God promises, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
Parents, who see one of their children hit the fan, often have a hard time appreciating this verse. In fact, as the homeschool movement ages there are more and more parents claiming the verse does not mean what it says, because it didn’t hold true in their experience.
Here are just a few of the reasons a child is lost to the world and how parents caused it to happen without even trying.
1. Get so busy providing for them that you don’t have time for them.
Children are like plants growing every day. They need regular attention and direction.
I plant a garden every year. And about half of the time I wait too long to stake my tomatoes. A small plant doesn’t need staking. and I tell myself I will stake them before it becomes critical. But it may rain for an entire week, or I get busy doing something else and can’t get around to it. The plant gets so big the stems fall on the ground. When the leaves of a tomato plant are exposed to the soil they quickly develop disease. When the fruit touches the ground it will rot about the time it should be getting ripe. This year I had a second late patch that I intended to stake but waited too long. I finally staked them but too late to prevent the disease.
It is not what I did; it is what I didn’t do that spoiled the crop. So it is with children, they need constant pruning and fertilizing and training to grow up instead of down—to reach for blue skies instead of crawling along the ground. So the worst thing you can do for your children is just ignore them and allow nature to take its course. Plan on training them but never get around to it. Children need the constant sunshine of their parents’ smile and approval. They need to be pointed in the right direction day after day. They need admonition like a plant needs fertilizer. And as water activates the fertilizer, making it available to the roots, smiles activate our admonition making it available to the soul of the child. Children raised right grow up right, no exceptions. It is God’s certain promise (Proverbs 22:6).
2. Set a bad example.
The second thing parents do that will assure a bitter outcome for the children is to set a bad example.
Some people would say fighting in front of the kids has negative consequences. All fighting whether in front of the kids or in private will be destructive, but the most destructive things is not the fighting as much as how you fight and how it is resolved. I have known families that had big fights, but—I hope you can understand this—their fights were not personal. They were resolved as publicly as they were waged, and the public displays of anger did not create deep hurt in anybody. There are some loving souls that express themselves loudly and with emotion. They punctuate their points with explosive words and gestures, but they are equally as effulgent in their make-up and passionate love. Kids come to understand the heart of their parents and are more influenced by their intentions than their rhetoric. A wife of a certain temperament can scream at her husband that she hates him, and the children hear her saying, “I love you so much, you exasperate me to the point I could kick you just before we make love again.” The kids know the outcome is going to be as always, Mom and Pop making up and saying they are sorry and that they didn’t mean it and melting in each other’s arms. Public fights should be resolved in public so the kids can see the process of how it is worked out and how forgiveness and understanding occurs.
I have seen other families where the parents were careful to never fight in front of the kids, but the children are able to see the tension and ill will building, and they observe it being taken into the bed room where they occasionally hear muffled but raised voices. The parents come out not speaking to each other, followed by hours or days of emotional distance. Now that kind of fighting is indeed harmful to the children. They are able to read the souls of their parents and they feel the bitterness and hate in every moment of silence and self-control. Bad example. Leaf blight. Rotting fruit.
The bad example extends to every area of life. Any discipline you want your children to have you must exemplify it yourself. You can set a bad example in criticizing others, in carelessness with money, unthankfulness, unkindness, laziness, irresponsibility, and more. Be what you want your children to be and you will be providing the best training possible.
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