Today’s discipline methods may be different, but my grandmother Mimi was an “old school” disciplinarian—and I needed strict discipline. I remember as a kid her sending me home with one of those flat wooden paint stirrers with black block letters emblazoned on it: For Use on Rusty When Needed. My grandmother disciplined me because she loved me. She wanted me to choose what was right.
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6
Proverbs 22:6 addresses the subject of discipline, how a parent should correct a child. Most English translations read very closely to the NIV. I learned it as “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” It says something slightly different in Hebrew: “Train a child in his way, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” The meaning is mostly the same—parents should discipline children—but it comes out a bit differently in Hebrew. This proverb is not saying that if you raise your children to be godly and wise (“the way they should go”) then you are guaranteed a good outcome. This idea echoes what we learned earlier in our study: Proverbs are principles, not promises).
Rather, this proverb states that raising a child in his way means that he will stay that way (again, principles, not promises). Put another way, since Genesis 3 every human heart has bent toward evil. We are selfish, prideful, and sinful—every one of us. If we allow a child to continue on that path of selfishness and sin (pursuing “his or her way”), then that’s most likely how they will live their whole lives. The stakes are high—very high—so be encouraged, parents, and ask God for His wisdom, grace, and steadfastness while you lovingly correct your children.