You have seen it, surely. The tomboy mom who somehow gave birth to a princess daughter who despises the dirty outdoors, but loves makeup, and high fashion. Leaving the mother to wonder if two babies got swapped in the hospital. Confusing stuff sometimes.

Andy was a farm boy. But he always pastored churches located in small towns, so our two sons were not raised in a farm atmosphere. In adulthood, both became city-preferring men. Sounds reasonable, given their town uprearing. But now one son has a boy who has lived in a large city all his life. And that kid is an outdoor-loving, “in-my-blood” pig farmer. Whether it is a humid sweltering Oklahoma day, or the brass monkey is knocking frantically on his front door, this teen enjoys the feeding, watering and care of his pigs. Even volunteers to help his friends with their pig chores.

Mom and Dad encourage him and give help all they can – given that raising smelly pigs is not their calling in life. Why? Besides the fact that they love him, they recognize the wisdom of Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” 

This scripture is not saying to train up your child in the way YOU think he should go. But rather, train the child in the way that individual child should go. Don’t make the mistake of pigeonholing your child into your ideas and beliefs. You may have recognized personality traits and intellect in your little girl that would make an excellent doctor, but let her follow her own inclinations. 

And it is also not saying a child will never stray or fail. Failure and confusion go with the territory of growing up. Teens naturally have a rebellious streak inside – they are trying to break free from childhood and become an adult, and that is stressful for them…and everyone around them. Anybody who has been in the vicinity of a teenager for five minutes can agree. But is it possible that there could be less push-back and rebellion if a teenager was given firm boundaries of protection, and then was allowed to find himself, inside those fences? 

Imagine a free-spirited wild pony forever locked up in a paddock. The made-to-soar eagle forced to walk on the ground with turkeys. Or the friendly loving Labrador Retriever that is given the lonely job of guarding the bank vault. Real possibility of rebellion there too.

What the Bible is saying is this: “A child may fumble and struggle while finding his niche. Help him, don’t bully him.  And when he is finally an adult, he will find his world.” Every baby arrives with inborn tendencies, desire and gifts. The job of the parent is to set godly boundaries, and to be your child’s cheerleader as The Search begins. 

Raising kids is hard…don’t make it harder.

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