This article is part two of a two part series, a continuation of The Midas Touch.
This ancient child training book wasn’t misplaced, though the content of it is still lost to most parents.
Nearly three thousand years ago, the wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon, wrote a book to young men and to parents concerning training their children. The word “children” appears in his book 16 times, “child” twice. He even speaks directly to children four different times. As any parent, he was deeply interested in instructing his own sons, so the address “my son” appears 23 times. He speaks to parents in general concerning their children many more times.
The book of Proverbs is undoubtedly the best child training book ever written—the one we used to train up our children. Our first book, To Train Up A Child, having sold nearly one million copies in twelve languages, drew its title from this divinely inspired book. The famous verse says, “Train up a child in the way he should go…” and then promises that if we do indeed train him “in the way he should go…when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Wow! What a big promise—a certainty that our properly trained child will not depart from “the way he should go”—not now, not later, and not even “when he is old.” Many Bible-believing parents have proven God to be true in this regard.
In the introduction to his book, Solomon says, “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother” (Proverbs 1:8).
Again, addressing children, he says, “Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law. For I was my father’s son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother” (Proverbs 4:1-3). Interestingly, he taught children “doctrine”—not systematic theology. The doctrine (teachings) of Proverbs concerns wisdom, discretion, and self-discipline.
Solomon encouraged all children to attend to his instruction because he was “his father’s son”—indicating a satisfying relationship with his father—and he was “beloved” in the sight of his mother. Solomon was motivated by his rich experience as a child to play it forward to other children and young men.
The same book that commands us to train up our children provides details in the areas we should train. To overlook this book is to forfeit the greatest opportunity to train our children in the way they should go. Proverbs 22 is clearly a child training guide. Note verses 6 and 15.
The format of this magazine does not allow us to examine the entire book, so we will look at a few verses in the context of our verse, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold” (Proverbs 22:1).
Just moments ago, as I sat writing this article, I was interrupted by the voice of my wife, outside my window, fussing at Jeremiah, our 7-year-old most beloved grandson. I went out to see what caused Deb so much concern. Jeremiah and some of the other grandkids were on the office porch. He had grabbed an umbrella and was aggressively using it for some imaginary purpose—putting its structural integrity at risk. So I walked up to him and very quietly, patiently, and seriously said, “Jeremiah, that umbrella is kept on the porch so when it rains the office workers can get to their cars without getting wet. The next time someone needs it, they will unfold it and say, ‘Oops, it is broken. Wonder who did that?’ Someone will answer, ‘Jeremiah was the one who broke it.’”
I looked him in the eyes and asked, “Do you want to be known as the boy who destroys stuff, or as a wise boy who is a helper? If you are careless with things that are of value, people will not like you or trust you. You will not have a good name. The name Jeremiah will sound like a bad name to people. Is that what you want?” He answered, “No, I want a good name.” I folded the umbrella and laid it on the table where it is kept and walked away, knowing without a doubt that my “doctrine” had found a good home in Jeremiah’s growing character.
Note: Essential to the productiveness of the experience for Jeremiah, I did not get angry, I did not raise my voice, I did not quote Bible verses and try to shame him, and I did not leave him feeling rejected or shunned. I did not drag it out and leave him emotionally exhausted. It was a matter simply stated and dismissed—fellowship intact.
There will be a thousand times in a child’s developing years (till they leave home) that you will need to remind them of the importance of maintaining their name, their reputation. Once lost, it is very hard to get back.
One note of warning: When children are proud of their family and recognize they have earned a good name, they do not want to be the one to throw away that reputation. It is a thing of great value to them. However, if their family has been a source of hurt and pain, they will deliberately do things to shame the family name. It is their most powerful way of getting back at those who hurt them. It doesn’t matter that you think you did not hurt them. It only matters that they feel hurt.
“The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all” (Proverbs 22:2).
The discerning parent understands the importance of instilling in our children a nonjudgmental attitude toward people of a different economic class. It works both ways. I have seen disgustingly snobby attitudes of the rich toward the poor, but it is just as common, maybe more so, to see a poor man despising the rich. Children should be raised in an environment where they take no note of one’s wealth or lack thereof. The other day I heard a child say, “We can’t afford that; we are poor.” It was said with such resignation and self depreciation that I could hear the devil in it. How awful to cause a child to consider her economic status as it if were a measure of anything significant. I never knew we were poor when I was growing up. I could see that our vehicles were older (when we had one). I was aware that other people had steak and cake when we had beans and rice pudding. I never heard the word “poor” at home.
My father sometimes worked for rich folk. I knew they were rich, but I never felt the need to set them apart, to either look up to them or to despise them. I never felt my daddy or my mother to be inferior or superior to anyone. I never heard disparaging words spoken about anyone’s economic status, be they poor or rich. Money was never a measure of anything. In my thinking there were two kinds of people in the world—those who loved God and were good people, and those who did not love God and were sad, angry, and in need of Christ.
A large portion of this country’s social and economic problems are a result of children growing up blaming the other economic strata for their problems. As the passage says, teach your children that “the LORD is the maker of them all.” More is caught than taught. It is not your words of instruction that molds their thinking; it is your many idle words that form their world views.
“A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished” (Proverbs 22:3).
Prudence is to consider the consequences and to act wisely and sensibly, thereby avoiding the evil that would result. The prudent man will see the moral ambush waiting him and will hide himself from it, but the simple pass on into the kill zone and are punished by the circumstance because of their lack of discernment.
Children are known for their lack of prudence in all things. We are born imprudent, and we stay imprudent unless our parents impart wisdom and discernment. In some cases people learn prudence through the pains of life. A man who rides his horse full speed across a prairie dotted with gofer holes will become prudent on his next ride (with a different horse)—if there is a next ride. But there are some things in life that are too consequential to be learned by experience. One imprudent act and your life will never be the same.
The key to prudence is foreseeing the evil. Children must be taught to navigate the opportunities of life with a discerning eye—like walking through the Mississippi river bottoms where there are cotton mouth snakes waiting to unload their venom. Pornography has fangs. Drugs and alcohol speak lies. Elicit erotica promises love but delivers the soul to a big empty room where there is no one to love but self. Covetousness promises to be a painless path to prosperity, but turns out to be an appetite that cannot be satiated. Pride believes self to be of greater value, but will in time leave one with nothing to hold but lonely judgment.
As our children were growing up, we talked to them about all the “evils” of life. When we saw a man purchasing hard liquor in the grocery store, we reminded the kids of the drunk we saw lying in the street, puking on himself. I often recounted stories of the people I knew who came into the rescue mission where I ministered. We pointed to particular situations of divorce and selfinduced poverty, explaining the path that led to this ruin. We talked about unwed mothers, abortions, violence, anger, and all human weaknesses and failures.
We taught the children about walking on partially frozen ponds, swimming in the current, driving too fast, handling guns, knives, spears, and axes, and swinging on grape vines that had been cut more than a season. We warned them against smooth talkers and “cool” guys and gals. When they got to puberty we warned them about the dangers of their sexual drives and cautioned them against the advances of the sexes.
We frequently warned them against pornography. Some jerk would come through our community and leave pornographic books along the side of the road where the many children could find them. Some of the boys in our community found the first one by accident and out of curiosity devoured the content. Several of them became seekers of smut, storing their sordid material in the barns and bedrooms at home until they were old enough to seek out places that sold it, and then they purchased their own. They went to hell while walking among us in Pleasantville.
My children were thoroughly warned. I remember saying to the boys, “When you see a magazine with naked girls on the cover, you will be tempted to look. It will be exciting and captivating. But if you look you will never be the same. It will twist your view of sex and marriage and you will be placed on a road that will assure you will never have the goodness that your mother and I have enjoyed. Pornography will trash your mind and then trash your life. It will create an itch that has no scratch, just more itch, until it becomes unbearable. I wanted them to “foresee the evil.”
I remember the day they came to the house with a hand full of magazines wrapped in paper so as to not allow any glimpse of the content. They had been walking down the road when they came upon a snare. They “hid themselves” from the evil by enfolding the contents into darkness. They were delighted to have found it before someone else did. They were so tickled with themselves, they were like the disciples who came back from casting out devils. They had smote evil hip and thigh. With great fanfare and celebration, we dropped the magazines in a burn barrel and sent them all to hell. As the fire consumed them, the children heard more words of warning and caution. It was a teachable moment.
We wrote the Yell and Tell books to help parents fortify their children against the assaults of evil predators.
“By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life” (Proverbs 22:4).
Humility is the most elusive virtue. Not only is it rare; it is hardly understood. Most people mistake lack of confidence and boldness for humility. Spoken doctrine is useless in imparting humility. Parental example is the only teacher. There is no way to live pridefully on the one hand, and, on the other, try to communicate humility. Again, more is caught than taught.
A humble person is a servant who cares. A proud person stands aloof making judgments, giving people the stiff arm, rationing compassion… Pride is to value one’s self above others. Humility is the readiness to stoop and help. Children are rooted in their parents. Children publicly bear the fruit hypocritical parents shrewdly conceal from the public. Monkey see, monkey do.
“Thorns and snares are in the way of the froward: he that doth keep his soul shall be far from them” (Proverbs 22:5).
Froward—def.: to show displeasure with or disapproval of especially by facial expression.
Even at our church, I have viewed little girls projecting their froward faces. It is the look common to the children and teenagers in Hollywood productions. It is the face of public school children. It is the face behind the popular response, “Whatever.” It is an expression that says, “Why is everybody so dumb?” or, “Here we go again,” or, “I can’t believe this!” It is the “You are so stupid” look. It is a contagious attitude, quickly spreading through a family, infecting all the children. It is at killer epidemic proportions in our society.
The passage says that a person will keep his soul by removing himself far from the froward person. Do not allow your children to be put in a position to admire and want to emulate a froward child.
When you see that expression on anyone in your circle of acquaintance, seize the moment to teach your children. When you get home, say something like, “Did you see that ugly face Linda made? Her soul must be hurting. We must show her love, because if she keeps up with that attitude, no one is going to like her. When she gets old enough to get married, the only guy she will be able to attract is one that has blue hair and spends all his time playing video games. Poor child, wonder why she is so unhappy?”
Then you can have some fun by imitating the facial expression. Have each of the children give it a try. Coach them in the portrayal of frowardness. You are not laughing at Linda. You are laughing at each other trying to say, “Whatever,” with the same resignation and dismissal as Linda. Practice rolling your eyes and making the indifferent body gestures. Five minutes of these theatrics and you have forever inoculated them against catching the froward disease. It is called “poisoning the well.” They will never want to drink from that fountain.
Then talk about what you can do to help Linda see the error of her attitude. It is important that they offer suggestions. This is proactive attitude training.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
Solomon gets to the heart of his concern—training children is this doctrine of wisdom. He assures us that if we train up a child in the areas he is discussing, they will never have an occasion to depart from that training. Deb and I have written about seven books on child training, and we have published hundreds of hours of video and audio, so we won’t chase that rabbit here. We will allow Solomon to be our teacher as he continues his doctrine.
“The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7).
Child training must be well rounded. It is training for life, and life is going to involve stewardship of money and possessions.
Covetousness and greed are twin sins that saturate our present society. Teach your children the importance of living off the money they have and never borrow against tomorrow’s labor. Some wise parents have set up a mini economic system at home that will teach the children bookkeeping, interest, investment, savings, and entrepreneurship. Maintain a banking system that holds their money and pays interests on savings. You will need deposit slips and checks. They can even borrow money with interest. Some of them will get in a bind and may have their possessions repossessed. Great lesson to learn now when the stakes are so low! Do not show mercy. This is the real world of bankruptcy and poverty they are learning about.
This is one area you can teach them one thing while living another. It has nothing to do with attitude or facial expressions. It is just plain dollars and good sense.
This is a magazine and not a 600-page book, so we must stop here. Read the rest of Proverbs 22 with your children and discuss the many good points. When our children were young, we carefully went through the book of Proverbs with them over and over again. I am serious when I say, It was our child training manual.
If you like this discussion, let me know and we can continue it next magazine. If you have some personal examples that illustrate any of the wisdom in Proverbs, send them to me. If you don’t want your name used, be sure to let me know.
He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity: and the rod of his anger shall fail.
He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.
Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease.
He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend.
The eyes of the LORD preserve knowledge, and he overthroweth the words of the transgressor.
The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets.
The mouth of strange women is a deep pit: he that is abhorred of the LORD shall fall therein.
Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.
Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge.
For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee; they shall withal be fitted in thy lips.
That thy trust may be in the LORD, I have made known to thee this day, even to thee.
Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge,
That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee?
Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate:
For the LORD will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them.
Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go:
Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.
Be not thou one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts.
If thou hast nothing to pay, why should he take away thy bed from under thee?
Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.
Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.