“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)
I have a friend who is a bicycle training coach with Echelon Cycling. His teams always do well in the competitions they enter. His training is intense and disciplined. Just before each race he tells each team member, “Trust Your Training.” He knows that at points in the race, there are factors that trigger adrenaline and competitive fervor and cause you to take off like a rabbit. But that doesn’t leave energy for the rest of the race… and as we know from the childhood classic The Tortoise and The Hare, the race doesn’t always go to the fastest. (With the possible exception of Usain Bolt).
There are times in parenting when we can lose sight of how to raise our kids to follow Christ and we are just trying to hang on to the end of the race. There were lots of times in our home with four children that the chaos was pretty extreme. I remember when an unsuspecting neighbor, who was an only child, came to our house for the first time after school. All he could do was stand frozen at the door with his eyes and mouth wide open as pandemonium ensued… it was loud... backpacks and shoes had been dropped like landmines from the door to the pantry, in spite of their mother’s instruction to put everything in their “cubbies.” The tyranny of the urgent need to get a snack had reduced them to hypoglycemic little gremlins racing for the snack box. Eventually some semblance of order returned after they had been revived by fruit rollups ( at the time it was a “healthy snack choice” now, we are not sure).
As parents, my wife and I heard different messages about how best to parent our children according to the latest trend. There was always a plethora of material out there, some of it was good, but some of it was modified puppy training. If we expect Pavlovian responses in our kids when they are small we can’t be surprised if they dog us when they are teens. Parenting is about healthy relationships, not just behavior modification. Though our little angels definitely needed behavior modification, we hoped do it in the context of a loving relationship with Jesus.
When my son was in college, we were a little worried if we had done our job with this human being God had placed in our lives. His mother asked him if he was behaving. He said, “Mom, trust your parenting!” We took a little guarded optimism about not ruining them completely. By God’s grace they are all still “in the faith.”
Parenting can be treacherous and confusing. But in the end when you pray a lot, stay in His Word and love them well you will train up your children in the way they should go and they will not depart from it.