I have heard in the past that this verse is talking about a promise. The promise is that if you raise your children to love and fear the Lord, then they will not leave that path when they are old. I believe this promise and have seen it as truth in some families who are sincerely and whole-heartedly following the Lord. I also believe that there is another side to that promise, which is the direct opposite of what most people think when they read that verse. If you train up a child in the way he should go, and the path you train him on is blotted with the world and bad influences, he will most likely not depart from that path. I have seen more cases of this kind of training than the one mentioned above in families whose lives are mixed with the world and claim a little of Christ too.
Which path are we supposed to lead our children on, to the world or to Christ? If we mix a little of both in, which one do we think will win? The world is pinning after our children's souls and will use any kind of device necessary to draw and entice them. Is it really so innocent to let them play with the world just a little bit? If we are claiming to be Christians, do we walk a straight and narrow way and show it to our children? Or do we walk a not so straight, almost narrow path that strays a little on the broad path and let our children deal with the consequences of teaching them this kind of confusion?
Mattew 6:24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
Romans 12:2 And be not conformed (to fashion alike, to conform to the same pattern) to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God
Titus 2:12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world
James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world
1John 5:19 And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness
John 15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you
The only time that a third option is ever mentioned is by our Lord in:
15. I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth
This third option of being lukewarm is a mixture of hot and cold. The outcome of mixing the two is not a good one. This is the same as mixing a little of the world with Christ.
Having children puts the biggest responsibility on us as Christians that we can bear. Not only are we accountable for our own choices for our own lives, but we will also be held accountable for the souls that God entrusted to us to raise up for Him and His glory. If we drop the ball a little bit here and there, we will reap the consequences 10 fold. If we are diligent and guard our children from harmful influences, they will reap the rewards when they are ready to face those things. There will be no confusion and the choice to do what is right will be second nature when they are presented with those influences.
When we walk the narrow way, it often causes division and strife from those that are not walking with us. Often times, they do not see that they are walking the middle road or living in the grey area. Why? Because they have been influenced by both. At times it becomes very difficult when we have to make decisions that go against others wishes. It often looks as though we are being cruel or heartless, or that we are control-freaks with our children. In the world, it is acceptable to let your children have their say, or to run all over you. It is thought that you are to make them as happy as they can be and to go back on your boundaries to do so. This is how the world loves. This is not what will make a child truly happy; in fact, it will more than likely ruin their character and eventually their soul. God has given us so much instruction in regard to child training and none of it says to make them happy and give them what they want. The bible mainly tells about how to train, or guide a child. Let us lean on the Lord in this area and ask often for wisdom to fulfill His command to us as parents; to train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
I had come across this website a few years ago and it has been a real blessing and has helped and encouraged me to train my children biblically. I do not endorse all that this website says or has on it, but I do endorse what is biblically correct. It is called Raising Godly Tomatoes. If you can, please take the time to look over all the website. If you have any feedback, good or bad, please share in the comments.