When most parents think about raising children, they think about all the wonderful things that they and their children will be able to do. They think of ball games and picnics; trips to the park and family reunions; and if they’re spiritual, they think of all the great times their children will have in Sunday school and children's church. These are all very noble dreams, but to raise a child properly, Christian parents need to focus primarily on the reason that God gave them children in the first place.
Nearly every Christian parent in America can quote Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” This verse is more than just a promise. It is a command in which the same God who gave us our children also gives us instruction on what He expects us to do for them. God gave us our children for the purpose of training them to serve Him. This is the reason why my wife and I have made the decisions that we have made in EJ’s life. Our secret of success is to do everything that we do with EJ for the purpose of training him to serve the Lord.
Once we realized that this was why God blessed us with a son in the first place, we began to see EJ’s childhood in a way that is very foreign to the average American parent. We began to see childhood itself as a tool which God gives to parents to help them in the training process. Most parents worry that their children are growing up too fast. They say things like, “Children are only young once,” and “I don’t want my child to miss out on his childhood.” But once we realized that childhood is a tool for facilitating training, we began to see how vain these statements really are. The fact that children are only young once should be an incentive for parents to train them while they still can.
The practical applications of this view are innumerable, but part two will describe five characteristics of childhood that many parents view as being an end unto themselves but which are actually tools that God has given to make the training process easier.