The other morning my day began in tears, my tears. I awoke to the sound of high pitched squeals, aggressive voices and unkind words. Like most parents, I don't like when my children fight. I'm not a morning person at the best of times but that day, I lost it. I lost my marbles, my cool, my common decency.. I was overwhelmed. See, justified or not, I take misbehavior personally. I see my own inadequacies and failings when I observe undesirable behavior in my own children.
I don't expect perfection and misbehavior is always an opportunity for character development but I take the task of raising children very seriously. Why? Because I know that my children are a gift from God and that he has given me the task of 'training' them. As long as I rely on him, he gives me the strength to rise to the challenge but I have to keep my eyes fixed on him and remember why he has given my children in the first place.
God's design for parents = Training
"Do not exasperate your children; Instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord" Ephesians 6:4 (Italics mine)
During that horrible morning this was the verse I stumbled upon. Did nagging count as exasperating? If so, I was pretty darn good at exasperating those children. But I didn't linger on that thought as my eyes focused on the word "training".
"Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it" Proverbs 22:6
What is the purpose of training?
- Obedience (obedience to parents teaches children how to be obedient to God)
- Protection (to make good life choices, know the difference between truth and lies, good and evil)
- Equipping and preparing for a task (preparing them for God's purpose for their life)
But then I began to wonder exactly what task was I training my children for? For life in a general sense? For a job? For being a husband or wife? For ministry? Or all of the above. How could I train my children well, if I didn't know exactly what it was that the bible was asking me to train them for. It's one thing to know we are supposed to 'train' our children but another to know how to do it and what we are doing it for.
Homeschooling provides an amazing opportunity for this biblical model of 'training'
As Christian parents, it's important to understand that mainstream education is a secular construct as it's singular purpose was (is) to equip students to do a 'job' in society. Therefore, school doesn't take the place of parental responsibility to "train a child in the way he should go" and yet, many of us delegate that responsibility based on our own assumptions and beliefs about education.
A great example is bullying policies in schools - they all have them. It is easy for parents to assume this means that children are being taught character values but they are confused with behavior management. It is one thing to discipline a child for bullying behavior but another to teach them a value system that equips them to choose NOT to bully in any given situation. Schools do not deal with character development- it's not their job - it's ours!
It's hard to train our children. It is. But thankfully if we have faith in Jesus, we know we are not tackling the task alone - we have a helper, a strength to help us persist through the challenges in the name of the 'bigger picture'.