Train Up Your Child, (and not your mini-me)

 Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it." 
 Prov. 22:6

I remember a conversation I had years ago with an individual who shared their concern for the teenage son of a couple who appeared to be living vicariously through him. My friend shared of how this boy had very little, if any, free time. Even summers were laden with one camp after another, turning down opportunities to partake in family events which may have taken one or two days out of his rigorous schedule.

Granted, my friend admitted, though it was still overload, the grueling schedule was plausibly understandable if the son was indeed a star athlete—an A-string player who oozed talent and ability from every pore. But bless his heart, he could barely walk and chew gum at the same time.
Apparently, his dad (or mom) had been a star athlete in their younger years, and were determined to finish through their son what they began. Poor kid.

We’ve all known parents who have done this. Perhaps we have found ourselves leaning in that direction as well. 

Please don’t. Here’s why. 

God created your children specifically, with a plan, purpose and design suited just for them, for their physical build and their personality, just as He created you specifically, with a plan, purpose, and design suited just for you. What worked for you may not necessarily work for your child, no matter how many camps, training programs, or classes you send them to. 

We are formed in the image of a very creative God, and when He made us, He didn’t run out of ideas for our children. While He may have formed our children with similar traits as ours, He did not form them to be our “mini-me”. 
God’s Word says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).   
This verse is most often used to encourage Christian parents to begin teaching their children early of the love of God and His beloved Son. Truly, there is nothing more precious than to see a toddler bowing to pray or lifting his or her hands in praise, as he sees his parents do the same. More on that in another article.

But I also believe that as parents it is our responsibility to “train up” our children for the way in which God has designed them, not the way in which He designed us. We had our time as children. They are not us, and we are not them. They are who God created them to be. 

Call me cynical, but I do not fully subscribe to the common assertion, “You can be anything you want to be!” 

Frankly, I believe to say that is false hope at best and dishonesty at worst. A child who is heavy-set and short-coupled most likely is not going to be the next Kevin Durant. And as cute as the little princess is singing God Bless America at age 6, if she has to travel the scale before landing on the correct key, perhaps pitch is not her strong point and singing is not her gift. 

So how do we know in what direction to train our children?  

Easy. Watch them. Study their interests and the things that come easy to them. 

You can watch a field full of kids kicking a ball and within minutes can pick out those who are truly gifted with physical speed, coordination, and agility. Likewise, the child who is quiet, your "dreamer", the one who is happiest entertaining himself with a good book will most likely be the creative thinker, designer, or artist in some form or fashion. Attempting to force him or her into an athletic mold with be an "epic fail".

As they grow and experience more activities, ask them. And listen to them, being careful not to measure them against their peers, or even against your own desires. The best advice I received was from my doctor after I gave birth to our first child. He said, “Just remember, you are raising them, not racing them.” 

Wise words. 

Our job as parents is to prepare our children for what they are designed for. Train them up first to know and love the Lord their God, so that should they ever wonder off the narrow path, they will know from where they came. Early training may help show them the way back. 

Then train them in the way and in the skills for which they are naturally bent, encouraging those things in which he or she is good at—those things which come easily and naturally to them, and watch it unfold before your eyes.

As tempting as it is to bend our children in the direction that we enjoyed as children, or in the way we think they should go is simply not wise. In fact, it’s unhealthy for both parent and child, and essentially stymies the child’s true gifts, usually leaving them anxious and confused, as well as unhappy. 

People (and children) shine most when they are doing what they love--in what they are most gifted. And as adults, to have a job or career is a blessing, but to truly enjoy what you are doing, using the gifts given to you by your Creator, it’s a double-blessing. 

Ask the Lord to show you how He has specifically gifted your child (or even grandchild) and what you can do to encourage him or her in cultivating and growing their natural ability.  Your child will thank you later. 

Do you agree?

God bless!