by Kim Porta
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” –Proverbs 22:6
When I was about 18, I made somewhat of a vow before God and man that I would never have children. Thinking back on that now, I have to chuckle, as I’m due to deliver my 5th baby in early March. I really meant it back then, though. Having had grown up around some parents who had given their children few boundaries, no real rules, and no consistent consequences for their wrong actions, a lot of my closest experiences with childhood behavior were not good ones. The older these children got, the worse their unchecked behavior became, until finally, the result was just a bigger, more offensive version of the little children they once was. They were very difficult to be around, and in the ignorance of my youth, I blamed them.
Having been a parent for almost 16 years now, however, I understand that the issues were really less about them, and more about their parents. It is still absolutely wearisome for me to be around undisciplined children. While many are a direct by-product of the world system, it is more than obvious that the Church of God has not gone unaffected. It is full of unruly children running wildly through her sanctuaries, with a complete disregard for authority. Their lack of manners, disrespect for others, and their constant surly expressions make them look no different than the lost counterparts. Often, when a parent actually does take the time to address their situation, it is passed off with the comment that; “Boys will be boys,” or, “You know how kids are!” I often walk away thinking, “Yes I do, my friend! That’s why God left us instructions in His Word regarding their training!”
While all of this has become the “norm” for behavior of children in all stages of development, it is by no means right by God’s standards, nor should it be acceptable in Christian families. Proverbs 22:6 instructs us to Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Many parents make the assumption that just as long as they have their children in church every time the doors are open, all will be well in the area of child rearing. While keeping our kids in church is vitally important and required of us by God, it is but a small part of the actual training process. Bringing them, and then leaving them to their own devices while there, does not a well-behaved child make.
The best example of training relates to applying a plant to a wire topiary form. I’ve done this before, and know that it takes much time and attention to produce anything of beauty. Many gardeners will try to take a short cut and do it free-form, but what a challenge! It is much more difficult to keep the plant looking like anything recognizable. The growth is uneven and unattractive. Rarely, if ever, is the end result a desirable one when using this method. Eventually, however, if trained properly, that plant can be released from the ties which attached it to the form, and it will continue growing in that shape with little more than maintenance care.
Training our children God’s way is the exact same concept. The form is the Word, and as parents, we are responsible for the vigilant care over the children we are training upon it. This takes much time and a consistent turning of our hearts and attention toward them. We can’t get weary in the process and just give up and hope for the best. We can’t believe that God is going to miraculously teach our children how to behave, just because we bring them to church and they’re part of all the youth activities. Training takes a binding to the Form, by us as their parents, and much pruning throughout their life. It is a responsibility that we should never pass off to anyone else. God is certainly going to hold us accountable for what He has called us to as stewards of these young lives.
If what you are doing now is not bringing appropriate results, ask the Lord to show you a new thing. Believe me, my husband and I have been through all of the typical stages thus far with our own children; the beautiful and the ugly ones, and it is by no means over! But God has always been, and will continue to be faithful to us as we are faithful to Him. I can hear Him now… “A little snip here, and a little snip there…”
Kim is wife to Mike, mother to Ahren, Nick, Mason, Gracie, & another little blessing on the way.