"The proverbs of Solomon: a wise son makes a father glad,
but a foolish son is a grief to his mother"
This chapter marks the beginning of a new section in the book of Proverbs. These are still inspired by God and written through the pen of Solomon, but these are more individual in their attention than the last section.
This section of the proverbs are insights into life and comparisons that point out unique and little-seen ways of finding and living out life wisely. Notice that Solomon will point out a truth by comparing it with another thing in order to highlight a particular truth. He will say that this is more valuable than that. In this way he is helping us establish priorities for our decision making. He will show cause and effect that is often overlooked in the ordinary course of life.
Remember, also, that he will connect these proverbs through thought rhymes. This Jewish device provides the context to the proverbs. In the west we are impressed with word rhymes, but in the ancient culture they used thought rhymes where each verse is linked to the verse directly before it or two verses previous by a similar thought. This insight hooks to another insight about the same or similar idea even though the application is in a completely different aspect of life. This is a very powerful form of learning called hooked learning. It is almost like a person is saying, "I found that insight fascinating; do you have any more insights about that truth?" The teacher then tells you about another place that truth applies.
a wise son makes a father glad
There is a question whether this is written for parents or for children. One of the things that all boys want to do is have their dads be proud of them. Solomon is saying that the surest way to have your dad be proud of you and burst with pride about you and your accomplishments is if you become wise. If a father can show how his son has beat the odds and is a wise man with others respecting his advice and demonstrating a real level of success through that wisdom, this will make a father proud. Solomon clues children in with this so that they do not have to guess as to how to make their parents proud. Become wise and your dad especially will be proud.
This proverb is also aimed at parents in that it is the parents who largely determine whether the child becomes wise. It is their shepherding and care that determines whether a child has any interest in becoming a giving, patient, team player. If a parent is never around and does not demonstrate the essential qualities of wisdom, then where will the child pick them up?
On a personal note, I have to say that a large percentage of the desire for wisdom that I have comes from being raised by my father who is one of the wisest men I have ever known. As I was growing up he constantly pointed out the difference between two choices and where the results would go. He was there to love, support, direct, and correct me. He also was an incredibly consistent role model of what a wise man looked like. My hope is that I make him proud in my attainment of wisdom.
Parents, there is nothing but grief waiting for you if you neglect to raise your children with love and wisdom. There are few things more painful than watching one or more of your children turn their lives into a train wreck. Put the time in to make sure they know that you love them. Point out the good and bad choices that are available to them. Correct them and nurture them. Listen to them and don't always feel like you have to have the last word.
Wise children are a wonderful gift that you have a big part in creating.