Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Choices, Maturity and Wisdom for Parenting – Proverbs 29

It’s something every loving parent wants for their child--wisdom and understanding to live life, fully and well. Yet, there are seemingly many ways to the path of wisdom, and there is no shortage of purveyors trafficking in the ‘high things.’ Proverbs is, however, a sound, even path on the journey.

Wisdom and folly are so often powerfully juxtaposed in Proverbs, and chapter 29 is particularly characterised by this. He or she who finds wisdom “brings joy to [their] father” (v. 3). Later on, however, we find that children left to themselves (i.e. who are undisciplined) are a disgrace to their mother (v. 15).

In this way both discipline and wisdom are aligned. Children must be disciplined in order to grow in wisdom. In this we love them and remove the self-wisdom their own eyes see (Proverbs 26:12).

“A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom” –Proverbs 29:15. Proverbs 19:18 and 23:14 mention that discipline will not harm the child; in fact, it will facilitate hope for their future, saving their souls. Furthermore, “Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire” –Proverbs 29:17. Discipline is short term, in-the-moment pain for long term gain.

The foolish mocker brings strife at every turn, not the least of which in a court room situation, but the wise person knows how to ameliorate the situation (vs. 8-9) and lessen the collateral damage the mocker would love to extract. The mocker has disdain for wisdom inherent in good life. A child wise in his or her own eyes grows to mock incessantly.

The fool gives full vent to their fury (v. 11); self-control is the basic character flaw. They have little patience and always seem in a rush (v. 20). Bringing a child up in wisdom and discipline is going to give them self-control and patience.

We’re all servants to someone. It is our living purpose to serve; at a workplace, a school, a home, a hospital... the trouble is if we give our kids too much choice and too early, we pamper them. “A servant pampered from youth will turn out to be insolent” –Proverbs 29:21. The problem with the pampered child is they become a nuisance employee. It’s nonsensical for employees to insist on choice in employment situations, yet there are many who expect this. What type of upbringing did they get? A pampering one I bet.

We need to ensure children are directed to wisdom by us, the parents. We control the world for them until they’re responsible enough to manage freedom, as we gradually release it to them from ages 10-12 and so on. Little choices--in the meantime--for the most part, are made by us, not them.

Indeed, we know that “Children are ready for choices when they can handle not having any choices.”[1] Choice in children too young to handle it strangles our grip on wisdom for them. It hinders the natural developmental progression from restraint (early years) to freedom (later years). When we parent by giving too much choice we inadvertently embrace foolishness for our kids. It ought never to be this way.

All Bible verses drawn from the Today’s New International Version (TNIV).

Inspiration for this article from Session 14 of Gary & Anne Marie Ezzo, Let the Children Come... Along the Virtuous Way: Growing Kids God’s Way (Happy Valley, South Australia: Growing Families Australia, 2002), pp. 215-26.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

[1] Gary & Anne Marie Ezzo, Ibid, p. 383.

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