Road trips can be exciting to plan—the thought of going someplace different, seeing new things on the way, maybe doing something fun. The beginning of the drive has a lot of energy too. Then, after a couple of hours, from the back seat you hear “Are we almost there?” The answer is “No, we have a long way to go.” Parents can ask the same question about raising their children. After all, we have spent four, five, six, ten years raising our children, but they still haven’t learned their lessons and still do not demonstrate mature behavior or take acceptable responsibility. Know this: training children takes a lot longer and requires a lot more effort than most people think. Why does it take so long? Because children have a lot of natural foolishness, we may be behind schedule, and there are a lot of lessons to learn. So, “Are we almost there yet?” “No, we have a long way to go.”
The Bible teaches in Proverbs 22:15, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” The Hebrew word translated foolishness has the idea of perverseness. It speaks of a moral depravity that causes a person to go his own errant way. Solomon says that this perverseness is bound up in the heart of a child, tied like a knot to the core of his thoughts, will, and emotion. Foolishness expresses itself in a lot of different ways and at a lot of different times. It is the nature of children, as it is with all men because we are by nature sinners. We must be willing to admit that our children are sinners, both by nature and by conduct. When you implement right training but you still see problems with your child, chalk it up to a sinful nature. Don’t be discouraged; resolve to keep training them according to Scripture.
A lot of times parents want the process to be easy and the relationship happy. But this ideal is unrealistic. The reality is that child training takes years of consistent practice that requires uprooting deep-seated sin issues and replacing them with biblical traits. If you are not there yet with your children (and at the K-12 level, none of us are done), keep going.
Sometimes child training takes longer because we started late in a scriptural process. Generally, major training categories (e.g. simple obedience, character traits, attitude problems) have a crescendo and decrescendo. For instance, toddlers manifest their wills early on, but they also increase their display of willfulness, the apex being around the 2-3 year-old stage. If you are consistent at scripturally dealing with their rebellion, they start to show increasingly more obedience the older they get. The same is true of character issues. I find that 4th-5th grades seem to be the apex, and children start to come out of their resistance toward the end of the elementary years. But, you must be consistent and thoroughly deal with their problems when manifested. That being said, if you start late or if you don’t deal with the problems thoroughly, the issues drag on and the process takes longer. If you start at four or five years old requiring voice obedience, it will take several years to see the patterns change. The same is true for other categories as well. Don’t get discouraged; keep working at it.
Finally, there are a lot of lessons to learn. As I referred to above, children need groomed in several categories—obedience, character, attitude, and doctrine. If one set of traits is looking good, don’t be shocked if another set of problems arise. This is all part of the process. So, “Are we almost there yet?” “No, we have a long way to go.” Take heart, and keep going.