Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Our Training Manual

As I wrote in the introductory post of this series, training requires teaching the principles thoroughly, until the response becomes automatic in any situation.   Training our kids to consistently do what is right starts with systematically teaching what is right and keeping it constantly in their minds, by discussion, and by writing it in places where they are constantly reminded.  Training carries it further, showing how those principles apply in various real life situations.  It involves thinking things through and deciding which principles apply in a teaching setting so that they can quickly grasp what is happening and act effectively and expeditiously in similar situations. 

Solomon compiled Proverbs and wrote the book specifically as a training manual.  He wrote it in the form of a personal letter to his son, but it applies equally to both men and women.  He explains the purpose in Proverbs 1:1-6.  “The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; To give subtlety to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.   A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.

The proverbs are to give one understanding of what is happening so that those who lack experience or are not yet intellectually mature can make good and intelligent decisions.   Smart people will listen and take the time to understand what the proverbs are teaching, even when the meaning is not obvious.    As we have already seen, learning these principles starts with a respect for God and for one’s parents.  Stupid people assume the laws and principles don’t apply to them and consider it a waste of time to learn them.  Proverbs 1:7-9 advises, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.  My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.”  Stupid people are often very smart, they just don’t bother to learn.  Those who take the time to learn will look very intelligent by comparison, avoiding many of the problems. 

Because Proverbs has thirty one chapters, many pastors have recommended reading a one chapter every day with your children.  Unfortunately, such an approach loses much of the benefit.  Effective training requires dealing with one situation at a time in depth, until the pupil fully understands what is required.  For example a basketball coach may spend a week or more focusing just on lay-ups before beginning to include other moves to be sure the player has that shot down completely.  Proverbs was originally written in the form of individual principles to be studied independently,  In many cases, they comprise no more than one or two verses, although some are longer.  They were intended to be taught one at a time so that the students had time to fully understand one before moving to the next, and the most effective way of teaching them is to teach them one at a time.    

Because there are so many, many people are concerned about the time required to teach the proverbs individually, but experience and numerous studies have shown that young children can only deal with one subject at a time while older ones may be able to handle three or four.  One reason so many children are not learning what they need to learn in school is that teachers feel pressured to introduce new subjects before the children have learned earlier lessons thoroughly.   If we take the time to make sure they understand each one thoroughly before moving to the next, they will attain the maximum benefit from each one.  While it will take more time than going through a chapter at a time, learning will actually progress faster.   For example, Proverbs 15:1 tells us, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”  Quite simply, how we respond to people will affect their attitude toward us.  A few verses later, Proverbs 15:18 tells us, “A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.”  When people are angry, they tend to say things that irritate or hurtother people, resulting in conflict.  People who do not lose their temper say things that comfort and resuce strife.  With that in mind, Proverbs 16:32 tells us, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.”    The person who can defuse the situation and prevent a fight is more valuable than a person who can win the fight.  Thus a person who can control his attitudes and keep from getting angry is worth more than a famous general who has won great victories.  Each proverb builds our understanding. 

Our goal is to train our children so they can have the best life possible in this world and be prepared for eternity.  While it takes time to teach God’s laws and the Proverbs properly, it is time well spent as the effects will be felt for eternity.  We must not allow a sense of urgency to short circuit our efforts to train them.  

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