Train Up A Child

Proverbs 22:6 tell us to "train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."  I recall hearing a number of sermons on this as a kid and wondering what was going to happen when I got home from church. Wondering if my parents might have some new technique in store for me that would leave me frustrated.  Now, as a parent, sometime I wish I had some new techniques that I could use on my kids that will leave them frustrated.  Too often however, parents tend to confuse training with punishment.  Read with me while I take a moment to define both words and hopefully offer some new ideas to parents. Websters defines Train as: "to teach so as to make fit, qualified, or proficient." Conversely, Punish is defined as: "to impose a penalty on for a fault, offense, or violation." Notice how the two definitions have a different core idea: training is concerned with making fit, or changing, while punishment is concerned with penalties for doing something wrong.  The two words have a separate meaning and idea. I had the opportunity to play in band during my school days, as well as run on our cross country team.  In both endeavors, whether by our band director or by our coach, I was being trained to become better at a specific task.  During band as well as sports, the person training me did specific behaviors that offer guidelines for helping change occur.  When I didn't play a piece of music correctly, whether it was intentional or by mistake, my band instructor would have me repeatedly play the portions where I struggled. Slowly at first, then faster and faster until it was played as the arrangement was meant to be played.  In sports when I didn't run fast enough, or faltered on a big hill, my coach would have me run repeatedly up a large hill, so as to help me achieve greater speed and endurance.  Notice that neither my coach or band instructor grounded me, or gave me detention, or took my failures personally.  This was not punishment, this was training. As a parent, when I am looking for ways to train my child, rather than ways to punish my child, I look for opportunities to repeat desired behavior.  And the more my kids begin to understand that I am training them, not punishing them, the more open they are to receiving training.  Rather than trying grounding first, or taking tv away, or limiting video game time, how about having your child repeat the desired behavior?  Ten "yes, mom's" doesn't take very long and can be done with a parent smiling rather than scowling.  Ten times of practicing to turn the lights off can be achieve in less than 60 seconds to a chorus of applause from a parent, rather than a lecture on the cost of electric bills. And just like I appreciated a "good job" at the end of running hard, most kids enjoy this as well, especially from their parent. As followers of Christ, and as parents who have the tough job of preparing kids for life, consider Proverbs 22:6 as a literal call for parents to train our kids in desired behaviors, not just a call to punish them.  You can be a coach and band instructor as well as a parent.