One of the greatest hopes of Christian parents should be that their children will choose right over wrong, good over evil, and wisdom over foolishness. One of the most heartbreaking experiences for Christian parents is when they see one of their children making damaging life choices with seemingly no interest in doing right. What can we do to help make sure that our children refuse evil and choose good?

One of the most powerful statements I’ve ever seen in my life is this: “If you want your ideas to last for years, write them on paper. If you want them to last for decades, write them on brick. If you want them to last for centuries, write them in stone. If you want your ideas to last forever, write them on the heart of a child.”

It is the privilege and responsibility of a father and mother to train the soul of a child who is going to live for eternity. God could have chosen angels to provide perfect teaching and training and care for children, but He did not choose to do that. He could have delegated that responsibility to the government, but He did not do that either. Instead, He gave that responsibility primarily to mothers and fathers. Thankfully, however, He didn’t just give us that responsibility and then leave us alone. He gave us some instructions in His Word that, if we will only follow them, will guide us on our way to raising godly children.

In Isaiah 7:14-15 we find an interesting passage that is seldom, if ever, used in reference to child training; but I believe it contains a vital truth that we can apply to raising our children. It says: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.” Just imagine for a moment how wonderful it would be to have children who consistently choose to do good!

Another verse that ties in with this is the familiar Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

So how do we raise our children to refuse evil and choose good?

Culture the Right Appetite

An appetite is a natural or habitual desire to satisfy some want or need. It may be a natural appetite, or it may be one which we have created for ourselves.

In Proverbs 22:6, the Hebrew word for “train up” is usually translated “dedicate.” It means that we should pay whatever price we need to pay—in time, attention, love, discipline, self-sacrifice, etc.—in order to fully dedicate our children to the Lord and raise them for Him. The phrase that occurs later in the verse (“in the way he should go”) is the Hebrew word peh. In other places in the Bible, that word is translated “mouth” or “eat.” “Train up a child in the way he should go...”—in the way of his mouth. Sort of strange, isn’t it? What it’s telling us is that we should train up our children with right appetites. Don’t let them taste the wrong things. Why? Because they might develop an appetite for those things.

Just like your mouth goes after the foods for which you have already developed an appetite, so your child is going to follow after the things for which he has developed an appetite.

Whatever you develop an appetite for, that’s what you’re going to want. That’s true not only in relation to physical appetites, but also to the appetites of the soul, mind, will, and emotions. Your child has appetites and is going to follow them, whatever they might happen to be. As parents, it’s our responsibility to help our children cultivate the right appetites rather than the wrong ones. A child either has parents who will pay the price to dedicate him to God and train him to develop the right appetites, or he has parents who will not pay the price. This child feeds on the wrong things, develops an appetite for them, and then keeps going back after them.