Sunday, November 22, 2009

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.

Warren Baldwin


Anonymous said...

This was a really good post. I have not seen this blog before. I guess I am out of the oop lately!

Sharon@JoyInTheTruth said...

Oh how I love Proverbs! Did many chapters with the kids this past summer.

I love your reminder to we parents here -- give instruction! Thank you!

Stacy Wittkamp said...

Awesome post! I couldn't agree more! Having 3 children now over the age of 18, I have definitely gone beyond "because i said so" long ago. What I have noticed consistently is there always comes a time, which differs by child, that they literally or in essence say, "I'm an adult now and I'll make my own choices." I have tried to give my children a moral foundation that is based solely on what God has to say on different matters. When my children try to justify wrong actions by pointing out "how much better they behave than other kids my age." I reply with..."they are not your standard."
The challenge for me has been giving them the room they need to always make their own choices and to be willing to allow them to go through painful consequences as a result of wrong decisions. When the consequences come, we must be ready to pick up the teaching once again.

Warren Baldwin said...

Things We Carried - Welcome to Titus 2 and hope you'll visit more!

Sharon - Proverbs is a GREAT book for home devotionals. Thanks!

Stacy - Great wisdom here, thanks for sharing. We have two over 18 and one that is 17. Yes, at some point they all assert that "I am 18" or "I am an adult now" idea. Ok, so then you are ready to pay your own insurance, rent, food, etc.? "Well, no but ..." It is comical, but it is also a necessary part of their development. Sometimes it isn't comical though - like when they want to assert their independence while still being 95% dependent! Family life, even with all of its challenges, is still so wonderful. Couldn't imagine living without it. Thanks for your good comment.

Sonya Lee Thompson said...

Hi Warren,

Great post, with much wisdom! This is real parenting and it takes real commitment! Praise God for His word. It sure makes parenting a lot easier.


Edie said...

Excellent lesson Warren!

As I was reading this my 11 year old grand-daughter came in the room and started talking to me about how she had once accidentally dropped a piece of paper on a lit candle. That led us to a lesson discussion on fire safety and not playing with fire.

I was raised on the rules without the explanations. I can't tell you how many times I've looked at past decisions and thought "If someone had just taught me that."

Edie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Edie said...

Ooops, sorry for the extra comment. Blogger got stuck. :)

Kelly Combs said...

Warren - I really enjoyed this post. A parenting class I took calls this filling your child's moral warehouse. At the age of reason, a child does need to know why so they can stand for what they where taught to believe in.

Great words!

christy rose said...

So much good stuff in this post Warren! I love the phrase that Kelly used "filling your child's moral warehouse." That does seem to fit the synopsis of what you described here. Our kids must come to know why they believe what they believe to come to a place of ownership of it.

Mary said...

I love many portions of Proverbs, and read it with my granddaughter. I remember my husband and I teaching our son from these verses when he was young. He and his wife are drifting now...I pray that he will return to his teachings soon, so he can set an example for my granddaughters. I also want to comment on your previous marriage of 39 has survived many small trials because we have seen each other as brother and sister in Christ first, then as husband and wife. It does make a difference!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving...God bless!


Peter Stone said...

This is so wonderful Warren, and a topic so close to my heart. So many parents take their kids to church, Sunday school, Christian school, etc, and think they'll pick up Christianity automatically. As you wrote, parents need to teach their children, and to introduce them to Jesus. And also as you stressed, they need to know 'why' to obey, why to do certain things.