by: Allen Domelle
Since I was a boy, I have always been a dog lover. The first dog I owned was a Chow and Labrador mix, and boy was he ever the most obstinate dog I have ever owned. I am a dog lover! Something about dogs that people like is that they tend to always want to be around their owners. No matter what has happened in the past, a dog lives in the moment and will be accepting of its owner.
In recent years, I have owned several Rottweilers. A couple of my good friends are breeders who run and own Von Warterr Rottweilers. One of the current dogs I got from them is Tydy. Tydy is a female Rottweiler who weighs in at about 100 pounds, and is all muscle. She is a beautiful dog! Like all Rottweilers, Tydy is a strong-minded dog and needs a strong owner. Don’t get me wrong, she is the most loving dog you can be around, but she is a very strong-willed dog which requires my wife, daughter and me to be sure to be strong, calm and assertive owners.
When I got her as a pup, I immediately started training her. For the most part, she was a pretty easy dog to train. One thing I quickly noticed about her is that it is very hard to break her focus once she gets sidetracked. She is a well-trained dog that I can take to any public place, but I have to be sure to stay engaged with her and keep her focused on what I command her to do.
One morning I was taking her for a walk, and I decided to try something different to keep her from being sidetracked when other people, dogs or distractions walked by us. I took a bag of dog treats and got her nose working instead of her eyes. I quickly found out that I could keep her focused by making me more attractive than those things that would normally sidetrack her. I learned to get a treat out and hold it by her nose which caused her to stay focused on me every time something came that usually sidetracked her. I learned by doing this that she wanted to stay with me more than she wanted to focus on anything else.
That morning it made me realize the importance of parents keeping God’s way attractive so that their children don’t get sidetracked by the Devil and the world. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Just like I train my dog to obey me, every parent has a responsibility to train their child in the right way of life. The age-old problem that most parents face is keeping their children walking in the right ways. I am by no means an expert in child rearing, but I learned that morning walking my dog that if parents would keep the right way attractive, then fewer children would be sidetracked by the world and the Devil.
The principles in training a child and a dog are very similar. It takes time to train. God did not tell us, “Teach a child in the way he should go,” but He commanded us to “Train up a child in the way he should go…” If we are going to keep our children walking in the right ways after they leave home, then we must keep God’s way more attractive than the world’s. There are several thoughts that come to mind when I think of keeping the way attractive.
1. The way is always right.
Training a dog is not always accepted by those who don’t know how to train dogs. Many who don’t know anything about training dogs will think you are being mean to the dog by not allowing the dog to do what it wants to do, but in the long run my dogs have much more freedom than theirs because I can take my dog in public off leash and they can’t. The dog trainer always has to keep a closed ear to the critics and keep their eye on the way they know will turn out a good dog.
One thing you must always remember is that doing right is always right even when it seems nobody else is doing it. You must keep in mind that God’s way is always right whether or not others are doing it. If you do train your child in the way, you will find there will be times when criticism comes your way, but you must not forsake the way. Jesus says in John 14:6, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Don’t ever doubt the way because people have said that it doesn’t work. Don’t change the way because society doesn’t agree with it. The way is always right even when the whole world doesn’t agree with it. You know where God’s way is taking your children, so don’t leave it because another way seems more attractive.
2. The way won’t always be easy.
Training a dog takes patience, hard work, time and determination. If training a dog was easy, then everybody would train their own dog. We know it’s not easy because most people want someone else to train their dog for them. They want others to do the work that they should be doing. What most dog owners don’t realize is that they can get the dog professionally trained, but if the dog is going to continue to act the way it should, then the owners are going to have to be consistent with the rules of training when the dog comes home. This won’t always be easy. That is why you have so many dogs that are out of control.
Training children is not an easy task, but let me assure you that you are up to the task. Just like people want someone to train their dog, many parents leave the spiritual training to the church, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders or to the Christian school, but God places that responsibility on the parent. Training children takes wisdom, time, patience, hard work, communication and determination by both parents. If training children were easy, then every child would turn out right. What I have found out is that most parents struggle with their children because they have not taken the time to train them. They tell them what to do, but training is showing them how to do it and following through with each directive. Training children in the way is not going to be easy, but it is very much worth the time and effort when your children continue walking in God’s way.
3. The way builds great relationships.
Training is greatest way to build a relationship with your dog. The reason it builds the relationship is because you are spending time with them. My wife and daughter will tell you that the dogs tend to follow me, and I believe the reason is because I am the one who is doing the training. Don’t get me wrong, my wife and daughter follow up on what I do and the dogs obey them, but I’m the one who builds a relationship by teaching and challenging the dogs through training. Training builds great relationships.
One of the biggest mistakes I have seen parents make is that they want to be friends with their children instead of parents. Parenting is not easy, and it is not always going to make you the most popular person; however, training is how you build great relationships. You can’t buy a great relationship with your child, but you gain that relationship through taking the time to train them. If you will take the time to train your children throughout life, you will create lasting memories and a great relationship with them. Proverbs 29:15 says, “…a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” A child must spend time with their parents to keep them from bringing shame to their lives and to the name of Christ. Conversely, training has a way of building trust which creates a great relationship.
HOW DO WE KEEP THE WAY ATTRACTIVE?
1. Realize that there is more than one way to keep the way attractive.
There are many methods in training dogs that one can adopt as their method of training. There are some pros and cons to every method, but they all tend to have the same principles. As long as you don’t leave the core principles of dog training, the method you choose is completely up to you.
Likewise, there is more than one way a person can keep the way attractive. Let me make it clear that I am not at all promoting any form of compromise, but just because one person did something with their child doesn’t mean that is the only way. My wife and I have gleaned from many people in rearing our daughter. The main thing you must never do is leave the principles of the Word of God just to make the way of God more attractive. For instance, I’m not going to let my daughter listen to Christian Rock music just keep her under control. What I will do is find ways to make music fun and interesting. My goal is not to control her but to direct her to the right way of living. If God’s way is attractive, then most children will want to keep walking in that way when they are on their own.
2. Find the way that keeps the way attractive for each child.
I’ve trained several dogs, and one thing I have learned is one treat doesn’t work with every dog when rewarding them. My goal as a trainer is to find what attracts each dog and use it. Once I find what attracts them, then that keeps them engaged with me during training.
Every child has a different personality and different likes and dislikes. What may work with one may not work with another. My father learned how to keep me engaged in soul winning by taking me to Denny’s for breakfast every Saturday morning. I always enjoyed doing that with my dad. My daughter isn’t real crazy about Denny’s, but she like McDonald’s. So, every trip we go on together we must stop at McDonald’s and get something to eat. That has been a staple for us for many years. I found what keeps the way attractive, and I use it so that we can have time together for life training. Find what each child likes and dislikes, and use their likes to stay engaged with them so you can train them for the LORD.
3. Don’t avoid distractions while walking in the way.
One of the biggest mistakes I made early on when training dogs was to avoid those things that would distract my dog. Those distractions can actually become a training time if I learn how to keep them engaged with me. I can show my dog that as long as she stays engaged with me, then she will continue to get those treats that she enjoys.
Many parents make the mistake of trying to isolate their children instead of insulating them from distractions. Our job in training is to show our children how the way of the LORD is so much better than what the world offers. Don’t isolate your children from the world’s distractions, but insulate them by showing them the other side. For instance, the best way to show your children that the way of the world leads to heartache is to take them on a bus route with you and let them see the other side of sin. Every time you leave a place where they see and hear the heartache that sin caused, remind them sin always ends up that way. By doing this you are not avoiding the distractions by isolating them, but you are insulating them by being there to teach and train them of the heartache that sin causes. Never let your children be around the distractions alone, but be that insulator that exposes the damage sin causes.
Another thing I do with my daughter is to remind her that serving God has given us many of the opportunities we enjoy. Every time someone does something special for her, I remind her that she is enjoying the gift or opportunity because dad is in the ministry. This is simply keeping the way attractive without isolating her from everything.
4. Attraction doesn’t avoid correction.
Just because I try to reward my dog for doing right doesn’t mean that I don’t correct her when she does wrong. A total reward system will never teach the dog there are consequences for doing wrong. When I know my dog knows what to do but it refuses to do it, then I must correct her so that she will never do that again. That correction for not obeying will save her life from something greater in the future.
Proverbs 29:17 says, “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.” I’m all for rewarding your children for doing right, but there are times when you will have to correct them when they do wrong. If you have done your job and trained your child right and wrong, then when they do wrong you must correct them. A child must learn that there are consequences to wrong decisions. You must not avoid correction just because it is hard to do. Correction will remind them of the liberties they lost or the correction they had the next time they are faced with doing wrong. Just because you want to keep the way attractive doesn’t mean you cannot correct. In fact, correction done right will keep the way attractive.
5. Without attraction, the way seems constrictive.
If I don’t learn to use treats to reward my dog for doing right, she will quickly lose focus and I will lose the engagement needed to train her. It is my job as a trainer to make sure what I want my dog to do is more attractive than anything else. When I’m successful at this, I will always have her attention.
When a parent does nothing to keep God’s way attractive, then your children will grow up feeling God’s way is constrictive. Find a way to make serving God fun and enjoyable. Let them see the rewards for doing right. Certainly life is not all fun and games, but there must be times when doing right is fun.
This article is in no way minimizing doing right whether or not it is fun, but my purpose in writing this article is to implore parents to find ways to make serving the LORD attractive. The more attractive the way of the LORD becomes, the more unattractive the way of the world will be. You don’t have to compromise to make the LORD’s way attractive, but you will have to be creative and sacrifice time and energy to make it attractive. The benefits of making it attractive are far more beneficial than the heartbreak a parent experiences when their child goes wayward. This article is also not indicting any parent whose child has gone astray because every person has a choice to make. I simply hope it brings awareness to the parent that as they train their child in the way they should go that they should do their best to keep that way attractive so your engagement with your child never wanes.