How does a father and a mother work together to rear their children for the Lord? That is a good question to ask, and one that is often overlooked as we kind of stumble along in the paths of parenthood. But believe it or not, the book of Proverbs has a proverb that instructs us on this matter - and does so very well. We would be wise to listen to this counsel - and begin to pattern our parenting upon its precepts.
Here in Proverbs 6:20, we have an interesting statement made that gives a role to both the father and the mother in giving wisdom to their children. The first thing we read here is that a son should observe the commandment of his father. Observe here is the Hebrew word "natsar" which means to watch, to guard, or to keep. The word had several uses, but came to us from the military world where the idea of watching was prominent. When a soldier was put on watch - it was his duty to scan the horizon and be ready at an instant to warn the troops of a sneak attack - or a full scale assault. Were he to fall asleep at his post - the entire regiment would be at risk of being overrun and destroyed. The word was then carried over into the idea of ehtics and watchfulness over God's or other's commands. Here is spoke of a watchfulness for the purpose of being faithful to the command - as well as an ethical watch over one's own behavior so that the command was carried out with careful obedience. The son is called to have this kind of watching when it came to his father's commandments. As you can imagine, the word "commandments" is the normal word "mitsvah" which is the most common word for a commandment or a statute given to someone. It is the word used of the 10 commandments - and the same word used most often to speak of God's law. It is also part of the word for "barmitzvah" that speaks of the ceremony at age 13 when a Jewish boy was considered a man. He was considered such because he was taking on the full responsibility of the Law of God. Barmitzvah literally means, "son of the law" or "son of the commandments."
The father calls his son to obey the commandments that he gives him. If a man is wise - he will make his commandments very similar to those God gives us. Flood a boy with too many commandments and he will lose heart trying to remember and keep all of them. But when we give a child limitations and wise standards by which to live - he will be far more secure. Just a warning though to the father who thinks that he can "christianize" his kids by the way he rears them. The Law was meant to show us that we are sinners. No matter how wonderfully you rear your children, they will still have to come to Christ to be saved and redeemed from their sinful, rebellious ways. Yet, a wise man will knows the value of setting godly standards for his children. A son would also be wise - very wise if he takes his father's commandments and seeks to govern his behavior by them. Most young people (and by the way I definitely include myself in my younger years) have a basic disdain for their parents commandments. That is a perfect way of seeing how sin and how the fall have affected our lives. Wisdom tells us that those older than us are also usually wiser than us. The only time a child can say that he is as wise as his elders is when he loves God's Word and seeks to know it with great passion. Then Psalm 119 makes a promise that God's Word makes him wiser even than his elders. (Just a brief word of wisdom though - if you do know the Word very well - you will also approach your elders with it with humility and grace - not with arrogance and a sense of superiority - that kind of attitude pretty much shows that you've descended back into foolishness again.)
The mother's role is given next. This verse says to us that the son also should not forsake the teaching of his mother. The word forsake means just that - to forsake or to reject something. Here it refers to the "teaching" of his mother. The word "teaching" here is the Hebrew word, "torah." It meant something that was taught - but more along the lines of giving specific instruction or direction to someone. So we see an interesting thing here. The father gives the basic commands to his son, but the mother then works with him to see how they are applied to everyday situations and in everyday life. She takes the basic law given by the dad - and adds additional instruction and help in seeing how to walk in those commands each day. Since the father usually has to go to work and be gone throughout much of the day, the mother then takes over the work of instructing and helping the sons and daughters grasp and understand how it is the father desires for them to live. She makes his commandments into practical choices and works hard to teach those choices to the children.
What is fascinating to me as I look at this verse is that this is how Jewish religion is set up. They have the Law (mitzvah) which is given by God the Father. They also have the instruction (the torah) which is given by the rabbis who teach the Law to the people. They took this very concept and used it to set up their entire teaching system that they use with their people. This works wonderfully - until the rabbis begin to have their teaching pervert the actual Law upon which it was based. This is true also in families where mother and father are not on the same page in rearing their children. Either the dad or mom is too strict - or too lenient, and the other decides to modify what they view as an unrealistic view by changing things themselves. This leads to chaos in the child's mind - and the unique ability to play one parent against the other. Regardless - the result is usually bad.
The wise son is the one who listens well to his parents - and who takes both the command of the dad - and the teaching of the mom - and uses it to make wise decisions in life. May we be so blessed as to have fathers that will lead wisely and godly - moms that will teach according to his commandments - and children who in turn will know the right way to walk because they have heard it from their parents.