Train up a child a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 (NASB)
I was reminded of this verse when I was out for a run and my 4-year-old wanted to ride his bike. He was ahead of me, wobbling back and forth. More than once, I had to catch him from tipping completely to the ground as he leaned too far for even the training wheels to help.
The idea of “train up” really means “to initiate” or “discipline” and gives us as dads good, foundational guidance on how we interact with and raise our kids. But, as I thought about that popular verse and watched the little boy in front of me, I realized something. Riding a bike with training wheels and my job as dad has some real similarities (see if you can make the connections):
- It is his job to pedal; I cannot do it for him – I need to give him instruction, guidance, and help, but I cannot sit on the bike for him.
- He is so focused riding, I need to be looking farther down the road – He is so intent on peddling, looking around, and having fun that if I am not looking ahead, he would surely wreck or end up somewhere he shouldn’t be.
- When he knows I am behind, he does not have a care in world – The confidence he has knowing I am right there “just in case” is all he needs to move forward.
- If he could, he would keep the training wheels on longer than he needs them – There is little risk with training wheels, but I know he cannot keep them on forever, and sooner or later, he needs to trust himself to ride!
For dads, there are some valuable lessons there. We are responsible to God for training up our children. We need to guide. We need to advise. We need to share our experiences so they can learn from our mistakes and successes. But, if we simply do all the work for them, not only do they not learn anything, they miss out on all the joy.
This does not mean that someday, training wheels or not, they are not going to wreck. That is when we need to be tender, loving, and compassionate.
So, regardless if you have boys who are still using training wheels or boys with the trainers off looking for the biggest ramp around, make sure you remember your job as dad.
If you do, the Proverb has a great promise for us: “…even when he is old, he will not depart from it.”