Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent
Because life is brief and families expand rapidly, we cannot afford to learn how to parent by trial and error. Instead, we need to consult with experts for this crucial endeavor. But when it comes to “experts” who claim to know everything but frequently pivot on their recommendations, what do you say? I’m addressing you, Dr. Spock. No, parents can do no better than to look to the foundational truths of the Bible, and the Book of Proverbs is helpful in this regard.
The typical metric used for gauging parental success is carnal. How well have you provided for the material needs of your children? But teaching your children to have a lasting reverence for God is more important than providing them with life’s amenities. A healthy respect for God is perhaps the best provision a person can give their loved ones. Wisdom warns us not to put too much value on material possessions.
A righteous person puts God’s kingdom and His righteousness first in everything they do, including parenting (cf. Matthew 6.33). Therefore, parents will devote themselves to gaining knowledge and wisdom from God’s Word. As a result, these parents discover the importance of cultivating a disciplined environment rather than amassing material wealth (cf. Ephesians 6.4; Proverbs 24.3-4). And because of the promises of God, those following God’s wisdom won’t have to forego necessities like food and shelter.
Discipline is required to achieve this goal. Although physical punishment has been utilized successfully throughout history, Parents should never use it to release anger. The word “child abuse” refers to the inappropriate use of physical punishment on a child. But spanking is different from abuse. To those tempted to “spare the rod,” we remind them that problematic kids aren’t more likely to be born into impoverished households due to a lack of material means but rather a lack of chastening love.
The advice in Proverbs 22:6 is helpful for any parent. The phrase “train up a child according to his way” is another valid interpretation of this verse. To paraphrase, parents shouldn’t try to instill their own secular goals and aspirations in their kids. For example, parents shouldn’t stifle their children’s interests by insisting that the youngster who excels in mechanics become a doctor or lawyer. Children allowed to pursue their interests and dreams within reason are less likely to grow up as adults who walk away from God. But, if you consistently deny them their hopes and dreams, they will resent you and rebel against everything you stand for, including your faith. That is what you must keep an eye on.
For your children’s future success, it is your duty as a parent to equip them with the necessary resources. For this reason, conventional interpretations of Proverbs 22.6 invoke the image of an archer pointing his bow. This person aims and releases the arrow. If you aim correctly, your projectile will almost always hit its target. While parents need to consider their child’s natural abilities, they need also be aware of the secular humanistic currents that may blow their child’s eternal trajectory in a different direction.
So, what are these tips? First, begin your parenting career by emphasizing the fear of the Lord. Solomon says, “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure, and turmoil with the treasure” (Proverbs 15.16 NASB). One of the essential tools you will give your child is not a trust fund but knowledge. Solomon reminds us that this knowledge begins with the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1.7). Another benefit of the fear of the Lord is a child’s long life (Proverbs 10.27), providing the key to sin avoidance (Proverbs 16.6) and the provision of true wealth (Proverbs 22.4).
Solomon also advocates that parents create and maintain a loving home that fosters peace. Solomon states, “Better is a portion of vegetables where there is love, than a fattened ox served with hatred” (Proverbs 15.17 NASB). He adds, “Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it than a house full of feasting with strife” (Proverbs 17.1 NASB). Materialism is detrimental to both love and peace.
When parents have a lot of material goods, arguments can arise among the kids. Solomon’s statement may seem hypocritical at first glance, given his vast wealth, but it’s easy to see the difference between his family and his father’s. None of Solomon’s sons attempted to usurp his throne. (Or did he somehow manage only to beget Rehoboam?) And while Solomon’s household does not wholly conform to what a godly family would be (consisting of 700 wives and 300 concubines), he still seems to have been the patriarch of a loving and peaceful one.
Lastly, there is a need for discipline. Solomon reminds us, “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently” (Proverbs 13.24 NASB). Sometimes, a child’s heart harbors “foolishness” that only the rod of correction can remove (Proverbs 22.15). A parent who refrains from disciplining their child only shames themselves (Proverbs 29.15). Think of the last bratty child you saw in public whose mother or father stood silent as the child pitched a fit. The child’s cries may have been annoying, but to whom did you direct your irritated glance?
Contrary to conventional thinking, children crave discipline. They like to know where the boundaries are. Unfortunately, many a parent has mistakenly treated their child as a buddy rather than a child over whom they exercise authority. You may not realize it, but your role in providing those boundaries in your child’s early life will return to bless or haunt you in your old age. Discipline now equals your comfort later (Proverbs 29.17). Why? Your child knows that when you discipline them that you care. When you give your child “freedom” (i.e., no boundaries), they will likewise look the other way when you are infirm and in need of care.
The last word about discipline is that parents only have a limited window in which it is effective (Proverbs 19.18). It breaks my heart to see parents get serious about the Lord and life after their kids have already grown up. Unfortunately, parents are unable to sway their children at this age. Instead, parents are left to lament the products their earlier neglect created and the years they lost.
Yes, Solomon offers guidance on how to best provide for a family, how best to raise children, and other aspects of family life. We can all learn from his insight. The quality of our home life significantly impacts our overall sense of fulfillment and the eternal destinies of our offspring, so it’s essential to heed the advice found in Proverbs.