LISTEN, MY SON
"Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching." Proverbs 1:8.
Twenty-six times Solomon writes, "my son" followed by an exhortation such as, "Listen my son," or "My son, do not forget ..." Solomon is offering some concrete instruction to bolster his son’s insight and moral conditioning. There is a great emphasis in Proverbs for a son or daughter to listen to what Solomon has to say. His advice is right in line with what Christian parents today tell their kids. There is an emphasis here for children to listen to their moms and dads and to apply the lessons they teach about love, marriage, hard work and honesty.
There is an important lesson for the parents here as well. It is as important for the parents to teach as it is for the children to listen. Our kids can’t listen and they can’t learn if we are not actively instructing them. I think we parents make two grave mistakes when it comes to teaching lessons of life to our children.
One, we think they will pick up the important lessons from us by observation. Many lessons they will. "More is caught then taught" is often true. But not always. They may catch our behavior, but what about the mental processing behind our behavior? My children were not there when I picked their mother to be my wife. Why did I pick her? Was I attracted to her looks? Was I more attracted to her values and morals? Did I know before we married that she really wanted to be a wife and mother? The answer is "yes" to all these questions. But my kids can’t know that apart from me telling them. I have told them, many times. I want them to know the critical issues involved in selecting a mate for life, for choosing moral behavior, for working hard. These things are too important to be left to chance!! They must be taught. By teaching them, we equip them to make wiser choices than they would have made on their own.
Two, we think we can expect obedient behavior "because we say so." That is parental authority, and it works great when the kids are little. They wouldn’t understand detailed explanations anyway. But, what about when they grow older and begin making decisions on their own? Or when they are away from us? What is it that internalizes our values into their hearts? There comes a time when "because we say so" must give way to "this is why I say this" or "this is why we want you to do this." As they mature, let them know the reasons we expect certain behavior. Once they know and understand and it gets into their hearts it belongs to them.
"Bobby" is an example of a child who was drilled with "because I say so" but was never schooled in the reasons. Bobby’s crowd began drinking. His mother "freaked out" and assumed an authoritarian posture. "If I catch you drinking and driving I’ll make your life miserable!" Mom was acting for the good of the boy. She was the parent and had the right to insist on more mature behavior from her son. But she failed to internalize the lessons so the boy understood. She never explained to him the dangers of drinking and how it could lead to further irresponsible behavior, loss of control and even an accident or death. Bobby thought he was old enough to make his own choices. One night he too much. Fearful of his mother finding out he decided not to call her. He tried driving home on his own but didn’t make it. The mother and young child he hit were severely injured. (Phil McGraw, Family First (New York: Free Press), p.167).
Contrast this story with another teenage boy whose dad did school him in the reasons for not drinking. He still experimented. He drove home from one teen party with a beer in his hand. Thinking how it would hurt his mom and dad to see him with that, the boy opened the window and threw the beer out. Sure, he littered, but he did honor his dad’s instruction. "Listen, my son."
Dads, our kids do listen. Let's teach.