Last Updated on March 19, 2018

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Carla,
    Thanks for sharing your wisdom! I hadn’t thought about that verse in this way, either. Gives me new perspective.

  2. Carla, first I’ve got to say, you’re not alone with the potty training. (deep sigh). Same here with my 3.5 year old. We’ll get through it!!!

    I love this article. My husband and I always talk about nurturing our children’s gifts. I recognize that my son LOVES to sing and can hold a note very well. I know my husband is thrilled about getting him in sports (wink) but I’m more curious to see his musical abilities grow and mature.

    My three year old, Karissa was just in our room last night saying, “Look, Mommy. I’m Angelina Ballerina (from the show).” She LOVES the idea of ballet dance. And since MOMMY was a ballet dancer herself (even in adult years) I will SURELY get her in ballet. Warms my heart to see her long arms extend as she twirls!

    Gosh, I feel the exact same way that you do. How fun is it to know that God’s blessed us with amazing little people who will use their talents unto his Glory someday!!!

    Awesome, Awesome read sis!!!


  3. Great post, something I should reflect on more with my kids. I have a 6, 5, 2, and almost 1 year old. Life gets crazy just doing our daily stuff, that often their talents and needs to develop those talents are overlooked.

  4. Carla,

    Great article!!! Just want to also second the potty training woes, we are going through similar issues with our 3.5 year old. I cracked up about the Pull-Up under the wedding gown, sometimes it feels that way!!

    I have had to LEARN (insert struggle to) embrace the whole princess thing with my 3.5 year old, I finally cracked when I realized for this moment in her life the princess thing is her bent. And, when I was a kid I did gymnastics, I was really looking forward to enrolling her in gymnastics until once again, I was smacked in the face with the fact that gymnastics just isn’t her thing. Dance yes, gymnastics no.

    I am so amazed at how I already see aspects of her personality that she will carry for the rest of her life. Our youngest is 1.5 and I am already getting glimpses into her bent and I am excited to see what lies ahead. Thanks for the clarification on this often misused and misunderstood verse.

  5. I agree with trying to help encourage children by recognizing the things they like to do and helping them in those areas. Do you have any ideas on how to recognize a child’s likes, talents, etc? Some of our kids are easier to figure out and some we really don’t have a clue about, but I’d like to reach into their worlds and encourage them to grow up to be able to effectively use their God given talents.