By Carla Adair Hendricks

I’d heard these words quoted countless times before – in parenting books, at adoption conferences, in church pulpits.

I too had quoted these words – to a struggling mom of young children, to fellow church members, to my Twitter followers.

“Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.”

I had utilized this passage in my life as a mother of four as a formula of sorts that looked a little like this:

Train a child in righteousness + time = godliness

In other words, I believed this Scripture promised that if I taught my children how to live a moral, godly life, then they would most likely live moral, godly lives as adults.

While this is a great principle with validity, this Scripture actually has a different intent altogether. When examined with a keen eye, the original meaning teaches us to encourage our children to follow their natural bent in life.

Let’s take a look at the Amplified Bible’s translation:

“Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

So what’s the Bible telling us moms to do?

As a parent, I am called to observe my children’s natural talents and strong interests – how they’re “wired.” I must recognize those talents and bents as God-given, even when they’re very different – and even contrary – to my own talents and personal bent.

Then I encourage each child to pursue those talents and interests, to the glory of God and the benefit of others.

Mind you, this sounds easier than it is. Just take a peek into my home.

I have four children – two boys, age 15 and 11 and two girls, age 7 and 4. Needless to say, my 4-year-old’s preschool life is very different from my 15-year-old’s high school life. To say we’re all over the map is a gross understatement.

On one hand, I’m still scouring the Sunday newspaper for nighttime Pull-up coupons and praying for potty-training completion. (We’re truly believing this sweet child won’t walk down the aisle with a Pull-up under her wedding gown.)

On the other hand, I’m scouring websites for college options and praying that our son will be the blessed recipient of a full scholarship. (Even though paying this particular child’s portion of the grocery bill has got to outweigh even an Ivy League tuition.)

When I’m overwhelmed with school papers, meal preparation and that dreaded laundry, studying each child’s particular gifts, talents and bents takes great effort and a considerable amount of time. Each child has drastically different and strong bents. I’m raising a Christian rapper, a football jock, an actress/rock star and a future president of – well, president of something.

With the call to train them each in the way they should go, I’m trusting God for the strength, wisdom and love to guide each of my precious, awesome children.

What has helped you identify and nurture the natural talents and gifts in your children?

Carla Adair Hendricks is a pastor’s wife, a mom of four amazing children, a writer, blogger and advocate for adoption and foster care. She has published in Guideposts, AARP Bulletin and 501 Life magazines and lends her writing and social media “bents” to Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas, The CALL and Little Rock American Christian Writers. To follow her story and passions, read her two blogs @ Carla Adair Hendricks and A Pastor’s Wife’s Garden Also follow her on Twitter (@carlaahendricks) and Facebook.