Column: Children learn more by what they observe


Commentary by Michael VandenBerg



“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”  Proverbs 22:6

Teen violence, high school shootings, gangs, radicalization of our youth. . . .

The headlines jolt our consciousness. The question is always why? Someone who knows them gains the lights of the camera and proclaims they just don’t understand how this good kid could go so wrong. What’s the new workable solution?

Maybe the solution is not new at all but is 3,000 years old and found in the wise sayings of King Solomon. Solomon wrote to give wise instruction. If followed, it could lead to a life of health that was spiritual, emotional and at times physical.  Solomon’s headline solution was to be attentive in how we train our children. More than just formal education, Solomon is saying that parents need to be very deliberate about whom, and what teaches their children.

It is not just book knowledge that our children learn, it is how do mom and dad interact that teaches them how they should act as a spouse. It is how parents argue, that teaches them how they should resolve differences. It is how much time they spend with their child that teaches how valued they are. It is how they are supervised that teaches the value of discipline (an ordered life with purpose) which is the necessity of a successful navigation of life in a society governed by laws and not simply by our wants and desires.

Everything we do, the people we associate with, the things we value, our outlook toward society, are all observed and passed down to our children. If you want your child to be productive, independent, compassionate and loving, surround them abundantly with people who are all of those things and when they get older, they too will value them and live that kind of life.

We learn more by what we observe than what we read so make sure your children catch you being the kind of person you want them to be.

Rev. Michael VandenBerg is the pastor of Hope Community Church, a congregation of the Christian Reformed Church and a community consultant for City in the Church Consulting. He and his wife Nancy have been Indiana residents for over 17 years and Indianapolis residents since 2008. He can be contacted at


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