbs is filled with the language of a father seeking to give advice to his son and the fact that
it is recorded in the Word of God reminds us that the words a parent offers to their child are
vitally important. That same truth remains today even if our own advice might not be worthy of
being canonized.

Parenting is Ceaseless Training: Any parent of young children is familiar with the difficulties
of any form of training. Whether it is training our kids to speak, to eat on their own, or to use the
toilet, we quickly learn that our instruction must be clear, consistent, and longsuffering. Knowing
that the end result will justify any necessary amount of work, we endure bumps in the road, read
parenting books, and seek advice from friends with older children.

Our training must extend to the development of our child’s spiritual growth, which requires we
study the issues before us and learn how to best communicate truths to our kids in the most
effective manner. If we truly desire for our kids to “stay on the right path” (which we all do), we
must daily strive to show them that path, speak to them about the dangers of taking other paths,
walk alongside them down that path, and not be overly discouraged by the obstacles that will
inevitably trip them up along the way.

Parenting Requires Humility: Regardless of how much work you put into your training and
how “successful” your parenting strategy might appear, the fact remains that we are all utterly
incapable of keeping our kids on the right path. We cannot force a profession of faith, choose
whom they will marry, or decide where they ultimately will live. The author of Proverbs
understood the limitations of his own wisdom and reminds us to humbly follow after God:

“The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, honor and life.”

As parents, we must remember that we are ultimately only servants of an almighty and sovereign
God. This truth drive us to two daily results:

a. Prayer: If we are limited in our ability to protect our kids (and we are) and God is truly
sovereign (and He is) we must daily seek him in prayer. We must daily remember to cast all of
our cares on God because He cares for us (and for our kids). Let us daily bring our parental
frustrations, victories, and concerns before God knowing he hears us.

b. Confidence: God did not inspire Solomon to write the words of Proverbs 22:6 as an empty
promise intended to frustrate parents in 2018. While we might not always see success in our
faithful parenting, we can look to Proverbs 22:6 as a guiding principle and confidently set forth
attempting to do that which we know we should do. We must daily love our kids, listen to our
kids, instruct our kids, and show them what it looks like to love Christ. We must daily shine the
light on the path of righteousness assuring them that while we do not know everything, we do
know that a life lived for God is our greatest calling. As we do these things imperfectly, let us
take courage in the fact that we do it ultimately for a perfect God who loves our children far
more than we ever could.

Parents, take heart in the fact that you play an irreplaceable role in the shaping of your kids.
Praise God for the fact that their future is not dependent on your own personal abilities. As
parents, let us daily work in the training up of our kids, but let us also daily rest in the sovereign
work of God.

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