Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
If you are a parent, you know that kids are observant. Kids know the schedules and the daily routines, even if they don’t always want to follow them. They notice when other kids have new shoes or the newest phone. They probably even know where you hide your secret stash of chocolate chip cookies!
Observation plays a big part in the development of children. Often what they regularly observe translates into actions and behaviors down the road; child sees, child does. Consequently, who do children watch more than anyone else? Their parents.
Teachers, coaches, friends, and classmates can all have a major impact on a child and their development, but it is the parents who most influence their young ones. A parent’s words and actions have a significant effect on their kids, and it is their example that most resonates in the mind of the child.
Proverbs 22:6 teaches that we are to train our children to follow the way of the Lord so that they will not depart from the Way later in life. However, this task is not taken seriously in many Christian homes today. For many, their training is nothing more than giving their children a picture Bible and praying before eating dinner. These parents have no problem spending hours teaching the proper baseball pitching mechanics or helping their child memorize their speaking lines for the school play, but when it comes to teaching their children the things of the Lord, there is a sense of apathy.
Parents, please understand this: if you are apathic in the manner in which you serve God, do not be surprised when your children reciprocate.
We must teach our children how to live according to the will of God. We must teach them the laws and statutes that are given in His Word. We must teach them what it means to profess that Jesus is Lord and how every facet of our lives must reflect that allegiance to the King. Teach them when they are young, and teach them these things often.
We must teach them these things and then, just as importantly, we must demonstrate what they look like. The way in which we live is just as important as the words that we teach them. The expression, “practice what you preach” is especially true in parenthood. Reading Scripture to your children every night will hold no real value if your own actions do not match what you are reading.
If you tell your children that they are not allowed to watch certain movies, then you must not be watching vulgar television shows every week. Send your children to Sunday school, but then go to the adult Sunday school class yourself, instead of drinking coffee in the foyer. Make prayer and devotion an intricate part of the day and not just an activity that is easily dropped.
Deuteronomy 6 and 11 exhort that we are to lay God’s words on our hearts and souls, that we are to bind them as a sign on our hands and before our eyes. But it also tells us to teach them to our children when we are at home and while we are on the road, from the moment we rise to the time when we lie down.
Your children are watching. Are they seeing what it looks like to be a follower of Christ?
About the author: Jacob is the youth director at Knox Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Harrison Twp., MI. He graduated from Kuyper College with a degree in Bible and Theology and is currently enrolled in Reformed Theological Seminary’s Distance M.Div. program. He and his wife are expecting twins in September.