Proverbs 19:18 warns parents, “Chasten your son while there is hope, and do not set your heart on his destruction.” Parents are responsible for their children’s training, and they’re grateful for any hint of hope. But why the warning about destruction? Parents don’t purposefully do things that could lead to their children’s death, do they?
In twenty-five years as an educator, I’ve seen a lot of confusion about what constitutes effective child training. Our educational culture seems to equate rote memory with real learning. But recalling data is not the same as understanding—recall alone will not solve real-world problems.
Unfortunately, many Christian parents and teachers make this mistake. If we train our kids with only a surface understanding of the Bible, they may be able to regurgitate things they have learned and even conform outwardly, but they won’t have a truly Christian worldview. They will be the hearers of the Word described in James 1:21. What will those children do when they leave home and secular ideas like Darwinian evolution present serious challenges to their faith?
While only God can transform our kids’ hearts, parents play a key role in preventing superficial Christianity that cannot stand against the attacks of the devil.
The foundation of our child training has to be the living Word—Christ, who is revealed in the written Word.
The foundation of our child training has to be the living Word—Christ, who is revealed in the written Word. Clearly we cannot stop at shallow recall of various Bible principles. Our goal is to teach children how to think with a biblical worldview and defend the Christian faith against the world’s attacks. We achieve this by teaching them to test everything they hear by God’s Word and equipping them with biblical answers they can share in gentleness and with respect.
This kind of training is going to take more than memorization. We will need to discuss opposing views and help them understand that the Bible is truth. As parents, we will need to make friends with those who don’t think biblically so we can model how to share Christ our hope with compassion and respect, praying for God to open their eyes and hearts.
These discussions may cause family meals or devotions to take more time as you listen to your children’s questions and give biblical answers. The objective is to build their thinking on God’s Word and equip them to defend their faith. For the rest of their lives you want your children to evaluate the messages of the culture—media, talk radio, political speeches, entertainment—according to God’s Word.
Train your children while there is hope. Only God can open their eyes, but if we train our kids now in a thorough understanding of His Word, it will follow them the rest of their lives—even if they try to run from it. Then, as long as they live, there is still hope.