Train Up a Child

"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).

With all the profusion of parenting advices (and seeming, experts), this is still the best parenting advice. Ever. It's not only an advice, but it's almost up there with the other commandments, especially for parents and guardians. It is so important, that any parent who misses this will probably miss their child for life. I mean this to say that if this is the only thing that parents know about parenting, then they are on to something that is absolutely right.

However, parents differ on the art or science of training their children. Training them just for the act of mere training (ofttimes just for parents to look good), doesn't mean success, which is the second part of this verse---"and when he is old he will not depart from it". The right training brings on the promised success. It gets children into walking the right path in life.

I am writing this (after being silent on parenting for quite awhile now) because of the offhand manner that I have talked to my son about speaking and acting with respect, especially with those in authority or those older than him. So my son did something wrong. He was talking back in a manner that was disrespectful. Being busy with something, I told him in an authoritative voice, without even going near him, which means that I had to yell, that I don't like the way he was talking to me. Seeing that he was not sorry, I lectured him on how that attitude was not right. He, instead, mimicked me. I was annoyed. And in a voice that bespoke my power and authority over him as a mother, I told him to better stop it or he would have to face consequences.

Now hours after, I am mulling on what had gone wrong with the scene. Maybe many of you can clearly see what was wrong. Well, there I was, waving my power badge over his face, imposing authority over him just so I can show him who is in power and how he should respect people like me. And feeling little and powerless, he tried to fight defiantly in what he thought was the most harmless way, mimic what I say. Which just shows that I failed in showing him respect and, which, is not the way to train him.

Here is what I should have done. With respect to the person that he is, I should have left what I was busy doing, instead of shouting at him from across the room. In so doing, I could have showed him that he is important. And the task of showing him how to give respect is more important than any task that I was doing at that moment. I should have sat down beside him and in a manner that is worthy of his respect, talked to him about how it wasn't right for him to disrespect me and people who have authority over him. Instead of that, I have waved my power badge. Not good.

I also should have showed him the proper way of talking to me. By doing that, I would have corrected him constructively on his behavior. He would have learned the respectful way of talking to his elders. And he wouldn't have felt the need of defending himself by echoing me. If I had taken more effort to train him in the right way then that moment may have added to his success of going the right way.

We often misinterpret what it means to 'train up' our children. Many of us think it's about teaching them how to sing or preach well, count or say the alphabet well, memorize planets or the multiplication table. Yes, these skills have their places in life, but when it comes to choosing and walking on the right way in life, having the knowledge what is right and the ability to choose it, is what will keep our children on the right road. We have to train them well how to do so in a way that will bring out the best in them.

In my research while in grad school, I tried to find out what parenting ways bring out the most out of children. I found out that parents who expect much from their children but also responds in a warm, understanding manner produces the best results in children.

Diana Baumrind (1967) developed three general parenting styles and her work was further developed by other researchers. These three parenting styles are authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. Authoritarian parenting style demands much but gives little. Authoritarian parents expect obedience without taking the time to explain or connect with their children. While authoritative parents demand obedience, but are responsive to their children's needs. They often allow children to make their own choices but with their guidance and support. As for permissive parents, they do not set a lot of rules, have few demands and are often lenient and nurturing.

In most research of the three parenting styles, authoritative parenting produces the best outcome in children. The children are high in self-esteem, happy and are successful in reaching their goals. However, there are differences in parenting styles based on some elements like the parents' culture, religious background, socio-economic status, educational background and others. But mostly, children benefit from having parents who take time to explain their expectations, consider the children's opinions in family matters, allow them to express their feelings and show to them how to do so in a healthy manner.

In my research, I specifically wanted to find out what parenting style brings out happy and capable children among Filipinos. The answer is: authoritative parenting style. Furthermore, I found out that authoritative maternal parenting is the highest factor that contributes to children's well being, while authoritative fathers raise confident children (2012).

The manner in how we train our children matters. Our attitude as parents and the way our children perceives our efforts to train them has impact on where they are going. They may either resent us and what we teach (as my son showed by his mimicry), or they may find support even in correction, and learn what we are trying to teach and go equipped, ready to face the next challenge that will come along the road. May we give them the latter.

We may not be perfect parents, but God in His infinite wisdom thinks it best to have us parent His children. Find confidence in knowing that He has confidence in you, not because we have super parenting abilities, but because He, as our Ultimate Parent, is always with us to support and give us the strength and wisdom needed in all our parenting endeavors.



Baumrind, D. (1967). Child-care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 75, 43-88.

Alekseenko, Z. (2012). Perceived paternal and maternal parenting styles of adolescents in the Philippines, their self-esteem and personal wellbeing. Unpublished paper


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