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Grandparents: What is their role to their grandchildren?

Gary Googe Sep 13

My wife and I dearly love our grandchildren, but our first responsibility is to our own children.  There’s no question about that.  But what do we naturally know about training children? Practically nothing comes to us instinctively.  Wisdom in training children and properly influencing grandchildren demands a lot of learning.  What most parents have learned about this, right or wrong, came in the process of growing up under the authority of their parents.  But was that truly correct quality training given by their parents? How does one know for sure? Parents are clearly told to train up their children in the way in which they should go, but exactly how is that to be carried out in a godly way? Certainly, there’s much more to be said about this than what can be written up in a short article.  But here’s the command parents have been given in Scripture, followed by a short study of what I believe to be some important principles on this subject.

Proverbs 22:6

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

I have found that having a right understanding of the word “train” in this verse is essential to knowing what God expects of parents in training their children.  This word for train comes from the Hebrew word CHANAK.  It means to cause, to bring about and to determine a certain course of thought and/or action.  It is much like causing a plant to follow a trellis or lattice work.  You don’t ask or tell the plant to grow in a certain way; you force the plant to grow in a certain way or prescribed manner.  This is precisely what the Bible is telling us must happen with children.  They are to be made to function in a prescribed manner.  Those early years are provided to get them in the habit of doing and being a certain way.  The time to explain WHY is to be given mainly when they are in their teens, not when they are young children.  It is in their teens that there’s the explanation period.  It is then that you seek to instill the wisdom behind the commands.  But if you let children do as they please and decide for themselves, they will tend to do as their sinful nature dictates.  One of the reasons infants are small and weaker than their parents is so the parents can control the child during their formative years.  It is in those years that their children are to be caused to respect authority figures and to learn to immediately do as they are told.  Verbal commands are to be obeyed.  The Apostle Paul gives us an excellent summary of the situation.

Ephesians 6:1

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. [Emphasis added]

The word obey is the Greek word HUPAKOUO.  It is a compound verb.  The word HUPER means under, as in underauthority, and AKOUO means to hear.  So, it simply means to do as you are told.  Children are to learn to move to action on command from their parents.  Again, most explanations providing the reasoning behind the commands should come when they are in their teens.  It is then that you inform them, explaining “the whys” behind the commands.  It is then that you help them see and learn the wisdom behind your policies.  If you let children question everything, they’ll wear you out and not learn much at all about the value of immediate submission to authority.  You will end up training an unruly person who never learned the meaning of submission to authority.  The Ephesians passage we just looked at continues with this same train of thought.

Ephesians 6:2-4

Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;

That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

The command to honor is not a suggestion.  Insubordinate people never get to enjoy the best of life.  Their lives may even be shortened by acts of rebellion against authority.

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. [Emphasis added]

This “provoking” of children involves being foolish in how you administer your authority over your children.  Every expectation you have for them should be based on your love and wanting only what’s best for them.  There’s no room for selfishness in this.

Children are also to be caused to realize that violations of the commands have unpleasant consequences.  In addition to the verbal instruction and/or rebuke that’s to be given, God has designated that a particular tool be utilized in cases of rebellion and disobedience.

Proverbs 10:13

13 In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding. [Emphasis added]

Some claim that you don’t love your children if you spank them.  But what does God tell us through the Bible?

Proverbs 13:24

24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes [diligently].[Emphasis added]

What a strong statement! What a rebuke this is to those who refrain from spanking their children, claiming that such refrain is an expression of love.  And please realize, I didn’t write this command, God did! If you don’t agree with this, you can take it up with Him.

Your every move should be with the objective of instilling wisdom in your children.  They need to be able to see that you do as you do because you love them and want only what is best for them.

Proverbs 22:15

15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.[Emphasis added]

Modern psychology often tells us there’s now a better way.  But please realize that there’s nothing outdated about any portion of Scripture you want to address.  As you should now see, God is telling us that the use of the rod [or switch] is so important it is mentioned numerous times in Scripture.  Furthermore, the intent and goal is to cause pain so as to bring about a humble, teachable spirit.  Yes, pain is to always be associated with insubordination to authority.

Proverbs 23:12-14

12 Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.

13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.

14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell. [Emphasis added]

Please notice that it is a rod [or switch] that is to be used, not your hand, a belt, a paddle, or anything else.  A switch is incapable of doing a child lasting harm, but it has the potential for bringing about fabulous results.  It will hurt, as it needs to, but no permanent harm will be done.  Any markings from the switch will soon go away.  However, when children are allowed to reject parental authority, there will be permanent harm.  Their rebellious spirit tends to overflow into other areas of life where highly important commands are given that should be obeyed.  Men have needlessly died on battle fields because they never learned the importance of submission to authority.  Others have spent years, even a lifetime, in prison for the same reason.

Parents should never allow themselves to refrain from spanking the child because of their crying.  That, too, we are warned about.

Proverbs 19:18

18 Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying. [Emphasis added]

If the parents yield to the crying, the child will soon learn to cry to avoid the pain of a spanking and whatever punishment may or should follow.  That’s a form of training, but it’s negative training.  In other words, you end up training disobedience when you let their crying keep you from doing what God would have you do.  A child’s crying after they’ve been spanked can be some very tender and wonderful times with your children.  After their spirit of rebellion has been broken by the spanking, you need to hold them and assure them verbally of your love for them.  You need to help them realize that what you did was for their own good, and that to avoid such encounters in the future they need to be obedient.

Proverbs 26:3

A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool’s back. [Emphasis added]

Every spanking provides a teaching opportunity for the parent.  The pain of the spanking tends to put the child into a listening mode which is necessary if lessons are to be learned.  After the child has been humbled by the spanking, the punishment should follow.  The rod alone normally is not enough.  The spanking breaks the rebellious spirit and the punishment that follows serves to right the wrong that’s been done.  Again, punishment for their wrong should normally follow the spanking.

Proverbs 29:15

15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. [Emphasis added]

Note that it takes both the rod and reproof to instill the right principles of truth in the child.  The goal is to create temporary pain on the backside to instill permanent principles of wisdom on the inside.

Psalm 89:31-32

31 If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments;

32 Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. [Emphasis added]

Yes, the “stripes” refers to the marks a switch can make on one’s backside.  That is to be seen as perfectly normal in the chastening of an insubordinate child.  This is not child abuse! We are to never put the theories of psychologists over the authority of God’s Word in Scripture.

The idea is not to draw blood in spanking, but if there are marks from the discipline, it simply bears evidence that proper discipline was administered.  Little taps on the backside will accomplish nothing.  The same may be said of rebuke without the spanking.

Again, this training with a rod does not violate the principle of love.  That is so commonly the argument of a foolish parent.  Instead, this is a real and tangible way to express love.  It demonstrates that you truly care that the child learns to do the right things and is subordinate to authority figures.

Many times, grandchildren turn out badly because the grandparents failed to properly train the parents of their grandchildren.  How we train our children will tend to have major impact on how they train our grandchildren.  As their parents, they will normally be positioned to have more influence over them than we will.  The day-to-day activities of life that parents have with their children will make this possible.

Sometimes grandparents can be a major hindrance to the training of their grandchildren.  This can happen if they foolishly make statements and/or perform actions that undermine the disciplinary actions of the parents.

The Bible tells us we are to be parents who demand obedience.  Children are under God’s orders to be obedient to their parents and we are to be a help in their obedience of His commands to them.  If grandparents permit disobedience, they can contribute significantly to a child’s rebellious spirit.

Have you ever noticed how the book of Proverbs is laid out? There are so many one main thought verses and disconnected verses as to subject-matter.  It appears that much of Proverbs is the one liner notes Solomon took under the instruction of his father, David.  How did Solomon turn out as a man? Answer:  Terribly! But when he was old, as per the Proverbs 22:6 passage, he came back to living a life of obedience to God.  Most of those years from the time of his youth to when he was an old man were wasted and spent in foolishness.  He lived a life of sin and rebellion against God’s Word.  But in his later years, that all got turned around.  God then commissioned him to write the book of Ecclesiastes which proves to be his testimonial of a life of disobedience.  There he writes about all the foolish things he pursued for happiness apart from God.  I dedicated a whole chapter to Solomon in my book, Discovering God’s Rich Blessings in Times of Suffering.  Even as a man who had everything, Solomon experienced a lot of deep suffering.  For most of his life he was truly a miserable man.

But what’s the case with our grandchildren? What responsibility do we have with them? We should all be concerned about the heritage we leave for our family and others.  Normally, grandparents have only delegated authority from their grandchildren’s parents.

If you do a good job with your children, you stand a much better chance of positively influencing your grandchildren.  You certainly do not want to be a grandparent that lets the grandchildren get away with things their parents forbid.  When those grandchildren are brought up correctly, they can be a wonderful blessing to all.

Proverbs 17:6

Children’s children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers. [Emphasis added]

Psalm 127:3

Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. [Emphasis added]

No parent is perfect.  All will make mistakes.  But consistently working at following the teachings of the Word of God is going to provide your best chance of being a quality parent and grandparent.  To have the best results with children and grandchildren, parents must give priority to their own spiritual growth.  That demands daily intake of God’s Word.  Without it they are prone to make all the mistakes that go with being ignorant of God’s Word.  The best inheritance we can provide for our children and grandchildren is wisdom from God’s Word.  To do that we must know the principles and the lessons of history that are taught in the Scriptures.

Exodus 10:2

And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son’s son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the Lord. [Emphasis added]

We are to be familiar with the history given in the Bible.  There we can learn from the mistakes of others who have gone before us.

Along material lines, there, too, we should work to leave an inheritance.

Proverbs 13:22

22 A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just. [Emphasis added]

The Apostle Paul’s student Timothy proves to be a great example of the impact parents and grandparents can have on future generations.  The Apostle Paul commends Timothy’s mother and grandmother for their work in his upbringing.

II Timothy 1:5

When I call to remembrance the unfeigned [genuine]faith [the teaching of God’s Word] that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also. [Emphasis added]

Here he’s talking about their instruction of this man who apparently didn’t have a father, and probably not a grandfather, to instruct him.  But he became a man whose teaching influences us even today.  What an impact this man has had on history! We are blessed today because of the work his mother and grandmother did to instill principles of truth in him.

Questions:  If you have children and grandchildren, what kind of spiritual heritage have you worked to create? How faithful have you been to instill truth in them? Your words are important, but the example you have set is far more important.  Your actions speak so much louder than your words.  By your faithfulness to God’s Word, you can have major impact on future generations much as these ladies did, even with many people outside your own family.

This last passage we’ll look at in this study addresses this issue of setting a good example.  It gives us a summary of the way elderly people are to function.  Altogether it is letting us know that being a spiritually mature person provides the best opportunity to positively impact the lives of others, including our own children and grandchildren.

Titus 2:1-7

1 But speak thou the things which become [are consistent with] sound doctrine:

That the aged men be sober [temperate], grave [poised], temperate [sensible], sound in faith [teaching], in charity [love], in patience.

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers [as with gossips], not given to much wine, teachers of good things;

That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,

To be discreet [sensible], chaste [pure], keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed [slandered].

Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded [sensible].

In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, [Emphasis added]

Some of the best influence we’ll ever have on children, grandchildren and others will be through the example we set.  What kind of example are you? Don’t be like the man who once said, “I’m not totally useless, I can be used as a bad example.”

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