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Training Them Up in the Way They Should Go

Ophelia Gherman, M.D.
November 3, 2016
Proverbs 22:6 states, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” What does this really mean?

Last week, we discussed signs that may indicate depression and anxiety in teens. We learned that negative thoughts and a pattern of negative reactions can transform into a state where negative feelings and hopelessness dominate the mind.


We are told by the pen of inspiration that a parent is to guard carefully, kindly, earnestly, and tenderly, the words and actions of their little ones, lest the enemy gain an influence over them. Today, I would like to discuss how parental influence can contribute to a child’s psychological development.  Proverbs 22:6 states, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”


What does this really mean? The original meaning of “Train up a child” comes from the Hebrew phrase which means to “dedicate” or “consecrate” the child. The phrase “In the way He should go” is from the Hebrew language meaning “In the way He is gifted by God to go.” You see, to dedicate our children, we must instruct according to the character God has given. This is the challenge for every parent because every child is different. Our children vary in mental, physical, and spiritual development.  Thus, each child responds differently to correction and advice. At the same time, we must not ignore the weaknesses and flaws in our children. So how can we make sure our children develop a healthy Christian way of thinking, free from depression, anxiety, stress, and hopelessness in light of our duty to “train up a child”?


There is a saying that the apple does not fall far from the apple tree. The Spirit of Prophecy states that our children inherit defects from their parents. “Let parents keep a careful watch over themselves, guarding against all coarseness and roughness, lest these defects be seen once more in their children,” {AH, 174}. Anxiety and negative thoughts are often learned in childhood. When parents focus on the defects of a child’s actions and deconstruct their morale, negativity is enforced. Lessons learned from Christ’s earthly ministry reveal that His methods of teaching included: restoration of the faithless, uplifting of the hopeless, uniting with the despondent, bringing joy and salvation to every sinner through love and affirmation rather than the spirit of condemnation.


Children respond much better to positive instruction rather than to negative instruction. Negative instruction creates a narrowed form of thinking, largely driven by fear. Think of a fearful experience, such as being confronted by a tiger. Your only thought will be to get away from the tiger. It will not lead to creative thinking. Children who are constantly instructed with “do not” and “cannot” learn to think in a narrow and restricted fashion.


Positive instruction, on the other hand, is proactive rather than reactive. For example, if you wish for your child not to be abusive of other people’s property, do not wait to instruct them in public by telling them to “stop touching everything.” Positive instruction will train the child from the home to be content to play with one toy at a time and also content with simple interactions with parents and friends. By helping children respect order, tidiness, and contentment at home, they will naturally respect order in other people’s homes. Through this positive training, your child not only learns one good quality but broadens his or her creative and communication skills. Thus you can train up a child according to his or her abilities, attractions, aptitudes and talents.


Remember to instruct tenderly, molding the child's character without denting it, and your child will in turn mirror the same positive and patient spirit. May God help us to ever learn and become the parents He would have us be.