By Randall Hillebrand
“To know wisdom and instruction, To discern the sayings of understanding, To receive instruction in wise behavior, Righteousness, justice and equity; To give prudence to the naive, To the youth knowledge and discretion, A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire
wise counsel, To understand a proverb and a figure, The words of the wise and their riddles.” (Proverbs 1:2-6)
Solomon tells us that it is a good thing to study proverbs. This is because proverbs is filled with wisdom and instruction through which one can increase in learning and acquire wise counsel; where one can discover sayings of understanding and be taught wise behavior. This is why I chose to glean the Book of
Proverbs for bits of wisdom on the proper way in which to raise children, in a manner pleasing to God. Also, as the proverb above states, “To the youth knowledge and discretion” come from their learning and understanding of proverbs. So the first piece of wisdom that I see Proverbs teaching on the raising of children is that it is very profitable to teach one’s children the proverbs contained in this book. Not only would it be profitable to teach from this book, but from all of the wisdom literature in the Old Testament for the understanding which they will receive.
To take it even a step further, we know that not only is wisdom literature profitable for teaching, but that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3:16-17). So, we should teach all scripture to our children, keeping in mind the application derived from
Deuteronomy 6:4-7, which is an exhortation to love God with everything we have, to keep in our heart the word of God, and to diligently teach the scriptures to our children at all times (“when you sit in your house and walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” vs. 7).
Maybe Deuteronomy 6:4-7 was in the back of Solomon’s mind when he wrote Proverbs 1:8-9 which says, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching; indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head, and ornaments about your neck.” Where Deuteronomy 6:4-7 is an injunction to parents, Proverbs 1:8 is an injunction to children. Solomon is not only telling them to listen to their father’s instruction, but this verse has the idea of obeying them also. So when the father gives instructions, the children carry them out. The children are also told not to forsake or abandon their mother’s teachings, probably meaning the teachings of the scriptures which were usually part of the mother’s duties since the father did not always have the time to do so. So as the parents are told to
teach, the children are told to listen and respond.
Verse 9 gives the results of children that abide by verse 8, which is that “they are a graceful wreath to your head, and ornaments about your neck.” In other words, they are something to be displayed because of their value and they are prize possessions that bring pride to their parents. Any parent would be happy and proud to display their children for others to see if they are obedient.
The next proverb which shed light on the raising of children was Proverb 1:7. Here we see that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;” but “fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Solomon’s use of the phrase, “fear of the Lord,” has more than just the idea of fear. When the Israelite used this word fear (Hebrew -“yare'”) with respect to God, it had the idea of the highest reverence and respect combined with love that a child could have for a parent. The aspect of fear was still there, but because of the expression of love involved, it became more of an awe toward God; a fear without torment. (Kufeldt 475).
This is what we are to teach our children when teaching them the fear of God, not a type of fear that causes them to go and hide in a corner from, nor attempt to lie to God every time they sin because of their fear that God will be cruel and mean toward them. This kind of fear knows that God will chastise the disobedient, but also knows that it is for their best. So having this type of fear is the beginning of knowledge, because understanding what it means to fear God is in itself an important piece of knowledge to have. But also, having a fear of God shows that one believes in God, which gives him the ability to grow closer to and learn more about God, which is the beginning of true knowledge.
So the second thing we need to do as parents is to teach our children the “fear of God” which “is the beginning of knowledge, “otherwise we will have children who are fools, ‘fools’ who will “despise wisdom and instruction.” The word instruction here has the idea of discipline, correction, chastisement, which says that these are the kind of things that they despise. The man who despises these things will live a life that is undisciplined and irresponsible, a life that is full of one mishap after another because he has not learned the fear of God and put God in His proper place.
The Book of Proverbs has a number of things to say about the discipline of children. We will even see that in some of the proverbs, the rod will be discussed as a tool of discipline, challenging some
today that would say that when a child misbehaves we should talk to him or her, but never spank. This would especially challenge those today that say children should not even be disciplined by talking to them because we may hinder their creative abilities. But as we will see, Solomon disagrees with this philosophy of child rearing.
Proverbs 23:13 brings Solomon’s view across vividly when he says, “Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you beat him with the rod, he will not die.” The word “beat” here has the idea of smiting or striking with a powerful effect. It is not talking about a couple pats on the child’s behind. And as
Solomon states further, “he will not die.” Some may say, that’s too cruel, children do not need a spanking like that. Yes, there is some truth in that. All children are different and they all respond to discipline in different ways. But Solomon has a very good reason for this as can be seen in the next verse. He says,
“You shall beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from Sheol.” I believe this truth can be seen in Proverbs 22:6 where Solomon says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” If a child is trained in the way he should go, which includes a fear of God, teaching about God and discipline to keep his way straight, then we are told that “when he is old he will not depart from it.” In other words, what one learns as a child will in most cases be lived out by that person in adulthood. So an undisciplined child will in most cases turn out to be an undisciplined adult, as a
disciplined child will probably be disciplined as an adult.
Solomon is just letting parents know that the discipling of their children has eternal consequences (delivering them from Sheol). Solomon further tells us in Proverbs 13:24 that the one “who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” The word “diligently” means to look
for early. So it is not the kind of situation where the parents discipline the child when they get around to it, but it is an immediate handling of disciplinary action. Solomon also says, “Discipline your son while there is hope.” (Proverbs 19:18) A literal translation might be, “Discipline your son for there is hope.” Solomon is telling us here that there is hope for our children if they are disciplined. He states further in that verse, “And do not desire his death,” or in other words, do not set your heart on his destruction. Do not make the decision that he is a hopeless case without trying to help him.” (Kufeldt 548) Again trying to help this child can be done through discipline as stated in this verse and two others that we will be looking at.
Proverbs 22:15 tells us that “foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child,” but there is hope as stated above. What is that hope? That hope is seen in the latter part of this verse which says, “the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.” The foolishness that the discipline will remove can be defined as
silliness or folly; acting in such a way so as to be irresponsible in their acts and behavior.
Another instance where discipline brings hope is in the case of the one who forsakes his way. Solomon tells us that “stern discipline is for him who forsakes the way” and that “he who hates reproof will die.” (Proverbs 15:10). This verse is true for any age, but with our specific application to children, we
can see that a child that forsakes or decides to leave the way can be brought back through the use of discipline. What is Solomon talking about when he talks about him that forsakes the way? From the context it seems as though he is talking about forsaking the way of God — going your own way and doing your own thing. In the case of a child, not obeying his parents, which is a direct sin against God assuming that the parents are not having the child go against the moral law of God. The latter part of
the verse makes it clear that he who hates reproof or correction is headed for death. This is because the child in our case is not listening to the parents’ reproof, which shows his lack of sense. By not listening to the parents, the child may never consider the things of God in his life, which will definitely lead
to spiritual death. From a physical standpoint, the child may not listen to the parent’s reproof about the proper way to cross a street. This could later end in the child’s death because he did not look both ways before crossing as he was told.
Solomon further states along these lines that “whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” (Proverbs 12:1). In the case of the child above, if he would be one that loves discipline (knowing that it is for his best), it would then be true that he has a love for knowledge because he understands that when discipline is applied, there is a definite lesson to be learned for future living. He would be happy to be set straight each time he falters, knowing that this discipline would keep him living a life pleasing to God. As the child above may run out in front of a car someday because he did not listen to his parents’ reproof, the child who loves discipline would not do that because he would have taken heed to past warnings. Solomon says that the child who hates reproof is stupid. He is stupid because if he is not reproved, he will not learn. So we can say that this child hates knowledge because he does not want to learn from his past mistakes.
Along these same lines, Proverbs 13:1 tells us that “a wise son accepts his father’s discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.” Why does the wise son accept his father’s discipline? Because his father’s discipline is knowledge for the son to live by as stated previously. But the scoffer, one who intensely looks down at others, does not listen to rebuke. This is because the scoffer sees himself above everyone else and above anything that they would have to tell him. So when the scoffer is rebuked for wrongdoings, it means nothing to him since he would never make a mistake. He, as the child above that hates reproof, is himself stupid.
Relating to the son accepting his father’s discipline, Solomon tells his son not to reject God’s discipline. He says, “my son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord, or loathe His reproof, for whom the Lord loves he reproves, even as a father, the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:11-12). Parents need to have good communication with their children so that they can discuss pretty much anything and everything with them. This can come in handy by being able to help the child see God working in his life, whether in the area of discipline or blessing to the child. If the parents are keen to the happenings in the child’s
life, they may be able to see if the child is rejecting the Lord’s discipline or loathing His reproof. In other words, to see if the child is rejecting the Lord’s discipline by continuing in the sin that the Lord just disciplined him for, indicating no regard for the Lord or for his discipline. Also to watch and see
if the child is loathing the Lord’s reproof which means basically having a hatred, or sickening and intense fear toward that reproof. Reproof being an understanding of the sin committed as well as any actions that need to be taken because of and/or against that sin.
We need to show our children that God has a good reason to discipline and reprove them and us alike. This reason is seen in verse 12 when Solomon says, “for whom the Lord loves He reproves,
even as a father, the son in whom he delights.” God disciplines because he loves us. Not only does he love us, but he loves us as a father loves his child in whom he finds great pleasure.
Lastly in considering the area of discipline, Solomon tells us that “the rod of reproof gives wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.” (Proverbs 29:15). What Solomon is telling us here is that through discipline of our children, they will learn the proper way in which to act. They
will learn to fear God, to respect their parents, and how to live a valuable life for God and others. As can be seen from the latter part of this verse, the child who is not disciplined but gets his own way and does what he wants will do nothing but bring shame to his mother. This is so because this kind of a child
becomes nothing more than a self-centered, uncaring and disrespectful person that brings no honor to his family, especially his mother. This kind of child, besides bringing his mother shame, also brings her grief; and he despises her (Proverbs 10:1; 15:20). This kind of a child is nothing but a heartache to his mother, who shows his dislike towards her by being foolish in his ways and by bringing her sorrow and shame at the mention of his name. This type of child is a disgrace to this whole family in contrast to a child who has learned from the rod of reproof. When the rod of reproof is used in such a way so as to bring wisdom to the child, proverbs say that it makes his father glad (Proverbs 10:1; 15:20).
As can be seen from the above discussion on discipline, discipline is very important in the rearing of children. So the third thing parents need to do in the raising of their children is to discipline them, using a rod when necessary. I will end this section on discipline by quoting Proverbs 29:17, “Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul.”
Two other important truths of Proverbs that I believe a child should know will now be discussed. The first one is seen in Proverbs 14:12 which says, “there is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” We need to teach our children that the word of God is our authority and that we need
to check everything against it. Just because a way seems right to us does not mean that it is the way that God wants us to go.
God may very well want us to go in the other direction. The other verse is Proverbs 22:1, which states, “a good name is to be more desired than great riches, favor is better than silver and gold.” Here Solomon is stating that a good name in the sight of men is more important than riches because riches may not last.
Also, if your riches do not last, your friends may not either; but with a good name it does not matter if you are rich or poor because you will have friends not because of what you have, but because of who you are. Solomon also states that favor (meaning grace or charm) is better than silver and gold because one’s grace can go much farther than silver or gold. Especially for a person who is poor; if he has grace, he can win people to himself and to his cause.
So if our children grow in the grace and knowledge of God and have a good name and favor among men, they will have things that are important in God’s eyes. They will also understand that wealth is not everything and that their pursuit of it, bypassing the things of God, is nothing but striving after the wind.
To summarize on raising children according to Proverbs, we need to remember the following:
(1) Teach children the scriptures according to Deuteronomy 6:4-7.
(2) Teach children what it means to fear God.
(3) Discipline children:
a) To deliver their souls from Sheol.
b) To train them up in the way they should go.
c) Because you love them.
d) As soon as the child misbehaves.
e) While there is still hope.
f) To remove foolishness from them.
g) If they forsake the way.
h) To add to their knowledge for living.
i) Because it gives them wisdom.
j) So they do not bring shame and disgrace to their mother.
k) So your children will not grow up despising their mother.
l) So they will bring you comfort and delight to your soul.
(4) Teach children that the word of God is to be their standard
by which to live.
(5) Teach children that a good name and favor are more important
than riches and gold and silver.
(Note: The two references used in this paper were taken from The
Wesleyan Bible Commentary, Volume II.)
Computers for Christ – Chicago