Wednesday, November 26, 2014

To Train Up A Child

The book  called "To Train Up a Child" by Mike and Debi Pearl is very popular among Christians. I mention it here because many who use the Ezzo's  programs also follow the Pearl's philosophy of parenting.

The Pearls' idea of child training involves pro-actively teaching the child immediate unquestioning obedience through early training sessions.

 The introduction of the book says,
"The emphasis is on the training of a child before the need to discipline arises. It is apparent that, though they expect obedience, most parents never attempt to train their child to obey. They wait until his behavior becomes unbearable and then explode. With proper training, discipline can be reduced to 5% of what many now practice."
An example of obedience training would be to place your baby on your lap and tell him to sit still. If he attempts to move, you strike him. Every time he tries to move or he protests, you repeat the spanking/switching/swatting/licking or whatever they call it until the child is broken and defeated. Mission accomplished; the child will now obey the order.

You can find an excellent summary of quotes from the Pearl's book HERE.

The Pearls insist that they are NOT "punishing" but simply "training the child to obey."

Yikes. There are a lot of problems with this mentality. Where to begin?

Let's begin with the title of the book, To Train Up A Child, since the Pearl's entire book is based on part of this one verse.

This comes from a verse in the Old Testament of the Bible, in Proverbs 22:6. It consists of 6 Hebrew words which the King James version uses 21 English words to translate as follows:

Train up a child in the way he should go,  

and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Hebrew is a pictorial language, so lets look at each of these word-pictures to find out what these words tell us,

חָנַךְ  chanak  - This word is used 5 times in the bible. Four times it is translated as "dedicate" and refers to dedicating a house to the Lord.  The word is a verb derived from the word for the jaw or palate, meaning to make narrow, or to put something in the mouth to be tasted - metaphorically used to "taste and understand" something: to initiate or commence to use, to instruct or train. This is the only place where it is translated as "train up."

נַעַר  na`ar  - a boy, lad, servant, youth, retainer.  This word is generally used for a boy who is independent of his mother.  The word is translated only once as "babe," in Exodus 2:6, referring to Moses when he was found floating in a basket in the river - away from his mother.

דֶּרֶךְ  derek  - way, road,  journey, manner, distance. This word is usually translated as "way" (590 times) and another 60 or so times as "toward," "journey," or "manner."

פֶּה  peh  - mouth. Yes, that's right, MOUTH. It carries a sense of blowing or breathing; speech; an orator or spokesman. It can mean the opening of a bag, an edge (like the teeth) or a border (like the lips).  It usually means simply "mouth" (390 times of the 498 times it appears in the bible) but is also translated  as "commandment,"  (37x), edge (35x), according (22x), word (15x), hole (6x), and other miscellaneous uses.
It seems very odd that in this one verse it is translated as "he should go." There must be another meaning.

זָקֵן  zaqen - to be old or become old. The word pictures an old man with his chin hanging down, decrepid. It is used 26 times in the bible as "old" and once as "aged."

סוּר  cuwr  - to turn aside, to depart, to be removed or taken away, to come to an end.

A few things to note about what these 6 words tell us:

1. The first word portrays a narrowing, a dedication, tasting, and instruction. Focused attention perhaps?
2. The second word means a boy. Not a baby. Young man or teenager perhaps, but certainly one old enough to be independent of his mother
3. The third word is usually translated "way."  Narrow / dedicate  a lad's way/journey...
4. MOUTH.  What does 'mouth'  mean in this verse?
- dedicate the lad's journey from his very first BREATH?
- narrow the boy's journey with verbal instruction?
Perhaps it relates to 'feeding' on the Word of God as in Psalm 34:8: "Taste and see that the Lord is Good..."
What this verse does NOT suggest is "training up" through punishment! Nor does it talk about babies. Even if it did mention punishment, we would have to conclude it has something to do with the mouth -commanding? scolding?  biting the child to teach him a lesson?!

To summarize the word pictures:  Dedicate/make narrow -- boy/lad -- way/journey --  mouth/breath/commandment/according to -- old/aged -- turn aside/depart

What to YOU think this proverb is teaching you?

 Despite the use of this verse as their book's title, there is no mention of the punitive tactics the Pearls promote as the proper way to "train up" children.

And furthermore...

Why take a few scriptures from the Old Testament to justify spankings while ignoring the rest of the Bible's message about love, forgiveness, redemption, and grace?

We don't hold fast to the Old Testament rule about stoning disobedient ones, why hold fast to the few OT proverbs to justify spanking small children?

God is patient with us and doesn't immediately strike us every time we disobey. He allows us to learn from the natural consequences of our disobedience. He sent Jesus to take punishment FOR us. He forgives us and teaches us a little at a time, to grow to become more like Him.

Also note that this verse does not appear in the Septuagint. Perhaps its not all that important.

There are many excellent Christian books on discipline that avoid using corporal punishment. 

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