This idea of training up a child has been placed on my heart lately. I’ve really wrestled with what that looks like in our family, especially as I address attitude and behaviour issues. I realized my problem was that I was using the words to teach and to train synonymously.
Recently, my oldest son and I have been battling with headstrong attitude, negative talk and disrespectful behavior. I was becoming frustrated and overwhelmed by it all. I was reacting more than responding to the situation which was leading to a break down of our relationship.
In our home, we have chosen to prioritize character over academics. We’ve engrained it into our mission statement. It is this mission of building godly character that keeps me up at night, more so than what curriculum we will be using or what needs to get done. We believe in using discipline to correct behavior and it definitely has its place, yet in this particular situation, it was backfiring. My struggle became how do I address this behavior before it destroys the relationship between my son and I. So, whenever, this occurs, I have learned my best option is to take it to the Lord in prayer.
My prayer went something along these lines:
Heavenly Father, I am at a loss for what to do in this situation. Everything I have tried is not working but only making things worse. I am trying my best to correct this behavior with consequences to turn his heart from this path but it is only hardening his heart. I am getting frustrated and mimicking his behavior. Our relationship is not growing but breaking. Thus Lord, I need your intervention and wisdom to help me turn this around. Amen
And, without hesitation, I felt Him speak into my situation.
He revealed to me that I was trying to teach my child how to behave appropriately and respectfully through consequences, but what I needed to do was train him up.
“Train up your child in the ways of the Lord and when he is older he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6
I have often interpreted that Scripture to mean teach my child the ways of the Lord as spoken in Deuteronomy 6:7, “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Up until this moment, I thought I was doing a really fine job of impressing them upon my children. Our days were filled with Bible devotion, Scripture memorization, worship, prayer and discussion. We were literally sitting, walking, talking about the Word throughout the day, impressing it upon their hearts and minds, but still something was missing.
And the Lord in His goodness, revealed that missing component to me that day in prayer. He impressed upon me that to teach is not synonymous to train. Teaching is more theoretical and abstract. It’s information given by the teacher and received and stored by the student. Training is more hands on and tactile. It’s the living out application of what we have learned. It’s so easy to teach that I so often forget to train. The Lord reminded me to train up my children, but first I had to mend my relationship with my son and that had to start with me.
So, what did this change of perspective look like?
Here’s three things, I felt the Lord remind me to do…
- Start the Morning with a Hug– This sounds simple, but it requires intentionality on my part. Our mornings are busy with 5 young kids in the house. There’s often a baby crying, a toddler potty training, and three very hungry boys. Part of being intentional is seeking him out and making the time to do it before we start the day. I immediately see his face elate and his posture soften.
- Checking in Throughout the Day- We are literally with each other all day, but it doesn’t mean that I am always aware of everything that goes on. Siblings are very good at knowing how to bother one another, or sometimes I unintentionally hurt feelings by not being able to be 100% available all the time. By finding moments in the day to ask how they’re doing or what they are up to just reminds them that I see and acknowledge them.
- Taking Interest in Their Interests- Often attitudes and bahaviours arise when we are doing academics. It’s an area of struggle and difficulty. It’s where this one particular child lacks confidence. So, when I take the time to step into his area of interest and participate in something he excels at, it gives me the opportunity to build his confidence and give praise. We are able to bond and create memories together. It doesn’t have to be a huge allotment of time, but even carving out 15 minutes to come alongside that child is really important for them.
The second thing the Lord reminded me was to see those moments of attitude and behavior as a time to train, not teach.
So, what does this look like?
It looks like hands on, tactile application.
When an attitude flares or behaviour explodes, I take a breather and put myself into the right frame of mind, then ask my child to try that again. It is that simple. In doing so, I am giving my child the opportunity to use what they have been taught and apply it. We as parents get so frustrated when our children behave poorly because we know that they know how to behave properly. So, let’s give them the opportunity to try again. Is this not the very essence of grace- getting a second chance when we don’t deserve it? They get an opportunity to build good habits and responses. We encourage and thank them when they model it well to reinforce the behaviour we want to see next time. By training my child up in the ways of the Lord from an early age, I am enabling them to make their faith their own. Our hope as parents is that when we release our children into the world, they will not turn away from the ways of the Lord. Our hope is that they will not only know the ways of the Lord, but that they will live it out for themselves. Proverbs 22:6 is a great reminder that our children are ours to train up for a little while, but ultimately, they belong to the Lord. He will guide their steps and direct their path.
SHARE: What are some strategies you use to train up your children?