Saturday, February 18, 2012

Training A Boy in the Way

Training children to do what they are supposed to is very hard work, even when it appears to be very obvious to me as a parent. This week we had to work on the simple principle that, if you get up and get your independent work done first thing, then the rest of the school day goes faster and you get done earlier. Two days of school work dragging into the late afternoon and cries of "GRRR! I still have MATH to do!" finally got to him. On Thursday he was promised a play date with a favorite friend at 2:30, but ONLY if all school work was finished. Not surprisingly, he was blazing through his work and free at a little past 2:00. He took a deep breath and said, "Wow, it feels good to be done." Uh huh. Tell me about it. Why can't you do this every day?

It is not for lack of training. I sit down with him at the beginning of each week to fill out a daily goal chart, taken from a weekly assignment chart. He sets his own goals, determines how much reading he can do each day, and we write it down on his daily chart. At the end of each day he is supposed to look at the chart and check off what he got done. He is dismissed from lessons when all the boxes are checked. Simple, right? Why, then, at the end of the day, does he still come to me and say, "Am I done?" My reply is, "I don't know, look at your chart." This is usually met with an "Oh, Man! I still have...(heavy, miserable groan)"

I am hoping that the example of Thursday will continue to motivate him to be more efficient in the coming weeks. The reality is that gradually, his work load is becoming heavier, and he is responsible for more on his own. The difficulty is that he is extrinsically motivated and enjoys studying when it involves another person, hence the tendency to wait around for me to be available to tell him to do something, work on something with him or guide him. Even at age 10, he still desires this, though I know he is capable of doing it without me. Meanwhile, his 6 year old sister needs increasing amounts of my time as she is developing into a wonderful little student, but is still not independent as a reader.

But this is the essence of home schooling is it not? We need to be able to train our children to work to their potential within the personal traits they are given. While being extroverted and extrinsically motivated is not a flaw in itself, it tends to increase a person's dependency on others to get things done. In a group setting, my son often is at the head of the pack--gregarious and funny and very effective as a leader. This is a wonderful quality, but I need to train him to lead himself in the things that do not bring as much pleasure.

I have pondered Proverbs 22:6 often in the course of raising my children. It says,
"Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it. (NIV 1984)"
Where is the emphasis meant to be in this training, in the way he should go, or the not turning away? Is this simply a promise for solid parenting or a directive to parents to determine what "the way" is? I think a lot of parents take this rather simply, as in "teach your child to be a good Christian and he'll always be one." (I hear a gong sounding in the distance). What I am coming to understand is that this is a dynamic, moment by moment issue that parents must tend to constantly. My child's character and personality is largely formed by age five, according to psychologists. This means that he / she and I have a certain set of personality traits and qualities with which to work. My job as a parent is to discipline those God-given traits into something that is useable to glorify God, if in fact man's chief aim is to glorify God (I happen to believe that it is). I need to be watching daily, gently and lovingly guiding those traits as I see them arise--praising the appropriate expressions of these gifts, correcting abuses of them. If my son is given a personality that loves to lead others and be in groups of people, then I need to teach him how to stock his mind and heart with good things that will flow outward to benefit those around him. Even more I must help him understand that as an outgoing fellow, people will better respond to him when he has a store of valuable things to share. This is motivation for him. Then study and time spent alone is a means to an end, not a time to be lonely.

I believe that "training a child in the way he should go" means that I pray for discernment, study and know my child in the most loving way possible, and bring out in him the best of his best qualities, at the same time teaching and modeling for him faithfulness to God. This, he will not part from when he is old...


  1. Great post. Right where I'm at. :)
    and on a holiday week from CC. I tutor. our first year. I've been reading your TOG posts. Hmmm. food for thought. definitely.
    blessings~ Laura

    1. Hope it was an encouragement, Laura! If you have any questions about TOG feel free to email me.


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