by Shane Fookes, MA LPC Intern
Let’s face it, parenting is difficult! It takes every ounce of energy and perseverance you can give and it still doesn’t seem like enough. It confronts you regularly with questions and challenges that seemingly have no answers or solutions. All the while, the ramifications of a parent’s decisions weigh heavily. What if you get it wrong? Will you do irreparable damage? The doubts and questions cause even more problems when parents get their identity wrapped up in their child(ren)’s successes and failures.
Because of all this, parenting provokes a great deal of anxiety. Often parents seek answers with guaranteed outcomes to resolve this anxiety. Savvy marketers, knowing how to manipulate anxiety, offer “experts” providing advice with confident assertions and memorable mantras. Unfortunately, though their advice sounds convincing, it often sets up parents for future shattered dreams.
Expert Parenting Advice From Proverbs 22:6?
For those who look to the Bible for hope and help, expert advice generally comes through particular Bible verses. The verses seem to offer authority and provide certainty of future success. One particular verse forms the backdrop for the worst parenting advice given to parents:
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)
Many parenting experts refer to this verse and then proceed to teach specific principles for how to “train up your child.” They also define “the way he should go” with concrete categories and expectations. This usually involves teaching specific knowledge about the Bible, enforcing particular behaviors, and staying away from various “bad influences.” This advice treats the parenting process as a formula involving certain methods and tasks. It easily devolves into behavior modification and moralism. Sadly, it can also lead parents to de-emphasize what their children actually need most.
Take This Advice As A General & Not A Specific
So what’s wrong with relying on this verse? Well, in short, absolutely nothing! The proverb contains truth…in a proverbial way. Proverbs speak in truisms, providing general wisdom rather than specific knowledge. Proverbial wisdom is very important and helpful! The danger comes in taking the general proverb and “explaining it” with specific systems of thoughts and actions embedded in a particular location and time.
Trained Through Giving & Receiving Love
So, how should we understand this parenting proverb? Well, first we diligently seek to understand what it means to “train” and what the “way he should go” involves. Parents need to see training as involving both the left brain (informational training) and the right brain (relational training). Neuroscientists have discovered a child’s brain matures from right to left. This means effective training starts with providing secure attachment. First and foremost, children need to be trained through giving and receiving love. This is not a surprise! Those who follow Jesus know that love is central to all biblical instruction (Matthew 22:37-40). Neuroscience and attachment theory also confirm the second half of the proverb. Children with secure attachment grow up to be adults who know how to relate to others with secure attachment. Adults with secure attachment live, work, and relate with more confidence throughout their entire life span.
From this perspective, the most important gift you can give your children is your non-anxious presence. Give them yourself! Even better, give them Jesus with your “skin” on! This was Paul’s mindset when he wrote these affectionate words to the church of Thessalonica: So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. 1 Thessalonians 2:8 (ESV) It’s no accident Paul placed this statement between two metaphors: a nursing mother and a loving father!
Even as I write this, I’m aware of how it could become another “expert” offering “advice” that seemingly provides guaranteed outcomes. No! Each and every parent is called by God to raise their children not only FOR faith but also BY faith. Faith means we don’t know future outcomes, but instead put our hope in the only one who does (Hebrews 11:1).
Consider Online Therapy in Oregon for Christian Counseling
Our Clackamas and Hillsboro-based counselors are excited to work with you, wherever you are in Oregon. You can thrive as a parent by addressing your own anxieties and strengthening your faith. Gain confidence as you raise your children with Christian faith and values. When you are ready to start online Christian counseling in Oregon, follow these simple steps:
- Learn about our therapy team in Hillsboro and our caring counselors in Clackamas
- Schedule an appointment with your preferred therapist, or contact us with questions
- Feel more connected to the important people in your life
Other Mental Health Services at Life Discovery Counseling in Oregon
If you are in Clackamas, Happy Valley, Damascus, or Hillsboro, we can help you in person at one of our comfortable therapy clinics. Christian counseling is the cornerstone of our approach to therapy. Not only do we see adults, but children in counseling too. We also work with depression treatment, anxiety therapy, trauma therapy, and PTSD treatment. As well as relationship issues, marriage problems, and postpartum counseling. No matter where you are in the state, we can provide the support you need with online therapy in Oregon. Once you’re ready to start, we’re ready to meet you. Let’s connect!