Our Children: A Source of Gladness or Grief?

(All quotations from Proverbs unless noted.)

A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is the grief of his mother” (10:1). “A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her who bore him” (17:25). Every life has its share of heartaches and disappointments, but few heartbreaking experiences can compare to the pain foolish or rebellious children can bring. Think of David’s bitter weeping for Absalom as he wished that he could have died instead of his son—a son who was disloyal, treasonous, and an adulterer (see 2 Samuel 13-19). We could think of other biblical examples and countless modern ones, but is such really necessary? Is there anyone who does not understand the pain children can cause their parents? Because children are endowed by God with a free-will and are capable of choosing to do evil, it may not always be possible to prevent this heartache, but the Scriptures are clear that the children of the righteous turning to evil should be the exception and not the rule. As parents we can and are expected to make a difference in our children’s lives.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (22:6). Though this statement should not be taken to mean that parents can strip children of their ability to choose evil, it does emphasize the trainability of children. From the day they are born we must set ourselves to the task of bringing them up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). In 1:8 Solomon urged his son, “Hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother.” Very similar words are found in 6:20 where we read, “My son, keep your father’s command, and do not forsake the law of your mother.” In these two admonitions it is assumed that instruction has been given; commands have been issued; law has been laid down. Let us commit ourselves to teaching God’s holy word to our children at every opportunity (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). Teach them at home; bring them to Bible classes; make certain they pay attention to sermons; in every way make the word of God a vital part of their lives, so that we might confidently and truthfully say to them, “Keep the commandments of your father and the law of your mother and all will be well with your soul.”

To properly train our children we must provide them with instruction in the faith-building word of God (Romans 10:17), but in addition, we must provide them with the discipline necessary to complete the training. We live in a time when parental permissiveness is the norm and disciplinarians are viewed as harsh practitioners of archaic, perhaps even barbaric, methods, but this is not the teaching of the Lord. Parents must realize that “no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful” for both the giver and the receiver, yet we have assurance that “it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). To put it in very simple terms: firm, painful discipline works!

Too often today’s parents are reduced to begging and pleading with their children to “stop the foolishness” because they have neglected the relatively simple method God decreed. “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him” (22:15). Parents are often governed by the fear they will be guilty of child abuse, and while child abuse is an inexcusable, horrific crime, allowing a child to grow up unrestrained and undisciplined is as abusive as the use of excessive force. “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul. Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell” (29:15, 17; 23:13, 14).

Parents, let’s be sure we love our children enough to provide them with the training and discipline they need. “Train up a child in the way he should go….He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (22:6; 13:24).

All quotations from the New King James Version, copyright 1994 by Thomas Nelson Publishers