Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
I once heard a popular Bible teacher say that to “train up a child” means to “guide a child according to his natural bent.” Though I’m no one to argue with a theologian, it does seem a bit of a stretch to me. Why can’t we just take the Bible at its word?
Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to observe how this verse is true and can be taken literally. It applies both to training up a child in the way he should go, and in the way he should not go: in both cases, he will not depart from it.
What do you think about raising children with no chores, no internet restrictions, and no responsibilities except school? I know a lady who exacts nothing from her children apart from their school work. Once their homework is completed, they’re allowed to spend limitless time on their phones. They sleep when they want, and they get up when they want unless they have to go to school.
Her philosophy runs along these lines: “My children need to be children, therefore I allow them to play (surf the internet) as much as they want; my children should not be forced to do chores, therefore the only thing I expect from them is that they do well in school so they can go on to university and have a good career; then, they will have to work hard, but for now, let them enjoy their childhood; and I don’t restrict what they view online since they need to get to know the world and what’s out there.”
Well to me, this reasoning is flawed in several ways. But, my aim is not to chew apart every erroneous particle of her approach; I simply want to show you how her method is working out. In the real world.
Her children are now young adults, and yes, they are doing well in school. They are nice; they are friendly. They don’t pick fights with people; they’re not cruel. Yet, they are lazy whenever they get the chance. They lack consideration for others. They won’t lift a finger to help unless forced to. If ever confronted about their behavior, they will make excuses or even argue. They view anything they want to on their phones. Sometimes this is helpful; but I suspect that sometimes, it is not. They do not know the meaning of “serving others,” nor do they understand why this would be important. They are selfish and arrogant. They live mostly for themselves. This is the way they were trained to be, and this is the way they are turning out. What do you know–the Bible was right.
I wonder how this will affect them in their future jobs? Will they be good workers? I wonder how they will be once they get married and have children? Will they ever recognize that that they need to change? If they do, it will probably take a lot of hard work to undo the patterns that have been established over the years.
Sadly, there are many children who are being “trained” to be lazy and self-centered. Their parents don’t intend for them to turn out that way–it just happens. Sometimes we train our children through what we impose upon them, what we expect from them. We use rules, rewards, and discipline. Other times, we train our children not so much through what we teach them to do, but through what we allow them to do. We don’t have to train them to be lazy; all we have to do is not expect them to make their beds. If we allow them to do whatever they want when they’re children, why should they listen to us once they become adults? They’ll simply continue the habits we’ve let them develop. Train a child…and he will not depart from it. That’s not elusive theology–that’s reality.