We’re new to the raised-garden scene. Selena’s been wanting one for some time, but this is the first summer we’ve had the bandwidth (no book deadlines, no babies on the way, and we’re not moving). So, earlier this summer I bought some lumber and built her an above-ground garden. After receiving an oversized load of very smelly soil, we got to work. It’s been an incredible activity to do with our girls—one filled with rich life lessons and connections to deep truths found in God’s Word.

As we’ve discovered, gardening is also rich with lessons for us parents.

Every gardener knows, planting seeds is just the beginning. So, if we want our garden to flourish, we must plan before we plant. Then, after sowing the seeds, we must care for the specific needs of each plant. Some areas of our garden require very little work (bush beans!), others require specific care (tomatoes).

One plant that needs special attention is raspberries. Without a structure to support them, the bushes will never flourish the way they could. The result is an organism that is alive but not flourishing—growing without bearing fruit. It exists without fulfilling its higher purpose. Put in those terms, it actually sounds quite tragic.

Just as there’s more to gardening than planting and watering seeds, there is more to parenting than meeting our children’s base needs.

Training vs. Raising Our Children

There is an important distinction to be made between “training” and “raising” our children. I’d argue that training is the difference between setting up a child to flourish on every level and in the various circumstances they’ll face in life vs. surviving on a basic level.

Raising must include training—children will grow and mature regardless, parenting means shepherding them throughout the process.

If our children learn math, literature, and history without also being trained as people of character, we have missed the mark.

As the above quote reads, children must be trained in character, just like—and more important than—academic disciplines.

As parents, we must be mindful not to approach character development with a laissez-faire attitude—i.e. *let things run their natural course*. Sure, we correct, discipline, and instruct as moments of bad behavior, but what then? Do we employ a *plan* for character development as we would for math or reading?

Here are a few thoughts about training in character.

1. Training must be done by design.

Kids pick up language as we talk to them. They learn to write, spell, and form sentences because someone instructs them. Someone must expend effort to show what’s right and wrong.

The same is true in character training. Kids pick up things here and there, but without clear training their worldview will resemble a garbled sentence more than a coherent framework for right-living.

2. Training requires a manual based on objective truth.

Every parent trains from a moral manual, the question is which one. For Christians, our source of moral truth is the Bible (2 Tim 3:16). Sadly, some Christians wouldn’t agree. Why? For them, the Bible is supplemental material instead of a primary text.

Let’s not make that mistake. As we train our kids in character, let the Bible be our primary source.

3. Training implies an end in mind.

Why should kids have character? For their flourishing. There are reasons to clearly tell children what’s absolutely right and absolutely wrong—it’s not arbitrary! When we conform ourselves to God’s vision of things, we flourish because we live as we were created to live. See point #2.

Let us be parents who train our children in godly character more than the world instructs them in worldly character; and let us rely on God’s Word as our source of truth as we do.