Knowing Your Child*
Often parents ask the question, “When do I start training my child?” “At what age are they ready to be trained?”
Now we are not talking about disciplining them per se but training them.
The answer to this question is very simple.
The timing and the manner of training are based upon when you know your child.
In order to know when and how to train our children we must first know our children.
I say this because the Bible teaches that every child is unique.
I’m not talking about being your child’s best buddy.
I’m not talking about how much time you spend with your children.
I’m talking about making a very definite study of your child so you can come to know your child.
Turn to Prov 22:6
*Prov 22:6 *Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
This verse has been very misunderstood by people.
I had a lady come to me one time in tears about one of her children, “How could my child run off and live that way.
I took him to church, to Sunday school, I taught him the 10 commandments, I had him memorize Scripture verses and now he is off living like the world.
I thought the Bible said that if I trained up a child in the way he should go he would not depart from it.”
This is a sad but common response among parents.
But this simply goes to show that they never understood this verse and that is perhaps because it is rarely taught accurately.
What is the proper interpretation of Prov 22:6?
The proper interpretation is very important in terms of what I am teaching you—that your child is unique and that you as a parent have the responsibility to know your child.
Let’s look at the verse again from the Amplified Version of the Bible.
The Amplified Version reads,
*Prov 22:6* Train up a child in the way he should go and /in keeping with his individual gift or bent/, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
The part we are interested in is where it says *in keeping with his individual gift or bent*.
See, this emphasizes the unique and individual bent of each child.
What this means is that no set of rules is going to work with every child in every detail.
What will work for someone else’s child will not necessarily work for your child.
Even within your own family, what works with one child may not work with the others because each child is an individual and must be dealt with as an individual.
Therefore, one of the greatest efforts a parent should make is the effort to make a very definite study of each of your children.
Just because you’ve seen one child does not mean you have seen them all, they are all individually bent and the Bible is full of examples of this (e.g.
Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Absalom and Solomon).
In all these homes the basic training environment was the same but the children went opposite directions.
The second observation in this verse is the word *way*.
Notice that word.
It is the word /derek/, a word which pictures a bow which is bent in order to launch an arrow in a specific direction (Ps 11:1-2).
What this means is that as a parent you have the responsibility of discovering which way your child is drawn or bent.
When you discover this you will know how to train him.
If you try to bend a bow the wrong way your going to damage or break it.
In the same way, if you try to bend your child the wrong way, a way that is contrary to his natural bent then you will not be training your child properly.
However, if you learn to loosen the string, discovering who your child is, and the natural bent of your child then you will know how to train your child properly.
Prov 22:6 suggests that your child and every child is already bent in a certain direction.
Your child is not a “blank slate” (Descartes /tabula rasa/).
He is already pre-bent in a certain direction.
If you want to ignore this and train your children any old way then you can do whatever you want and I hope the best for you, but if you want to train your child successfully then you will exhaust yourself trying to discover his natural bent and you will adjust your training accordingly.
I want to re-enforce this observation by making a third observation about this verse, namely, the words *should go*.
This word in the Hebrew (/peh/)/ /refers to “a predetermined appointment” (2 Sam 13:30-32).
So, you should not think of your child as a pliable piece of clay which you can mold any way you want by your training rules (a /tabula rasa/).
If you do you will only be fighting against the child’s predetermined bent.
This means you should never plan out your son or daughters career.
It’s your responsibility to help each child discover God’s appointed plan for their life.
You are dealing with a child that has been fashioned ahead of time and placed in your hands.
Therefore, your responsibility is to make a study of your child so that you discover his predetermined appointment.
We might translate Prov 22:6 this way, “Train up a child with an understanding of how the bow has been bent by predetermined appointment”.
Parents harm their children whenever they try to force them into a mold.
Parents who try to fix their failures or meet their dreams through their children are doing nothing but damaging their children.
How many times have we seen a parent force their child into a field of study or a sport and the child hates it and resents the parent.
This parent has failed to study their child to discover the natural bent.
If you try this you will discover that your child will have no taste for it and it will cause tension, stress, and resentment.
The fourth observation in this verse is the word *train* (/chanak/).
Like most words this word has a series of meanings.
First it means “dedication” and it is very important for parents to dedicate their children to the Lord.
“Dedication” is the first step in training.
While I can’t go into this much tonight “dedication” has very little to do with the public ceremony in front of the church.
God may be leading you to do that and that is fine but that is not the end of child “dedication”.
“Dedication” means that the child whom God has given to you, you give back to Him.
In other words you are saying, “God, I want you to have him, I want you to lead him.”
This does not imply that once you’ve dedicated him or her that’s it, you’ve done your duty and its over.
Let me emphasize that the emphasis in child dedication is /not/ the religious service where you stand up in front of the congregation with the little baby in your arms and go through some vows.
I am saying that the emphasis is that you and your husband get together on your knees before the Lord and dedicate that child to the Lord.
Every child should be dedicated.
What you as a parent are doing is taking responsibility.
Now you’re responsibilities include:
1) studying your child,
2) adjusting the training accordingly,
3) praying specifically /for/ your child and /with/ your child,
4) taking the time to reason with your child and answer his questions, and
5) recognizing when to let them go and when not to let them go
When should you dedicate your child?
I would suggest dedicating your child to the Lord as soon as you discover you have conceived.
Because Scripturally that is when training your child begins (e.g.
/prayer/ and /woman taking care of her body/…Ps 139; Judg 13:13-14).
If the Lord leads you to a public dedication then do it, follow His guidance but if not then simply keep it private.
But, the main idea is that the word *train *here means “dedication” and “dedication” involves continual responsibilities for the parent.
It is not simply about having a little service and that being the end of it.
The second meaning of the word *train *is “initiation”.
As a parent you will be initiating your child into new things that he is not aware of.
Parents have the responsibility of introducing their children to these things at the right time.
For example, when do I discuss the gospel with my child?
If you don’t introduce these things to your child then someone else will and then you can’t guarantee the accuracy of the information.
When should you initiate your child to these new things depends on two things?
Their level of understanding.
If you answered their question would they be able to understand your answer.
If not then it is too early.
You might say, “you’re too young right now to understand Daddy’s answer, when you get a little older I’ll explain it to you.”
How do you know if they can understand?
Listen to their questions.