Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.(Proverbs 22:6)

This is one of the most frequently used scriptures regarding child rearing. It is full of sound wisdom that is often overlooked.

Let’s break this down. First of all, what does it mean to train? has a number of available definitions, I like this one:

to develop or form the habits, thoughts, or behavior of (a child or other person) by discipline and instruction

Training is more than just teaching. Training is instruction but it is also grooming. For example, you train your hedges or trees by careful pruning to achieve a desired shape. Training is also conditioning. For example, athletes train rigorously for an event. Soldiers train for combat. You train to simulate the conditions you will encounter in a real-world event.

But the scripture takes this a bit further – it says train “up.” I thought about this carefully in the context of my own life and drew the conclusion that there are three types of training

  • Train Down – To leave to one’s own devices
  • Train Across – to train in practical application (vocationally)
  • Train Up – to train in the concept or spirit of a matter (professionally)

Training down is easy. Unfortunately, it is one of the most prevalent training involving children. Because man is sinful by nature, leaving a child to his or her own devices means leaving them in sin. The secular humanist trend is to eliminate all vestiges of God from child rearing. Many parents disengage from their children in varying degrees, leaving them to peers and media (internet, television, radio). As a result, they have no moral compass and, even worse, no moral foundation.

Training across assumes that teaching a child a trade will empower a child economically. While this is valuable, it, too, passes on no morality. Giving a child an economic advantage with no moral foundation is a recipe for disaster. It deals with material prosperity but does nothing for soul prosperity. In other words, this is incomplete training.

In both of these cases, the children are not being properly raised. The problem is that many folks confuse raising a child with rearing a child. Raising a child means bringing them up to godly maturity, whereas, rearing is simply caring for a child until he or she is able to support themselves.

This is where training up comes in. This is bringing up a child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Training up a child teaches them to look up – to God and parents. It teaches them to go up – in the way of the Lord. Training up requires Godly order – both parents must be engaged and involved. This means fathers must not shirk their responsibility of passing down wisdom and serving as a type and shadow of our heavenly Father. It means that mothers must fulfill their assignment of nurturing the children. It further means that the parents must be vigilant – observing the environment and behavior of, and listening to the hopes, dreams, cares, and concerns of their children.

And, while we are discussing the way he should go, we as parents must understand that this way is not the way we think they should go. Every child is born with a God-given purpose. It is our job as parents to help our children discover and walk in their purpose. You see, once children discover their purpose, they will “run in their lane” and not depart from it. They will pursue their divine destination with dogged determination and will not waver. They will go into their old age moving from assignment to assignment but never changing their purpose.

This is the greatest legacy we can give our children – the legacy of a godly, purposeful life in Christ.

© 2010 – Derrick Day (