“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV)
I used to think that this Scripture meant that if I raised my children “right,” they would never get in trouble, never suffer, never make poor choices, never be unkind, never part from the Lord, and never question their faith. I misunderstood. I have eight children. Two of them are grown adults, three are teens, and three are preteens. I have done everything in my power to “raise them right” and guess what? They are still human! As a matter of fact, I’m still human. Sigh. So much for perfection.
A good friend pointed out that the Scripture actually says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is OLD he will not depart from it.” That got me thinking. My kids have a lot of life to live before they get old. They have a lot of choices to make, a lot of chances for failure and success. They will make good choices and not so good choices. They will feel strong and firm in their faith some days, and other days they will feel quite empty. Isn’t this the way of life?
When I read this Scripture now, I see words of encouragement, “train” and “the way he should go.” The Bible never implies that we are called to perfection. It calls us to point the way. Show your children how to walk this path, how to live this life, how to fall and get back up. Model how to succeed with grace and how to fail with courage.
Our children will learn the way by following our lead. How can we lead them well? Through connection. Our children don’t learn what we believe just through Bible study, devotions, or shared prayer. They learn by observation.
As we enter into the holiday season, we are surrounded with activities, lights, parties, gifts, celebrations…distractions. If we can weed through the distractions, Thanksgiving and Christmas can be wonderful opportunities for connection to family. The holidays are a prime time to lead our children toward the traditions that build the foundation for our faith.
So how do we do that?
Spontaneity is good for connection
During the holiday season, all events will not be planned with intentionality. That’s ok! Watch a Christmas movie that just happens to be on TV. Take the long way home one night after dinner just to see the lights. Spontaneous activities are a wonderful way to connect and create lasting memories.
Plan with intention
Some activities with our families will be planned, like a big family dinner or attending the Christmas Eve service at church. Before you plan an activity, ask yourself, “What do I want to model for my children?” and “What do I want my children to discover?” Our family creates care packages for foster families during the holiday season. We set aside a time where we can organize the packages, pray for the families, and enjoy time together. As a former foster family, this is a great time for our children to talk about their own experiences in foster care and what they would have liked to receive in a care package. We are modeling generosity, but we are also allowing our children to discover the world around them and how they want to engage with others in it. They see the example of Jesus in the Scripture and witness how He loved and cared for those around Him.
Invite without expectation
As our children grow older, they won’t be with us during the holidays as they once were. It is important for us to set aside time for planned traditions that we invite the older children to be a part of. We plan ahead and invite without expectation. Our grown children may have their own activities, work, or even their own children to plan around. They will feel welcomed and encouraged by your invitation and appreciative of the flexibility you show.
As we enter into the holiday season, what are some ways you are passing on traditions and faith to your children?
The verse “train up a child in the way he..” in Greek actually means that if you teach or train a child in his iniquities he will not depart from it even when old. In other words be mindful of the iniquities (the bend toward a particular sin and choosing to sin in this way) of your child and do NOT train them in those. Ie: Lying, selfishness, covetousness etc.