Friday, May 27, 2016

Parenting Series (1): What it really means to train up a child

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Parenting can be a delight, a pleasure and a beautiful thing! It is a huge responsibility, a special calling even, so much so that one must be properly equipped with needed tools before diving into it.

It is a super sensitive job (you have the opportunity to literally shape tomorrow!) which should not be taken lightly! It's so sensitive that I'm convinced we need God's word to guide and help us navigate this 'uncharted' territory.

How do I mean 'uncharted'? That child in your hand is a first-of-its-kind, there has never been anyone exactly like him or her! So, where do you turn to better understand and better handle something that is never-before-seen and uniquely different? I say, the Bible - God's word!

The Bible is a well of inspired wisdom and unequalled insight that we can draw from to "quench" our ignorance and folly, and help us excel at whatever endeavour we embark upon in life; one of which is parenting.

It really is sad and heartbreaking to see the kind of young adults homes produce today - you just know there is parenting failure prevalent.

We are producing young adults who have no values, no respect for hard work, are emotionally and mentally lacking, cannot commit for the long term, cannot manage and maximise life's resources, are dishonest, are proud and, worse, do not know God for themselves! The parenting failure is troubling! Because of this, I write.

I am, however, not speaking as a parent (not yet anyway) or an expert on parenting matters, no! But as someone who just wants to see parents do better at their primary duty - raising Godly children (Malachi 2:15). And I sincerely hope and believe this series of posts, starting with this, will serve as a helpful Scripture-based resource which parents and parents-in-waiting (like moi) can reference for better and deliberate parenting.

So, let's dive straight in and attempt in this post to answer, what does it really mean to train a child... anchored on Proverbs 22:6, a Scripture we know all too well...

What it really means to train a child

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

The foregoing Scripture text is the oft quoted words of King Solomon - the second greatest mind that ever walked the earth (after Jesus) - said some 3000-plus years ago. It packs a wealth of wisdom for parents and parents-in-waiting, and I believe the Bible's parenting counsel in wrapped in there. So, on it, we would build this body of work.

So, focusing on one of the keywords in the text, "train", we begin... what does this word mean? To train means to "teach someone a particular skill or type of behaviour through sustained practice and instruction" ( I really like this definition, too: "To coach, prepare or grow in a direct manner with a clear and achievable outcome" ( Wow! This word is deeper than first thought, isn't it?

From the definitions above, let's draw out some keywords, shall we?... We have teach/coach/prepare/grow, particular skill/behaviour, sustained practice, instruction, direct manner and clear outcome.
Putting it all together, we come up with a working definition of what it really means to train a child...
"to teach, coach and grow a child in Godly behaviour and values through sustained and repeated practice, and Bible-based instructions". You have "trained" your child only when you have instilled Godly values and behaviour in him/her.

This tells me a few things...

1. You must be deliberate and goal oriented
"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" (Deuteronomy 6:6).

Parents must be deliberate! I see a lot of parents leave the raising their kids to chance, and "wait" for the opportunity to impress one message or the other on their kids.

But someone wisely said kids are like a garden, they are not better off when left to themselves, they'll be overgrown by weeds - mental and emotional weeds! Proverbs 29:15 reiterates that.

Be deliberate. Take the initiative, set the ball rolling, be proactive. Device a parenting plan, don't just float with the tide, paddle in the direction you want to go!

2. You must know God's word for yourself
"Therefore you shall LAY UP THESE WORDS OF MINE IN YOUR HEART AND IN YOUR SOUL, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes" (Deuteronomy 11:18).

How do you as the parent instruct your child in the way he should go if you are not familiar with the way he should go? Huh?
It is said that dysfunctional parents can't raise functional kids, and there's a ton of truth there (of course, there can be exceptions).

You really can't give what you don't have. I know it's cliché but it's true, very true. You as the parent (and us parents-in-waiting) must know and be familiar with God's word so we can instruct children in that way.

3. You must model Godly values and behaviour
"IMITATE me, just as I also IMITATE Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1).

"Take my yoke upon you and LEARN FROM ME, for I am gentle and lowly in heart..." (Matthew 11:29).

More than hearing our words, children watch our actions - they can see what we do, more than hear what we say. There has to be such a reality of God in your own life for it to make lasting impression on your children.

Your kids should naturally admire and look up to you as their parent, besides you are the first adult they know (observe new born chicks, they literally mimic the hen). But what would they be learning as they look up to you? What values and behaviour are you modelling?

I like this brilliant statement by Ibukun Awosika, she said: "Don't tell your girl child she has to respect her husband when you as the mother do not respect your own husband."

Like the early Church in Acts 4, you must preach both with your mouth closed (by what you do) and with your mouth opened - it's very effective that way. Bottom line? Don't hold your children to standards you the adult can't maintain.

4. You must never shy away from applying discipline
"Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the ROD OF CORRECTION will drive it far from him" (Proverbs 22:15).

"CORRECT your son and he will give you rest; yes, he will give delight to your soul" (Proverbs 29:17).

Ever wondered how Haile Gebre Selassie, the now-retired legendary long distance runner, a fellow human like you and me is able to pull off the stunning feats he did over and over? Well, the word's discipline!

Discipline your child. Spank them when necessary. Ground them when necessary. Deny them access to certain things and places when and where necessary. Censor what they watch, the friends they hang out with, what they listen to, the books they read, the kind of music they enjoy, etc - these may seem trivial, but they are the building blocks of their character.

By all means discipline, but it should be measured and reasonable, not arbitrary punishment or anger outbursts. And let them understand this is why you're doing this or that; don't be the mommy or daddy that always makes their kids do things simply because you said so. It makes no sense. Take time to explain, of course not in every case.

Further scriptures for parents in raising Godly children...
"And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4).

"Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one" (Colossians 4:6).

"Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfil it" (Colossians 4:17).

"For if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?" (1 Timothy 3:5).

PS: I'm not trying to appear as some parenting expert, I'm only sharing what I believe will be greatly beneficial to many. The spate of parenting failure deeply saddens me. And I do hope that God will give parents the grace to excel at this beautiful task of birthing and moulding lives called parenting.
This is the first in a series of posts on parenting to mark this year's Children's Day celebration. Watch this space for more... Or better still, subscribe to the mailing list below so you don't miss out on update...
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If you're a parent, please share with us in the comments section how you've been training your children. And for my fellow parents-in-waiting, how are you preparing for this great call? I'd love to read your thoughts.

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