Teaching Kids Wisdom

There’s a big difference between being intelligent and being wise. Lots of incredibly smart people lack wisdom, which causes them to make foolish life decisions. Find out what wisdom is and what you can do to instill it in your children.

This is an excerpt from the book Parenting with Focus.


Have you ever known anyone who was incredibly intelligent, yet made constant foolish decisions? They lacked wisdom, and wisdom is imperative to live a blessed and successful life.


Basically, wisdom is knowing what is right, and doing it. It goes beyond knowledge and information. Wisdom is the ability to make good decisions, and live life well. Joyce Meyer defines wisdom as doing now what you’ll be happy with later. Meyer goes on to say that wisdom is not doing now what you feel like doing and hoping it won’t cause a problem. Instead, it's doing what is right whether you feel like it or not.


Unfortunately, wisdom is not innate. Instead, wisdom must be actively acquired and pursued. And one of the best places to learn about wisdom is in the book of Proverbs in the Bible.


Proverbs is known as the book of wisdom. It was written by King Solomon, who was considered the wisest man on earth. He wrote these proverbs as a manual for living a good life.


Reading a chapter of Proverbs to your children every day will put this wisdom in their hearts and minds. I started reading Proverbs to my sons as soon as they turned 4 years old, and I tried to read a chapter of Proverbs a day until they were 12. Since I read to my boys every day anyway, I just got into a habit of reading a Proverb first, discussing it, and then reading their fun picture or chapter book.


There are so many amazing lessons that Proverbs will teach your children. My favorite lesson is that it’s the wise man who listens to instruction. It’s the fool who doesn’t listen. This lesson runs throughout Proverbs. I love it because once you get this lesson instilled in your children’s hearts, when they become teenagers, they’ll listen to you.


I remember trying to teach my sons something when they were in high school, and I could just tell they thought I didn’t know what I was talking about. Their eyes glazed over and they would respond with “Mom, please…” Then I’d say, “Remember, it’s a wise man who listens to instruction. It’s the fool who doesn’t listen.” Then they’d suddenly say, “You’re right. You’re right.” It was awesome! I still occasionally use those verses with my grown sons.


Another great lesson that Proverbs teaches is that the mother and father are supposed to discipline their children. It specifically says that if you don’t discipline your children, you’ll ruin their lives. “Discipline your children while there is hope. Otherwise you will ruin their lives.” (Proverbs 19:18 New Living Translation). This is a great lesson for your children to hear over and over. Then, when you do have to discipline and give a consequence, they’ll know you doing it because you want the best for them.


I also love that Proverbs teaches children that they should obey their mother and father and listen to their instruction. “My child, listen when your father corrects you. Don't neglect your mother's instruction.” (Proverbs 1:8 (New Living Translation). That’s another great lesson that children need to have ingrained in their hearts.


The book of Proverbs teaches basic common sense to lead a successful life and avoid many of life’s consequences. It gives practical instruction about common ordinary problems, such as:


  • Children, obey your parents.

  • Parents, discipline your children.

  • Work hard; don’t be lazy.

  • Be honest; don’t lie.

  • Take advice.

  • Choose good friends.

  • Control your temper.

  • Control your tongue.

  • Be kind.

  • Be humble.

  • Be generous.

  • Don’t get into debt.

  • Don’t drink too much.


Here are three examples of a proverb:


  • “A good man hates lies; wicked men lie constantly and come to shame.” Proverbs 13:5

  • “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.” Proverbs 13:4

  • “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days.” Proverbs 19:20


Each proverb will give you lots of opportunities to discuss morals, values, and virtues.


So, this is how I did it: I read to my sons each day out of The New Living Translation, but you could use any version that you think your children would understand. (The Message Bible would also be a good one.)


I would read one chapter of Proverbs to my sons each day. It would take about 5 to 10 minutes. As I would read, when I’d come to a part that I thought had a good lesson, I would stop and talk about it to make sure they fully understood it.


Be forewarned: These proverbs are difficult for children to understand. That’s why you need to stop along the way and explain. However, as your children hear the same proverbs over and over, they’ll soon learn to understand them. There are 31 chapters of Proverbs—one for each day of the month. As soon as I finished all 31, I started over.


Now if you’re thinking that this is unrealistic and that your children couldn’t possibly sit still and listen to Proverbs for 10 minutes, let me give you two thoughts.


My first thought is from the perspective of a teacher. If your children can’t sit still and listen for 10 minutes, how do you think they’re going to function at school? Maybe that’s a sign that you should work on that skill. Have them practice sitting and listening to you read. The more they practice, the longer your children can sit still and listen. I used to read to my boys for at least 30 to 60 minutes at a time when they were two years old. But I did it every day, so they had developed the skill of sitting still and listening.


My other thought is from the perspective of a parent. When you’re forcing them to sit still and listen to you read from Proverbs, you’re developing many important character traits, such as patience, attentiveness, and self-control.


A bonus to reading Proverbs to your children is that it teaches you wisdom as well. Then, as you go about your daily lives, you’ll be able to remind your children to make good decisions according to wisdom.



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For more about raising your children with Christian discipline and instruction, get Parenting with Focus by Katie Ely.


Want to make new friends and connect with other Christian parents? Host a small group parenting class. It’s easy with The Parenting with Focus Video Course. Just watch the video and discuss the group discussion questions. Easy—and fun!