Graduating Confident Children

Today's Guest Blog is brought to you by Adam Whitescarver. Adam is the Director of Family Ministries at Kempsville Presbyterian Church. He also writes about parenting and other issues on his blog, Super Fun Happy Jamboree!

Bear with me while I seem to brag; you’ll see that I’m merely trying to prove a point. 

Growing up and even through college, I was one of those blessed kids that got great grades in school. I easily got a 4.0 in high school; then in college I literally slept through a lot of classes and still managed a 3.72. You would think because I did well, I would be confident, filled with the know-how to tackle “the real world.” 

But I wasn’t, and I knew it. In spite of my grades, I couldn’t fend for myself, didn’t know how to do what I had gone to school for—I could only tell you about lots of things that I had learned. I was taught things, and I learned them and successfully repeated what I was taught. However, I was not trained, meaning I didn’t have to do “the stuff” I was learning about and therefore didn’t gain the confidence that comes from experientially knowing I could do something. 

When I graduated college, I was terrified of facing the adult world and really didn’t want to be a “big boy” because I felt ill-equipped for life. I’ve seen the same thing in hundreds of youth throughout my years in ministry. Like them, once I came of age, my life was filled with perpetual anxiety and even anger toward my life, my parents, and the system in which I was brought up.

It took me years to sort out what happened, and while I’m happy to say I’m no longer angry, I now want to make sure what happened to me doesn’t happen to others. The Bible warns us about this as parents, particularly in this verse: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  -Ephesians 6:4 (ESV). 

This verse shows us that if parents (particularly fathers) don’t properly instruct their kids, then their children will be provoked to anger. Why anger? The anger is a result of the embarrassment a kid faces when he gets to a point in life where he should be competent, but isn’t. This applies to all ages: when kids fall behind in reading ability, other kids inevitably make fun of them, and even if there isn’t teasing, there is still embarrassment on the part of the child that can’t read well because it’s aggravating to not be able to do something you want to do. Eventually, that embarrassment and frustration turns to anger, even if the kid doesn’t necessary know with who or what he or she is angry. 

Fortunately, the prescription for all of this is simple: as fathers and mothers we must proactively involve our kids in things that train them. We’re to “train up” our children in the way they should go. Training is different from teaching. Teaching tells them something (and this is valuable), but training makes them do something. Everything from chores, to managing money, to developing marketable skills on the computer, in music, public speaking, intrapersonal conversations, Christian discipleship and outreach, etc., are not just nice bonuses to add to a kid’s education, they are absolutely necessary.  Everyone agrees on this, but not everyone realizes that it should be something kids should start learning at age-appropriate levels beginning with elementary school ages and continuing throughout their whole lives.  

What do you see as the difference between teaching and training?

Milan Tomic

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  1. Just to add a few points of clarity: please don't read into this that I had awful parents or that the fault lies with the system I grew up in. On the contrary, I had great parents who loved me and did their best with me and I also learned from some phenomenal teachers who instilled great strengths into my education. I wrote this article to fill in some of the gaps that we all need to be aware of because it is a widespread problem. Blessings to all you parents who read.

  2. You make some great points, Adam. As parents giving our children opportunities to experience life in a hands-on kind of way is very important. Kids need lots of opportunities to fail and succeed. They need work and responsibilities appropriate to their age from a young age. We should be careful not to step in and solve all their problems, but let them wrestle them through, and we should act as a coach, encourager and guide. Those are a few ways we can help them build the confidence and experience they will need in life. But I think most of all we must cheer them on so that they have the courage to try new things and move ahead in life.

  3. You said it Carrie. They do need encouragement to stay courageous. We must help them to never forget that they had the guts to learn how to walk and talk. There's so much trial and error in both of those activities that were we self-conscious or afraid, we'd never accomplish them.

  4. To answer your question, "What is the difference between teaching and training?" I think the answer is the practice of doing.

    Wisdom is not gained without practice. Period.

    Providing the opportunity and support for children to put their learning into practice is the key to growing maturity.