Read Proverbs 22:6
6 Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it. (ESV)
This verse causes many parents to scratch their heads. They have done their best in raising their children but sadly some do depart from the expected and right paths. And so we have to recognise that proverbs such as this express general truths rather than descriptions of what will happen in every circumstance. We need not load ourselves up with guilt if our children don’t turn out to be models of godliness.
But let’s look at this from a different perspective. Apparently the phrase ‘train up’ has its roots in a practice of rubbing a newborn infant’s gums with oil before they started breast feeding. Training up can thus mean preparing someone for intimacy, for relationship.
Far from having overtones of stern moral lectures or even ‘this hurts me more than it hurts you’ spankings, it is an invitation to prepare our children for warm and mutually encouraging relationships. It is not mere dispensing of information, even biblical information. It is nurturing a child so that he or she can form fulfilling relationships and not unduly wound others.
Any of us who have raised children realise that there is a lot more to it than teaching them how to invest money, how to play a sport, how to pass exams. We train them up so they will become mature in relationship with others, and hopefully with God. And we do it largely by conversation and example.
And while we do it as best we can, we yet realise that our children will yet choose their own destiny.