“Train up a child in the way he/she should go. Even when they are old they will not depart from it.”
It is interesting when siblings get together after they have a few years under their belt and reminisce about their childhood. One family move that was “cool” for me had a very different impact on my sister who was four years younger.
There has been some press on the long term benefits of musical training in childhood. While the memories of having to practice might not be pleasant, research indicates that 14 years worth of music lessons has a positive effect on brain function.
It is said that, while we live our story in the moment, we can only write our story from the present backward – you don’t know your history until you have lived it. How can we be certain that at any given time we are doing what is “good for us”? Is it possible that the best is not necessarily what is good? How does a person learn to balance all of life’s demands with all of life’s opportunities? Madeline Levine is a therapist who works with children. She has a private practice in affluent Marin County in California. She has recently written a book which one reviewer describes as a “cri de coeur from a clinician on the front lines of the battle between our better natures — parents’ deep and true love and concern for their kids — and our culture’s worst competitive and materialistic influences.” (Teach Your Children Well, reviewed by Judith Warner.) Levine sees teenagers in her practice who are psychologically immobilized because they didn’t get into the college of their choice – the one their entire childhood has been aimed at. One letter of denial washes away the validity of a lifetime – as brief as it might be – of dreams and labor.
“Train up a child in the way he or she should go,” says the book of Proverbs (22:6). But what is the “way they should go”? Parents – and grandparents – are searching, and in some cases scrambling to identify the path for the young people they love, and then ensure they stay on that path. A question people of faith might ask ourselves is this: How does the Holy Spirit deal with us? What are the means God uses to teach us? Wanting the best for our children means first of all getting to know them and assuring them they are loved. The “best” for them means they know the adults who are responsible for their well-being are also committed to them as persons. Cheer them on when the succeed, but help them learn how to learn from failure. Teach the children that joy is a choice and that serving others is rewarding.
Tell the children that just because the crowd jumps to their feet and shouts it doesn’t mean that what’s happening is healthy.
As far as the “way” is concerned, perhaps it is not so much a path as it is a person – a personal relationship with someone who won’t make false promises. Jesus tells the truth without a lot of hype. Let the children be taught about him. Encourage them to learn how to be taught by him. Life, like music, takes practice. It’s a balancing act. And the “abundant life” is a gift acquired through discipline. It’s a gift that endures.
Have a blessed Thursday.