The Struggle: Teach a Child to Follow the Right Way

Teach a child how to follow the right way;even when he is old, he will stay on course

Proverbs 22:6

Parenting can be a gut wrenching, painful process leaving us to feel as if we are headed to an early grave.  However, for me, it is by far my most favorite parenting season.
Currently, I am the mom of three teenagers.  Three teenagers at three very different stages of the teenage years, but teenagers nevertheless.

Parenting teenagers is quite the undertaking.  It is the stage of life in which our kids begin to truly explore the boundaries of their own independence and begin to figure out their place within the world around them.  It becomes the stage where they begin to identify the many aspects which lie within the realm of relationships helping them to understand how they will relate to the world and the people around them.  It is a grueling time because it becomes a time when they really begin to develop the essence of what healthy and loving relationships look like and this time sets them up for the way in which they will function in future relationships.

There are so many aspects of parenting and each play an important role in who your child will become as they mature into adulthood.  The way we interact with our children through our own words and actions will play a part in the way they view the world. 

As parents, we watch our children, our teens, experience the joys and heartache of love, the pain of betrayal, the sorrow which comes with loss, and on and on it goes. Some of the moments we experience with them bring happiness and others extreme pain, but in the end, they look to us for direction and to see the way in which we will handle those moments.

I’ve come to realize over the course of my teenage parenting days that Proverbs 22:6 is a quite interesting passage. It can be looked at from several different perspectives and throughout my teenage parenting journey, I’ve realized that there is quite a bit of really good stuff in the ever so small verse.

As an adult, I have made mistakes and bad choices.  I have messed up more often that gotten it right or so it feels sometimes. As a teenager, I screwed up even more.  The messes I made as a teen set me up for the issues I have had to face as an adult. I have required a lot of grace throughout my forty-one years and this realization has helped me to face the challenges of raising my teens in a different way.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “teach your child how to follow the right way” which I think is an interesting choice of words.  The word teach means to show or explain how to do something.  Knowing the meaning of the word allows me to see that verse in a different light.  If I want my children “to follow the right way,” then I must “show” them exactly what that looks like which means, I must live it out myself.  I can’t just spew out rules and make a list of the way they should live but instead, my life should be a living breathing example of the way in which God has called us to live. 

If I want my children to do good, to live well, to be people full of integrity, then they should see that lived out in me.  Through by words and actions, they should see a parent who extends love, grace, forgiveness and patience to not just them but to those who God places within our lives.  If I want them to walk in obedience and to have a personal relationship with Jesus that is authentic, then they need to see me live out that obedience and demonstrate a relationship with Jesus that is real in every aspect of  my life. 

Writing it all out makes it look so simple.  But living it out can be so frustrating. 

Matthew 22:37-38 says we are to first love God and to second love our neighbors. Those two verses are the starting point for the foundation which becomes the example we live out and “teach” our kids, our teens. Now what exactly does that look like?  Flip on over to 1 Corinthians and the definition for love is broken down beautifully for us.

Love is patient; love is kind.  Love isn’t envious, doesn’t boast, brag, or strut about.  There’s no arrogance in love; it’s never rude, crude or indecent-it’s not self-absorbed.  Love isn’t easily upset.  Love doesn’t tally wrongs or celebrate injustice; but truth-yes, truth-is love’s delight! Love puts up with anything and everything that comes along; it trusts, hopes and endures no matter what. Love will never become obsolete.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

What a list! A list which feels impossible to live up to!  Nonetheless, we are called to love.  So the question becomes; are we living in such a way that we are showing, teaching our kids, our teens how “to follow the right way?”

It’s a lot to think about and ultimately calls for an evaluation of our own hearts and lives. But if we are able to admit our own inconsistencies and struggles, we will become healthier parents and in the end, our kids will be better for it. 
*This is a condensed version of a paper I wrote for a psychology class on exactly this day last year.  Thought is was worth sharing!

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