COLUMN: How do you parent the ‘right’ way?

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By John Lapp

Parenting — how do I do it the right way? That is today’s topic in my new series on “The Family,” which begins with this column.
Many (maybe most) parents have asked themselves questions that contain the word “right.” After reading books, magazines and other material, including some of the writings from the book of Proverbs in the Holy Bible, they believe their parenting isn’t working the way they’ve been taught it should.
Well, let’s start with a “truism,” namely that to date no one has written the book on how to do it to always feel successful. With that statement being said, let’s begin.
When that little baby of yours emerged into the world after being protected in mother’s womb for the better part of nine months, the program of what is known as being the parent began. But there is no “how to” manual that explains what you need to know to feel successful at this task.
Those of us who subscribe to the teachings of the Bible are aware of a favorite verse found in the book of Proverbs. It’s Chapter 22, Verse 6, as found in the King James version: “Train up a child in the way he should go and, when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
I have read commentaries on this verse and they don’t all agree as to what this means, so I went about my own search by asking several ministers what each of them believe that it really means. I even asked some who I believed to be scholars in the original language with which the words had been written, and even then there was some disagreement.
It is a verse that has been used to make a spiritual point of instruction to individual parents and also to an audience of a church congregation gathered for a service of worship. I will attempt to explain in general what I have learned from these ministers, my own research, and my 40+ years of being a licensed school psychologist and family counselor working with hundreds of families in four states.
Now, to begin with, please understand that I am not a scholar but a student of the Holy Bible and will always be a student only. But I believe that the following will help some, hopefully most, of you as you are charged with the difficult task of the words “train up a child in the way he should go,” because each of your children are different from the others.
Even twins, who often resemble each other in appearance, are also very different. And, to add to this, these parents are the same parents for each of these children.
A little humor here helps to make a point: a mother of four children was asked, “Knowing what you know and have experienced over these many years, would you do it again?” Her wonderful answer was, “Yes, I would, but not with the same ones.” (I don’t think any of her children heard her say that.)
Then, when not knowing what to do when the child seems to have an oppositional behavior episode, the “experts” give her the needed answers, but remember that even the experts in the realm of the “spank/don’t spank” rules differ from each other. The parent begins to ask in his or her mind, “I wonder if I could have a few moments with the children raised by this author to see if it really worked when the child got ‘old,’ as the Bible verse states.”
Maybe this column cannot today give you the help you need, but I promise that in upcoming columns it will be covered in depth.
I will conclude this column with the following questions:
In this verse, what does the word “train” mean?
What does the “way” mean?
What does the word “should” mean?
What do the words “when he is old” mean?
What does the word “it” refer to?
Sorry to leave you hanging, but the topic and the explanations take too long to explain this week. Next week, I will attempt to begin the help you need to hopefully be successful, at least somewhat more than now.
Have a great day and may God bless you richly.