Reminders for parents
Whoever dares to start a family in these times deserves a medal for bravery for folly. Whoever succeeds at raising a stable, wholesome family bears testimony to the existence of luck or the continuance of miracles.
I begin this way because the times in which we live are very tough and the threats to family life are many. Indeed, in some sections of the world, predictions are already out concerning the imminent or eventual demise of the traditional family.
If you are an honest Christian parent or a sensitive non-Christian parent, you will have to admit that Proverbs 22.6 "Train up a child ..." is one of those passages that you wish were true automatically, but which you know seems so untrue given the experience you have had in raising children.
If it helps, let me say to you that the verse is making a link between the education of a child and the character of that child in a context where the child was seen and treated as belonging to the whole community so the training/education of the child, though primarily a role for parents, was regarded as a serious communal responsibility.
Though one might want to appreciate the difference in context between now and then in ancient Israel, yet in a mad, mad workaholic world, we would do well as parents to ponder that in truth there is an equation that the passage suggests which still has some merits.
The equation is this: Expectations ['should go'] + Effort ['train'] = Effect ['will not depart'].
With that equation in mind, let us reflect on the two items in the equation that relate to parents: expectations and effort.
To appreciate the problem and the suggestions we are about to touch on, just answer two questions to yourselves. 1) Did you turn out the way your parents/guardians expected you to? 2) Did those parents/guardians really help you to achieve their expectations of you?
We might do well to remember that "from whom much is expected to such much must be given" or "to whom much is given from such only can much be expected". Again, expectation must go hand in hand with effort. Parental input will shape the output.
The basic expectations of parents, generally, are that the child will behave properly, work diligently and achieve commendably.
All legitimate expectations because the text in Proverbs hints at a normative growth path for children, it suggests that there is a right path on which children should travel or go.
Yet, as legitimate as those expectations might be, generally, they need to be tempered by the specifics of who that child is (the issue of nature) and what is reasonable given the family context in which that child is being raised (the issue of nurture).
I wish to emphasise a simple, yet fundamental reason every parent should be engaged in serious efforts for the child. You owe your child the best effort you can give because of the status and responsibility you have been given. So, parental efforts are necessary because of the parent's status and responsibility.
What status, you might ask? I'll tell you. Ponder this simple, even trite, but fundamental notion. Every grown male is a man and every grown female a woman, but being a mother or father is a status conferred upon you by a child.
Your status as a mother is dependent on that child. Your status as a father is dependent on that child and for some on the child's mother (short of a conclusive paternity test).
That should be a humbling thought. My conviction is that if for no other reason, the child deserves proper parenting as a way of saying thanks for the status you have conferred upon me.
Affected and afflicted
Another basis for parental responsibility is this: As a parent, you have both affected and afflicted your child. That child has been affected and afflicted by your genes. That child may not physically look like you (a blessing for some children), but is like you, genetically communicable diseases/infirmities and all.
The responsibility for creating a stable, wholesome family setting rests squarely on the shoulders of parents, and parents are responsible for the dynamics at work in their families.
While we seek to give our children the nurture and care they need, let us stand guard over them against the family-destroying forces of the unisex age and of sexual liberalism.
If we expect the end of stable families, let us embrace wholesome God-directed means to that end.
- The Rev Dr Clinton Chisholm is a theologian. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.