In Muriel Beadle's book on the importance of early childhood development, A Child's Mind, she expresses her own version of this proverb: "Parents, train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will be unable to depart from it."
Beadle is a child psychologist. She has an awful lot of clinical experience in dealing with children and their parents. It is her considered opinion that, when people get older, they really never change.
Most adults understand how difficult it is to change, how difficult it is to overcome something. Beadle thinks nobody ever really changes. From her experience she is probably close to being a hundred percent accurate. There is a great parental responsibility to instill the right things in a child, because that child will carry them right through into his adulthood. Thus, God can confidently say that when you train up a child in the way that he should go, when he gets older he will live the way you trained him. If you trained your children right, they will continue, and their lives will be a success—a far greater success that it ever would have been if you had not given them the right instruction in the first place.
Beadle's comment underscores the importance of the immediate with regard to children's conduct. There are things that cannot wait, and training up a child in the way that he should go is one of them. Your time with you children is running out. It is slipping away, and God is still holding you responsible.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Sanctification and the Teens
No parent trains his children perfectly because everyone is a product of the confused and derailed system the Bible calls "this evil world." Parents tend to repeat and pass on whatever this corrupt system imposes on them. Psychologists and sociologists verify that people who were abused as children often repeat that behavior when they become adults. A recent statistic, mentioned in the television program Scared Silent, says that abused children are six times as likely to abuse their own children when they become parents than non-abused children. The abused become abusers. The system gets a hold on them, and they pass the system on.
Muriel Beadle paraphrased this scripture in her book, A Child's Mind. "Today the proverb could be amended to read '. . . and when he is old, he will be unable to depart from it'" (p. xx). Her point is that an adult's hope of change is a slim one. It is extremely difficult for one to change what is ingrained in him when he is young. The cliché of a man being "set in his ways" is true.
Succinctly, the principle is that the right training produces the right results. Thus, athletic teams, ballet and stage productions, and armies train—drill, drill, drill, over and over—until all of the participants, if possible, can do their parts automatically. The skills become such an integral part of them that they perform well routinely.
Proper training will endure throughout life. This principle also applies to what God is doing in a Christian's life. People are material and mortal. But God puts His children through a training program to prepare them for eternal life. He trains them in a way that will endure for all eternity. In dealing with eternal consequences, we understand why God considers doctrine—teaching, instruction—so important.
A satirical interpretation of this verse reads, "Train a child according to his evil inclinations [let him do his own will], and he will continue in his evil way throughout his life." So either way, the principle is a true one. Training determines what a person will become. And doctrine will determine what His people will become.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Proverbs 22:6: