Train Up a Child

Several passages in the book of Proverbs are directed to parents, reminding them of their responsibilities toward their children. Here is my favorite one:

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6

There is so much hope and optimism in that statement—parents’ efforts are not wasted, at least in the long run.

Several times in Proverbs, the author plays the role of a parent, urging his children to “attend to the words of my mouth” (Proverbs 7:24, see also Proverbs 4:1, 5:7, 8:32).

King Benjamin encouraged his people to be diligent in their responsibilities as parents:

Ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another….

But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.

Mosiah 4:14-15

On February 10, 2013, I heard a talk by Elder Russell M. Nelson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, at a stake conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. In the talk, he provided a list of practical instructions for parents about how to teach their children. He has subsequently given a similar talk in other settings. Here are some of his instructions that are particularly meaningful to me:

  • Teach them the literal meaning of the song “I Am a Child of God.”
  • Help them understand why we partake of the sacrament.
  • Read the scriptures with them. “They will be better students in all of their subjects if they learn to read along with you,” he said.
  • Give them father’s blessings, and help them prepare to receive patriarchal blessings.
  • Help them focus on the blessings of the temple, beginning at an early age.

President Nelson also said, “Of course, our children need correction from time to time. That’s why they have parents. Please correct them quietly and privately.”

(See this Facebook post by Elder Neil L. Andersen summarizing a similar talk given by President Nelson on 19 August 2018. Also, “President Nelson Urges Members in British Columbia to ‘Teach the Children’” Church News, 17 September 2018, and Stephen R. Bangerter, “Laying the Foundation of a Great Work,” General Conference, October 2018.)

Today, I will teach my children. I will remind them of their divine nature and eternal destiny. I will read scripture with them. I will emphasize the blessings that come through priesthood ordinances. I will remember that the training I provide today may bless their lives for years to come.

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