"As the twig is bent, so grows the tree"
Child 1: On the first day of school this misbehaving 6-year old, when corrected, confidently and adamantly informed me, “I get to do what I want.” Her look communicated that she thought I ought to understand this and adjust to what she was accustomed to in her life outside school.
Child 2: This 6-year old set a goal for herself of “not getting in trouble once all year.” At the closing program I proudly and happily presented her with an award for perfect behavior!
These two children are for real! Guess which one was more pleasant to teach and to interact with. Guess which one was the better learner, progressing nicely. Guess which one got along with her peers. Guess which one gets along better in the work-a-day world, which one is now a productive, respectable, and responsible, member of society. (Please tell me you guessed Child 2.)
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 God gave us this instruction; He knows what He’s talking about. As parents we should let this instruction guide us in our parenting. The end result will be much more pleasant and rewarding. “Train” here is an active verb; we can’t allow children to simply grow up, we must lovingly and intentionally train them in the way.
Another author wrote: The work of parents precedes that of the teacher. They have a home school—the first grade. If they seek carefully and prayerfully to know and to do their duty, they will prepare their children to enter the second grade—to receive instructions from the teacher. Child Guidance, pg 19
Imagine the future: What type of character do we want our child to have? What type of person do we want them to be?
In preparing a meal we decide what outcome we desire, we decide what steps are needed and their sequence in order to arrive at the desired outcome. We must be just as intentional (even more so) in training our precious child.
How successful a student is in school is determined, to a large degree, by what transpires in the home before the child enters the classroom. Parents can do much to set the standards by which the child functions, the way the child approaches learning and interacting with others, the outlook the child has toward education, and the outcome (benefit) of education for that child. It’s a heavy load, but with God’s help, we can do a commendable job. Let’s consider a few areas of influence that should be considered when “training up the child in the way he should go”.
Happiness: Today much attention is put on making children happy every moment of every day. This is not wise. “Happy every moment” can only happen in a perfect world – which ours is not. Children must learn that there will be times of happiness, times of unhappiness, and neutral times; they are all a part of life.
Attempting to make a child happy all the time puts undue focus on the child, making them selfish, self-centered, and seldom satisfied with life. We have the freedom to pursue happiness, not the guarantee of happiness. The “me first” attitude developed in children when we give them everything they ask for (or demand of us) is not an attitude that will enable them to function well in school or in the world.
Individual Rights: Yes, the child has rights, but they do not have the right to have their way all the time. They do not have the right to bully, demean, exclude, or otherwise exhibit unkindness to others. “Your rights end where the other person’s nose begins.” This doesn’t mean the child can’t have or express their opinion, but they must learn to be sensitive to others and say things in ways that don’t intentionally hurt others. It would benefit the child if they learned to not be overly sensitive because school can be rough at times and their feelings will be hurt from time to time. That’s life.
Clothing: The young child walked in wearing a T-shirt that said, “This is my attitude shirt”. She said to me, “I don’t know why my mother wants me to have an attitude.” Parents, please choose the modest, humble, appropriate clothing so as not to create attitude or bring about undue attention.
Entertainment: Any entertainment the child engages in should be non-competitive (Yes, I meant just that.) so as not to pit children against children. They can learn to get along just fine, can learn teamwork quite well without competition which tends to lift one (or some) up while putting others down. This is not Christ like. Peaceable forms of entertainment are more relaxing and refreshing; they help the child develop a peaceable demeanor.
Food: We are the sole product of everything we eat, drink, read, or think. If the food is tasty and nourishing without tending to excite the child’s still-developing nervous system the child will feel better and act better.
The child opened their lunch, exclaimed delightedly that their mother had given them chocolate for lunch, and stated, “I always get hyper when I eat chocolate”. The parent had done the child no favors as a child in this situation will likely have behavior issues that afternoon, be corrected, and thus end the day on a down note.
Toys: Too many of today’s toys are designed to teach “me first”, fighting, mystical, magical, unsavory things to our children. Don’t allow them in your home, and please don’t permit them to come to school! These types of toys are very subtle teachers of the children – and we don’t want our children to learn those lessons.
Lifestyle: Parents can evaluate their home, expectations, discipline styles, and their hopes and dreams for their child to be certain every element in their lifestyle is one which can lead the child closer to the fine adult they want their child to become.
This careful intentional parenting in the home shows up beautifully in the classroom and finds its fulfillment in the adult. Which “tree” do we wish our child to become? Let’s be intentional in every influence we bring into, or allow in, our child’s life. The fruit of our labors will be well worth the effort.
Written by Mary Ann Walden
Former Education Department Chair of Private College
Droolees LLC Education Blog Contributor
Meet Mary Ann Walden - Mary Ann Walden taught in small Christian schools for 27 years in various combinations of Pre-K - Grade10. Eleven of those years were in one-room situations (Grades 1-8). For the next six years, as ED Dept. Chair of Ouachita Hills College, she trained future Christian teachers. Mrs. Walden and her husband have since retired to the beautiful Virginia mountains where she spends her time writing books for teachers and children. You can find her published works at www.Walden-Wonders.com