By Javan Rowe
I have been noticing increasingly more lately how much the things of this world work to shape my children. I would like to think that I am the primary influencer in their lives, but I have to wonder if this is the case. The truth is many things vie for their attention, shouting, “Look at me! Allow me to mold you!”
All parents must face the question of who is going to teach our children. Will it be peers in school, church, or networking sites? Are we comfortable with pop culture, from the Internet to television to music, filling that educational void? I know I’m not.
Godly Training & Instruction
Ephesians 6:4 provides a counter to the false, and often dangerous, influencers that seek to raise our children: “Fathers . . . bring [your children] up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
The first thing to notice is that the parents are the ones to raise the kids, not school, social media, or our children’s friends—no matter how positive these things might be at times. It doesn’t take much discretion to realize the many outlets seeking to influence our young.
The verse secondly teaches that the raising of our children is to consist of godly training and instruction. Though training and instruction may seem to be one in the same, I will use them slightly differently.
Think of a camera that zooms in to capture details but also zooms out to give a larger view. Training is the zooming out that sees generally how we are raising our kids. It is like an apprenticeship, the daily walk that works toward a future releasing of our children into the world.
This training involves our providing examples and lessons in the areas of Scripture and faith in a myriad of situations. “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 11:19).
Our training of children actually begins with us. After all, how can we teach the knowledge we lack? Scripture is to be foundational to the training, which means we must be in the Word ourselves. Our kids are going to have questions, and we must at least have the ability to find the answers we lack.
Paul provided a helpful analogy in Ephesians 6:16 where he mentioned the shield of faith that can assist us in the training of our kids. Many of the ancient shields were large enough to protect a wounded soldier as another soldier continued battling. Paul’s analogy means, in part, that we are to have solid faith that protects our kids and also serves as a strong example that will influence them in their own faith. We must work to strengthen our faith so that we not only protect ourselves, but our families as well.
So, as you can see, much of the training of our children actually starts with our own preparation as fathers. Our faith in the Lord and knowledge of the Word are to be maintained and strengthened as we work God into every area of life like the Deuteronomy passage indicates.
When we zoom in on the larger scope of training we have the specific instances of instruction, perhaps a subset of training. These may take the form of positive motivational talks, disciplinary lectures, or anything in between.
What I think is missing from daily life are dad chats. Think of all the sitcoms of yesteryear—The Andy Griffith Show, Leave It to Beaver, and of course, Father Knows Best. Nearly every episode ended with a chat session between father and child where a vital lesson was imparted. Just as those sessions seem missing from modern television, they are missing from real life.
Another form of instruction from media is found in The Karate Kid movies. What I’ve always loved are the unique ways Mr. Miyagi taught young Daniel. A lesson was given during the most menial of tasks. In fact, no matter how high or low Daniel would get, he would be instructed in the midst of it.
The same should be said of us as fathers. We are to always be looking to teach our children, looking at them as our little disciples. This instruction is not only in the worldly matters of daily living, but also in areas of faith. “The word of God is alive and active” (Hebrews 4:12), meaning it can be regularly incorporated into our life situations.
The instruction should involve diving into God’s Word with them, as well as relaying our own experiences. After all, we have walked through a number of minefields which gives us the perspective to help accompany them through their own journey. Responsibility for developing the faith of young people has been given to us as dads, and it is a responsibility that should be taken seriously.
The Empathetic Father
Dads have historically been stereotyped as hardline disciplinarians with no sympathy for the children they are correcting. Currently this view has moved to the far extreme where we are now seen to be uninvolved in discipline, with a “kids will be kids” approach. Biblical parenting appears to land somewhere in between—approaching our children with a firm hand and a soft heart.
Our Ephesians 6:4 verse about training and instructing our children actually begins with an important reminder: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children.” The King James Version says, “Provoke not your children to wrath.” In other words, we must correct our children with a bit of understanding.
Sometimes we can go overboard in our quest to be right. We may have good intensions of raising well-behaved members of society. The optics, however, may be far from what we desire. Our egos get in the way and our kids see an unfair warlord under whose thumb they cannot wait to escape.
We need to keep in mind that our kids are not lesser; they are simply smaller. We should be able to empathize with them, remembering what it was like to be at their age and place in life. Sometimes it may mean stepping away for a while until our initial anger subsides to the point where we can rationally discipline.
By telling us to not provoke our kids, the passage is not providing a license for our children to not listen to us. After all, preceding this verse is a call for children to obey their parents. Children have their own call by God to obey their parents. That is not our concern here. We can ultimately only control how we handle ourselves in our dealings with our children. There is a balance to the Ephesians passage where kids are to listen so that life goes well with them. And we are to teach and train our children so that they live holy lives and fear the Lord. We do this in a way that doesn’t exasperate our kids, causing them to rebel. Our ultimate goal—it must be remembered—is to raise productive, God-fearing adults.
Javan Rowe is a freelance writer in Columbus, Ohio (eyesonthekingdom.com).