Train a child in the way that he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it.
This is probably the most popular and beloved prover aside from Proverbs 3:5-6. I’ve heard this one so many times throughout the course of my life that I have it memorized even though I never tried to. You probably do to. There are probably other verses you’ve heard so many times that you have them memorized too, without trying.
This verse has been a guiding verse for many generations. If you want your child to grow up to be a good adult, you have to train them when they are kids to think and act the right way. You might even say it’s been a mission statement for parenting.
However, this verse has also been a source of frustration for many parents too. And that’s because they think this is a promise. The think they did everything right (or as right as they could) and still, when their child grew up they turned away from the right way. And because they think this is a promise, that calls into question their beliefs in the Proverbs, the Bible and maybe even God. If God is who He says He is, and I did my part in training up my child, why didn’t they stay in the right way?
But, remember, the book of Proverbs is a description of the way things are not a book of promises. It’s a description of how things generally work out. And if we order our lives accordingly, then chances are our lives will end up in much the same way.
However, it doesn’t always work out that way. There are variables that are sometimes out of our control. For instance, free will. Every human being has it. And, as hard as you try to raise your kid in the right way, your kid also has free will. And there is a chance that when they grow up, they will use that free will and choose differently than you want them too.
One of the choices they might make is who they are being friends with. Since they are growing up and spending less and less time in your presence, the chances of them choosing a bad friend increase. As do the chances that they will have a bad friend that you know nothing about. And just like Andy Stanley says, “Your friends determine the direction and quality of your life,” the friend they chose may be the thing that leads them in a way that is different than the way you raised them.
There are other things too. Things like divorce have a tremendous impact on kids. And while you have done everything you can to raise them right, divorce is a big obstacle to overcome. Other things like not being strict enough, not disciplining enough or being too strict and disciplining too much can have an impact.
The biggest thing I hope you get out of today is that you absolutely should do everything you possibly can to train up your child in the way they should go. Because if you do, the chances are, they won’t depart from it. It’s not a guarantee. But, if you don’t train them up in the way they should go, you can almost be assured that when they grow up they won’t go in the way they should.