In The Beginning
Proverbs 22:6
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
I attended a very conservative Baptist church for several years. One of the most over-used and least understood verses often quoted was Proverbs 22:6: "Train up a child in the way he should go . . . ." Parents of children who had gone astray would refer to that verse and explain how they had religiously attended church and taught their child all he needed to become a good Christian. But, now, the child had actually gone far astray and it didn't look like there was much hope. Then, someone would quote this verse and say something like, "Well the Bible promises that your child will someday return to the straight and narrow path, so just keep praying."

In many of these cases I watched how that parent had raised that child. I had watched as they dragged him, screaming, up the aisle, by the arm, toward the exit door of the church, because they couldn't control him verbally. I thought to myself, "Will they still be able to drag him along the floor like that when he has grown up into a teenager?"

I watched over and over as one after another, kids who had been in my primary Sunday School class turned bad. When they were in my class they were well-behaved and respectful but by the time they reached junior high school things changed for many of them. But, I kept hearing their parents quoting Proverbs 22:6, over and over.

Have you ever had the opportunity to train a pet dog or cat? Training a pet to obey a command takes a lot of time and patience. Many people simply give up when working with a pet because it is simply taking too much of their time to reach the results they desire. Parents need to remember this principle while bringing up their children. Training them in the way they should go WILL take much more time and patience than they may expect at the start. But the effort put forth in TRAINING a child will pay larger dividends for both parent and child in the end.

Here is where I think many of those parents went wrong. The first word in that verse is train. You will notice how I use the word train much more than I use the word raise as I discuss this topic.

The dictionary gives the following definition:
Raise - to cause or help to rise to a standing position
Train - to form by instruction, discipline, or drill - to teach so as to make fit, qualified, or proficient
Everyone who has children raises them in an excellent manner. Unfortunately, raising children comes from a natural occurrence built into the child more than anything controlled by the parent. If you feed your children they will grow and rise up. Without training they will probably rise up against you. (A little joke - sad maybe)

It is no secret that the verse in Proverbs is very, very true. If a parent will take the time to train their child, day-by-day, they can expect that child to grow up acting the way they have been trained to act. Young children have a built-in feature that causes them to want to learn new things. Have you ever noticed how eager they are to help mom and dad when they are two or three years old. What happens to that eagerness by the time they reach junior high? I cover that topic in these pages.

There is one area of training that parents take very seriously. That is the area of toilet training. When a child gets to the age where toilet training is an option it seems like parents become very eager to take the necessary steps to be sure their child learns proper procedures. Why is it so important to parents to toilet train their children? Because it makes life a lot more easy for the parent. There will be no need to purchase diapers and clean up baby bottoms, etc. If parents could only become as enthusiastic about all other areas of training as they do toilet training, we would have a future generation of well-behaved, industrious citizens.

Young children want to learn on a daily basis. If you set them in front of a television they will learn from the television. If you set them in front of you, they will learn from you. If you send them off to someone else they will learn from someone else. Does that make sense to you? It makes sense to a child.

The problem many parents find themselves having is this: Mom is in the middle of cooking dinner and her daughter wants to help. Mom probably says, "Not now, I'm busy." If this only happened once in a child's life it wouldn't make much difference, but, that's not how it happens. Many children hear those sad words over and over, many times each day - day-after-day - week-after-week - year-after-year. Any child with half a brain is smart enough to figure out that mom is busy. Mom doesn't want my help. Mom is busy.

What is mom busy doing? Mom is cooking. Some day mom will wonder why her daughter doesn't have much time for her anymore. That's so sad.

So, what should mom do? Mom needs to take time - stop - kneel down to the level of the child and find something the child can do that makes her feel like she's helping mom. Give her a bowl of water and a spoon and ask her to stir it. Water is harmless. Give her some bread and butter. Let her butter the bread for the evening dinner. Think of something that the child can do which makes her think she's helping.

My youngest son was often with me while I worked in my little shop in the back yard. I always made sure he had something fun to work on himself. Once I made the mistake of not giving him something to do and here's what happened:

I owned a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. I had changed the oil and was in the process of filing the points, which I did at the other end of the shop on the work bench. We had a dusty, dirt driveway and I always took my used oil out onto the driveway and carefully spread it back and forth across the path. I never poured the entire pan of oil into one spot. I would tip it slightly and walk back and forth while a small amount would continually run out of the pan, onto the driveway while I walked back and forth. This helped keep the dust down.

My son had watched me do this many times (watching is the most important part of the learning process). On this particular evening, while I was working at the bench, my son (still in diapers) took off his little shoe, dipped it into the used oil and was walking around my shop carefully pouring it out of his shoe, onto the floor. Of course his mother wasn't too happy with the two of us when we went into the house. He had one shoe on and the other was oil-soaked and ruined. He also needed to have his diapers changed.

I always took time to give him something to do so he could be "just like dad." Now, as a grown man, I still see him doing things "just like dad," and it pleases me.

There are times when we are really too busy to take time for our children - that's true. But, those times should be the exceptions and not the day-by-day routine. If you will take time, stop what you are doing, and get down to the level of your young children, they will take time to respect you and your verbal commands. It really works - even in the toy department at Wal-Mart.

Another mistake I see many parents make takes place at the birth of their second child. From the time the first child is born he or she receives 100 percent of the attention given by grandparents, neighbors, friends and whoever comes to visit mom and dad. Then, comes the second child. From the day the second child arrives home from the hospital everyone turns their attention from child number one toward child number two. How would you like it if you were the star of everything that had ever happened throughout your life, then, suddenly someone else took that stardom away. Would you welcome that new intruder with loving arms, especially if you are only two years old?

I have watched my little first-born granddaughter as the next-door neighbors came to visit just after her little brother was born. She stood for a moment, silently, waiting for anyone to pay her some attention. Soon she began speaking and pulling on pant legs begging for some attention while everyone totally ignored her as they laughed and talked with each other while admiring the new little brother.

It's natural for us to give our attention to the newborn child because we are human beings, after all. But if this happens every time the little newborn is presented to friends and family, over and over, child number one begins to see a pattern developing which is leaving him or her out of the picture. And, the first born is usually too young to understand what is happening. They just know that the newborn has taken away something that once belonged to them.

I'll give you three guesses as to how child number one is probably going to feel about child number two - and the first two don't count. Of course there will be exceptions but in most cases resentment builds up in the heart of the first born and there will never be a real bonding between the two children. So, what should you do when it's time to bring home the newborn? Here's what I always did, and it worked.

In order for child number one to welcome the newborn there must be something happening to make number one feel like number one. I made it a point to have special activities take place. I spent much more time with the first born while mommy took care of the newborn. We went to more places together than we used to. I spent more time playing on the floor than we used to. I supplied more gifts than I used to. By the time the first two weeks had passed, child number one was beginning to think that the arrival of a newborn baby was really a great thing. Yes, they are not too young to make the connection.

Instead of my two pre-school infants competing with each other, they became best friends and spent many, many hours playing together as pals. What has always amazed me is, why more parents don't see what is going on with their children. Why can't they observe that the first born is staring up with longing eyes and wishing for the same attention as he or she once received.