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 verse in church. When it happened, I often thought about whether my parents might have some n
ew technique in store for me when we got home that would leave me frustrated. Now, as a parent, I sometimes wish I had some new techniques because like many parents, I tend to confuse training with punishment.
Webster’s Dictionary 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.
As a parent, when I am seeking ways to train my child, rather than ways to punish them, 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 the instruction. Rather than jumping to grounding them, or taking away TV privileges 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 achieved in less than 60 seconds to a chorus of applause from a parent, rather than a lecture on the cost of electric bills.
Let me demonstrate what I mean in the context of my high school days where I played in the band and participated in Cross Country running. In both activities, I was being trained to become better at a specific task whether by my band director or by my coach. They both offered 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. First I’d play it slowly and then increase in speed until it was played properly. When I didn’t run fast enough in Cross Country or faltered on a big hill, my coach would use techniques, like running repeatedly up a large hill, to help me achieve greater speed and endurance. Neither my coach or band instructor grounded me, or gave me detention, or took my failures personally. This was not punishment, this was training.
And just like I appreciated hearing “good job” at the end of a band concert or after a race where I ran hard, most kids enjoy this from their parents as well.
As followers of Christ, and as parents who have a tough job of preparing kids for life, consider Proverbs 22:6 as a literal call 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.