What Does the Bible Say about How to 'Train Up a Child'?

GodUpdates Contributor
What Does the Bible Say about How to 'Train Up a Child'?

“Train up a child in the way he should go; Even when he is old he will not depart from it” Proverbs 22:6

The day I learned I would be a mother, I seriously thought God had no clue what He was doing. I was a 17-year-old still in high school. Being a mom wasn’t exactly on my agenda. But here I am nearly 22 years later and now I understand what it means to “Train up a child in the way that he should go…” Despite being a child myself, God saw it fit to give me three amazing, free-thinking, strong-willed children. The moment I met each of my kids, I knew each had their own personalities, natural bents, sin propensity, and dreams. Each was a mix of God’s creation mixed with humanity.

When I first became a Christian, I assumed that if I just taught my kids about Jesus that when they got older, they would love Jesus. Proverbs 22:6 almost felt like a “Whew, God will take care of it,” type of verse. But as I grew in my faith and my kids began making mistakes as all children will do, I realized that this isn’t what God meant at all. It wasn’t about raising obedient kids, it actually means to help your child discover her talents and gifts. It means to help your child discover the path God has for them.

What Does 'Train Up a Child' Mean?

What does it mean to train up? Proverbs 22:6 solidly affirms that parental guidance plays an essential role in the spiritual maturation of children. The words for ‘Train up’ are commonly thought to mean Bible reading, going to church, and memorizing the Bible. In reality what God actually meant train up to mean, “Watch me in His love, model His ways, pray for me as you see my natural giftings. Show me the path that God has for me. Help guide me as I seek His Will. Pray for me when I stray.” Keep in mind, all Scripture is God-breathed and used for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training. Teaching our children His truths isn’t a guarantee that they will adhere to God’s Word.

The original text for ‘train up’ is chanak, which means to dedicate or inaugurate. The Bible talks a lot about this. We are reminded in Deuteronomy 6:5-9 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” 2 Timothy 3:13 further reminds us, “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” We have a responsibility to teach them about what matters to God as much as we have a responsibility to draw out the talents and giftings God gave them. Nylse Esahc says it best, “Godly training is the parent’s responsibility, a child’s response is not.”

What Does the Bible Say about 'Train Up a Child'

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way that he should go; when he is old he will not depart from it.” At first glance, this passage does sound like a promise that every God-fearing parent wants. But that is not what God intended for this passage.

Let’s take a look at a few different translations: 

Train a child in the way appropriate for him, and when he becomes older, he will not turn from it (ISV).

Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it (HCS). 

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it (NIV).

Train up a child in the way he should go [teaching him to seek God’s wisdom and will for his abilities and talents], Even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Amplified Bible)

What Does ‘the Way of the Child’ Mean?

The word used for way is derek which means course for life, journey, or road. First and foremost, of course, this means godly direction. Secondly, it means cultivating what God has already instilled in each of our children. For example, my mom used to tell me that I was an amazing writer. She even got me a journal for my seventh birthday. But I didn’t think I could ever make a career out of my love for words unless I wanted to be an English Teacher. So, I went off to college and majored in Criminal Justice. It wasn’t until I was neck-deep in diapers that I began journaling online when “blogging” became a thing. As God would have it, I co-founded several amazing websites and had a career in the news industry as an award-winning journalist, became an author and now I am a full-time writer at home.

My mother saw my giftings and did her best to draw them out. Over the years of college and careers, she would remind me of my gift for writing as she would unhusk all the labels the world put on me. Now that I am a mother of three, I see each of my children’s natural talents. As much as I want my son to a pastor and my youngest daughter to be a doctor—I am in the process of encouraging Elijah to tinker with things because he is so good at fixing anything. And my youngest? She has this amazing, natural raw talent of sketching and drawing. All of her teachers are finding ways to continue to cultivate this talent too.

We honor God by pointing out He created them with purpose. He created each with giftings and talents and these gifts play a bigger role in God’s kingdom. Our job to watch and listen carefully. What excites your child? What does he do really well naturally? What bores her?

What do you do when you see a low grade? What happens if your child decides college isn’t for them? My older two children do not do well in school. When they bring home C’s and D’s—I don’t bat an eye. Because I help them with their homework, I know that school is a challenge. Both are hands-on learners. When my oldest began looking at colleges, we knew a traditional university wouldn’t be for her. Instead, she chose and thrived at a technical college where she learned hands-on skills for her career. This is what it means to help your child find their path!

Karen Whiting, the author of Growing a Mother’s Heart, offers advice about discovering our child’s gifts. She advises keeping a notebook and jot down notes as you expose your child to different experiences.

Make notes of various reactions:

What they say after an activity and the enthusiasm or lack of shown. When they are willing to persist and overcome challenges.

Go to the library and watch what books they choose. Show them ones related to recent activities to see if those interest them. Be willing to let a child opt-out after giving a good try to an activity. ON some, such as a team sport, you may need to set some boundaries at the start, such as the need to complete the season to not let down the team with the option that they will not need to sign up again.

Note what they talk about frequently, what they avoid, and ask what they like/dislike about the activity.

What about spiritual gifts? Read Romans 12:1-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 to learn the spiritual gifts God gives to His people and help draw these gifts out too!

How Should Parents Do This?

“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice” – Peggy O’Mara

If their inner voice is ours, let’s ensure we speak into their lives with unconditional godly love with His Words on our lips. Part of parenting is doing our best to raise up faith-filled kids. You may not think your children are watching or listening to you. Several studies point out the opposite, especially for fathers. CBN reported, “Swiss researchers discovered that if Dad faithfully attends church, even though Mom doesn’t, kids are still 44 percent more likely to keep going to church as adults. But if Mom goes regularly and Dad never shows up, only 2 percent of the kids continue to attend. That’s a very big gap and a telling sign of why the father’s influence is so significant.” Curtis Burnam a youth pastor illustrates this point, stating, “Kids who are taken to church by Mom but not Dad are harder to keep in church. They tend to drop out at higher rates when they reach adolescence. They are also harder to engage when they do come to youth group. This is true for girls as well as boys.”

Not only do we have an influence on how they see God but in every other area of their lives. We need to walk the walk and talk the talk. Strive to be real and authentic about your own struggles instead of telling your children, “Do as I say, not I as I do.” We have an incredible opportunity to partner with God and do our best to raise up our children in the way God wants them to go.

Further Reading

What Does it Mean to Train Up a Child in the Way He Should Go?

Does the Bible Say How to Train Up Your Child?

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes

Heather Riggleman is a believer, wife, mom, author, social media consultant, and full-time writer. She lives in Minden, Nebraska with her kids, high school sweetheart, and three cats who are her entourage around the homestead. She is a former award-winning journalist with over 2,000 articles published. She is full of grace and grit, raw honesty, and truly believes tacos can solve just about any situation. You can find her on GodUpdates, iBelieve, Crosswalk, Hello Darling, Focus On The Family, and in Brio Magazine. Connect with her at www.HeatherRiggleman.com or on Facebook.  

This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy-to-read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. We hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in your life today.