So many times, people fail to realize that there is a difference between teaching their children and training them.

You teach your children when you tell them right from wrong. You instill in them what the Bible says. You teach them that they are under your authority and, ultimately, under God's authority. And you try to live an example before them.

You are training your children when you help them do what is right: obeying you and God. To train them means to mold their character. This is what God wants us to do with our children.

You are training your children when you require them to obey you and do what you have taught them. Small kids, especially, don't have enough self-discipline to make themselves do what they know they are supposed to do, so you have to make them do it.

But as a child grows older and his will becomes more controllable, he starts choosing to do right. You don't have to make him obey as much. He obeys because he has been trained. As he grows spiritually, he will also learn to obey God more. The Holy Spirit will work in him, helping him to control his actions and develop spiritual fruit.

Usually, teaching and training go together. For instance, you may say to your son: "Johnny, I want you to straighten up your room. So make your bed, hang up your clothes and put your toys away. It's important that you learn how to take care of your things."

Now, eight-year-old little Johnny should be able to handle that assignment without any problem. But his will is sometimes lazy, and it's hard for him to control. He would rather watch TV than clean up his room. So you may have to make him obey.

You say, "Johnny, I expect you to obey me and straighten up your room within the next hour. If you do..." Then you tell him what the consequences of his obedience will be: he can watch his favorite TV show, go outside and play with his friends or invite a friend over to spend the night.

"But if you don't do as I ask..." Then you tell him what will happen if he fails to obey you: he won't be allowed to watch TV until he cleans his room, he will spend the evening sitting on his bed or he will be denied some special privilege.

By following through with your actions, you are not only teaching your son that he needs to have a clean room and take care of his things, but you are training him to do that. Hopefully, by the time he is grown, he will have a good understanding of the value of his possessions, and he will take care of both his things and other people's things.

You are also teaching and training him what it means to be a good steward of all that God has given us. Being a good steward involves not only things, but it also includes taking care of your own spirit, soul and body. Ultimately, you are responsible for what you do with your spirit. You are responsible for what you do with your mind, will and emotions. And you are responsible for what you do with your body.

If your children don't understand stewardship in its totality, just being a steward over things won't help them choose to do right in all areas. You can help them to become a good steward of what God has given them by training them to brush their teeth, to do their homework and to pray before eating dinner. By your example, you can reinforce what it means to be a good steward.

While you are working on the outside, teaching and training your child, God is working on the inside, changing his heart. God is teaching and training him to do right - not because he will get into trouble if he doesn't, but because it's the best thing for him to do.

You can tell your kids to do something until you are blue in the face, but until you add training to it, you aren't doing yourself or them much good. Your kids need both teaching and training.

Source: How To Raise Your Kids In Troubled Times by Buddy & Pat Harrison.
Excerpt permission granted by Harrison House Publishers