The great proverb about parenting found in Proverbs 22 used to be so perplexing to me. “Train a child up in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not turn from it.” "Train" is so vague and open-ended. How do we know if we are doing the right training that will bring about the “when they are old they will not turn from it”? Is there one training that fits all?
When my husband and I have gone through difficult seasons in parenting, we were reminded of this by our community. We did believe overall that we had raised our kids well and right but we made plenty of mistakes and bad choices too. Parenting is tough! More is required of a person to obtain a driver’s license than to become a parent. How do you know if you are doing it great, right or even good enough?
I don’t want to set you up and make you think I figured out the answer. We have 4 kids, a son in law and one grand-baby, and I honestly know less than when I started. I do know that my kids are all very different and have required us to relate differently to them. In that, I promise you that your kids and the way you parent is and ought to be different than anybody else's.
We need the help of the Holy Spirit daily in parenting and making decisions for our kids. The church can lean to cookie cutter parenting by buying into books on Christian parenting that lean one way or another. Books are helpful, but nobody knows your child like you and the Lord. I have a wise, older friend who once told me that she regretted not seeing her children more as individuals when they were young and still at home. It has challenged me, with only 2 left at home, to truly see them.
Questions rise up in our communities about spanking, fun or no fun, homeschool, public or private school, to do sports or not to, to do travel teams or not to, to go gluten free, or fatten kids up... With any of these decisions can come much judgement and condemnation.
You can find people passionate about not spanking and you might even observe their kids and see it works for them. You, however, might have a child that only responds to corporal punishment. Our oldest son required many spankings, but our youngest daughter was so sensitive you could give her the look and she was devastated. Who’s right and who’s wrong?
The decision about school is a hot topic, but should it be? If you choose to put your kids in public school, is it yours to say all kids should be in public school? The same can be said of homeschool. To believe all kids should be one or the other is close-minded. It’s a judgmental mindset that is really just ugly. What if, out of your 3 children, you have 2 that are flourishing in the school system, but 1 that is really struggling in every area? Is there room in your home to ask the Lord for direction for that child as an individual?
Sports are another controversial issue. Some families might really bond under major sports scheduling and financing. For other families that seems completely ridiculous and a waste of quality time and money. Who’s right? Which one of them will see their kids return when they are old?
As for gluten…. I honestly don’t know the details of what it even is, but I’m pretty sure I like the taste of it. I have many friends that won’t go near it, and their kids darn sure better not. Does this mean my kids aren’t healthy? Who’s right and who’s wrong?
The truth is we all need to hear the Lord and we need to do what He says. God has a great destiny for our families and our children’s future families. What you do with your family and how you parent is a very intimate walk between you and the Lord. Hear Him before you pattern your family after someone else's, and certainly before you judge other family’s choices. God has unique callings and plans for our families. The most important decision we could make is to position ourselves and our families to serve Him. Joshua 24:15, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”