Train Up a Child in the Way He Should Go

“Train up a child in the way he should go” seems like a simple and Christian Parenting Principle in theory. However, in practical application, this scripture is very complicated and causes many parents to question its true meaning.

In this article, we’ll explore what this scripture text means for modern Christian Parents trying to raise God-fearing children in a secular society.

What Does it Mean to Train Up a Child in the Way He Should Go?

While I believe that we can all agree that “train up a child” is a direct reference to child-rearing, the text instantly becomes complicated by suggesting “the way he should go.”

Besides the fact that this ancient scribe leaves out the entire female gender, it also highlights the fact that Christians vary widely in their beliefs of the Bible. For the sake of this writing, let’s assume that “he” refers to all children and sort things out from there.

Our first issue rests in Biblical translation. While many Christian parents stand firmly beside the King James Version, others prefer a more modern translation which can affect the phrase, “the way he should go.” Let’s look at a few versions:

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6 King James Version (KJV)

Start children off on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Proverbs 22:6 New International Version (NIV)

Train up a child in the way he should go;
    even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6 English Standard Version (ESV)

Direct your children onto the right path,
    and when they are older, they will not leave it.

Proverbs 22:6 New Living Translation (NLT)

As you can see, there is room for a lot to get lost in translation. But the overall meaning of the text is that parents should treat, raise, direct, and guide a child according to their Christian faith. This all-encompassing directive includes all aspects of a child’s life from eating to playing to dressing, to thinking and speaking.

One popular interpretation can be found in Ephesians 6:4 where the Bible says, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

Ephesians 6:4 can be interpreted to mean that children should be reared to know God and believe in Him with instruction and discipline from the parental figure. But notice that Ephesians 6:4 speaks directly to fathers, which is obviously problematic in modern times where many single mothers are solely responsible for raising children.

A contrary opinion of the scripture says that Proverbs 22:6 is actually a warning to parents that they must raise a child properly or else he will stray when he becomes older. Many Bible scholars have agreed with this interpretation.

In any case, what is clear is that the scripture leaves the authority to the parent to determine the way that the child should go. This is not for schools or governments to decide. It is the sole right and responsibility of the parent to raise the child with guidance according to Biblical teachings.

But we don’t need to be theologians to understand our own view of “good” or “bad” kids according to our Christian lives. We must teach our children the children to walk in faith, believe in the gospel, and dedicate their lives to becoming the best servants of the Lord.

Christian Parenting

As Christians, we have a responsibility to serve God in spirit and in truth. This includes a strong prayer life and spiritual connection to God, along with demonstrating the fruits of the spirit according to Galatians 5:22-23:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23 New International Version (NIV)

As parents, we have an obligation to pass down our best attributes to our children with confidence that they will grow up to remember those childhood lessons into adulthood. The Bible even commands this in Deuteronomy 6:6-7:

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 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.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 New International Version (NIV)

It’s clear that our Christian beliefs and traditions are meant to be instilled in our children. This is the way they “should go” and our hope is that the secular society doesn’t corrupt their morals on their path to adulthood.

This is just one aspect of Christian Parenting, but teaching faith and spirituality is our primary responsibility as caretakers of young souls that we dedicate to Christ at a young age. How do we accomplish this? By being living examples and demonstrating love for God and man in our daily lives. Remember, our children first emulate what the see consistently.

In Biblical times, parents certainly didn’t have to fight against social media, public schools, and a host of other negative influences that contradict Christian teaching, but we volunteer for this task when we create a new life.

Parents Love

The greatest gift that we can give our children is the parents’ love. In doing so, we teach them to love us in return, to love themselves, and to love God. We are the first Godly example that our children encounter and by demonstrating the ideal attributes of a Christian – as directed in the Bible – they learn to speak how we speak, act how we act and love how we love. It is an awesome responsibility, but there is a great reward for our sacrifice when our children grow up and cling to those childhood lessons.

Our children’s outlook on life is shaped by the environment that parents create during their formative years. But children also have a responsibility even during their youth. Ephesians 6:1-3 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land’”

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