When the Formula For Raising Your Child Isn’t Working

You’ve tried it all … and you still can’t figure out what is “wrong” with your child. You’ve created the charts; they don’t care about rewards. You’ve implemented discipline; it doesn’t seem to phase them. Wide awake, in the middle of the night, you’re asking God, “What am I doing wrong?”

How do I know? Because the person I am describing is me.

As a young mother, I read the books, yet my child wasn’t potty trained until they were four. As a homeschooling mom, my child struggled, not reading until they were in second grade. As a mother of a teen, my child wrestled with anxiety, panic attacks and paranoia. And all the while I asked the question: What am I doing wrong?

Before my first child ever came into the world, I had bought into the fallacy of the formula. I believed that raising children who loved God, were productive members of society and were generally successful according to our culture, it was a simple math matter. 2 + 2 = 4, right?

I could not have been more wrong. Now, with three children who have grown to be three young adults, I can see that I completely misinterpreted Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (ESV)

The word “train” here in the original language that the Bible was written is the Hebrew word “hanak” which can also be translated as dedicate. As parents, we dedicate our children to God. We, then, dedicate our lives to teaching our children God’s word, His ways and above all else, His love. We pray and ask the Holy Spirit to do the work only He can do for their spiritual, emotional and intellectual development. We do our work, and then, with all our heart, we trust God to do the work only He can do.

What we do not do is believe in a fake formula that will produce perfect children. Perfect children, like perfect adults don’t exist. Even our Perfect Father has children who do not obey Him. It was so freeing for me what I made that realization!

The wisdom we need to see and invest in the individuals that our children are comes from the Father. He made our children unique, special, different from every other child. They are a one-of-a-kind combination of traits the Father brought together for His glory. Every aspect about themselves is different from another child, even another sibling. The way they respond to correction, the need for praise and affirmation, the desire to succeed or the fear of being abandoned are all unique to them.

With the discernment of the Holy Spirit and His word as our guide, we can pray James 1:5 every day, expecting our Father to answer us: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5 (NIV) Then, during the tension times, the sad stages and the joyous journeys, we have our hearts and ears open to receive God’s great wisdom for that day.

There may not be a formula for raising your child, but do not become discouraged. You have something even better, the Holy Spirit living in you, who understands exactly how He created your precious one. He can and will give us the wisdom we need as we ask and wait on Him.

Many Blessings,


Lynn Cowell is a member of Proverbs 31 Ministries’ speaker and writing team. Her newest books include: Make Your Move and Brave Beauty. The Cowells, with their 3 adult children, enjoy adventuring in North Carolina. Connect with Lynn on Instagram at Lynn Cowell and her website at www.LynnCowell.com.