Over the years, we have done many different things for family devotions. But learning verses from the Book of Proverbs has been a highlight. I think Proverbs has had the biggest impact of any book of the Bible in helping my parenting and shaping our family’s character. While I’ve begun preaching through the book of Proverbs in the new series, Ancient Wisdom, I’d also like to share a series of articles on why and how to learn Proverbs with your kids.
1. Proverbs correct parent and child at the same time.
If you hadn’t already noticed, one of the challenges of parenting is that both the parent and the child tend to miss the mark when it comes to righteousness. It’s a little like a parent who’s a poor pianist teaching piano to his or her children. The child will still learn something, but they’ll pick up a lot of mistakes and bad habits at the same time. By learning Proverbs together, the parent and the child can both grow. Proverbs becomes like a tuning fork that can give correction to the entire family. Learn a verse like Proverbs 15:1 together,
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
and you accomplish two things. You train your child to respond to you and others in an appropriate tone, but you also are yourself reminded that speaking to your child harshly is likely to just stir up their anger and exacerbate the issue.
2. Proverbs give your family a shared vocabulary to deal with sin.
Ultimately as parents we need to move beyond, “because I said so,” to help our children understand the motivation of things we ask them to do. The problem I found was that it was sometimes difficult to explain to my children why what they had done was wrong. Proverbs gave us a shared vocabulary to talk about character. After learning Proverbs 18:13 as a family,
If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.
we could use “gives an answer before hearing” as technical language. I could ask, ‘Are you giving an answer before really listening?’ and our children both understood and connected what I was saying to the verse we had learned. And, as importantly, those words now carried with them an understanding of the consequences.
3. Proverbs bring God’s authority to your child training.
Related to the consequences that Proverbs express, is the authority with which they’re stated. It’s one thing to tell your child not to lie. It’s another thing to learn Proverbs 12:22 together,
Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.
and see that God considers lying an abomination. Don’t worry that you have to explain what an abomination is (or have to look it up yourself). Related to the shared family vocabulary above, having new words to help understand how strongly God feels about certain things is healthy for parent and child alike. By connecting God’s authority to issues of character, your child is learning not just how to act in front of you, but more importantly the kind of life that God “delights” in.
4. Proverbs express truths more vividly than your own words.
Our tendency as parents is to try to get a message across by raising our voices, getting angry and nagging our children. Often this is counter-productive. The language of Proverbs is deliberately evocative. It creates pictures with words that even young children can grasp and so the truths are expressed more vividly. Nagging your child to think before they blurt out something foolish is one thing, but how about learning a verse like Proverbs 12:18?
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Now, rash words are like “sword thrusts.” They stab and injure people! But carefully calculated words of wisdom can “bring healing.” These are powerful images that over time can help children better understand the impact of their actions.
5. Proverbs help you teach beyond the generation gap.
I don’t need to remind anyone that our world is changing quickly. Our children are growing up in an environment that we often struggle to understand. While the generation gap has always been an issue for parents, the pace of change now is greater than ever. Trying to speak across the generation gap from our own experience often falls short, but Proverbs gives timeless principles that are true in all generations. What teenager doesn’t need to hear the lesson of Proverbs 18:24?
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
You can have lots of Facebook ‘friends’ and Twitter followers but find yourself without anyone to count when you hit a wall in your life. What we need is quality rather than quantity in our relationships. But that message sounds very different than, “Stop looking at your phone all the time.”
You may have already discovered other reasons why you should learn Proverbs with your kids. If not, you’ll probably come across some as you do. But hopefully, this list will give you the motivation to invest time in Proverbs if you haven’t already. Next time we’ll talk about some ways that you can go about it.
In awe of Him,