Training Up Children in the Way THEY Should Go

Training Up a Child The Way He (or She) Should Go--and Letting Them Choose Their Path
Proverbs 22:6 says:

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

What does that verse mean? Sometimes we read it totally in a moral framework: if we train him in the way he SHOULD go, then he will learn right and wrong, and he’ll obey that when he’s old.

But what if you can read it an alternate way, too? What if you could also read it like this:

Train up a child in the way HE (or SHE) should go.

In other words, what if it means that one of the purposes of parenting is to help a child discover his or her gifts and callings? What if one of our jobs as parents is not to dictate to a child what we think the best route for them to take is, but to see how God is calling and equipping them?

I’ve always known this, and yet I made a huge mistake with my oldest child this year. She’s been taking some post-secondary courses online, and as we all sat down and looked at what program she could go into, we steered her towards a balanced program which had an emphasis on Science.

For the last few months, she has struggled in a variety of areas. I have wondered at the cause, and have prayed quite a bit, yelled at her a little too much, and gotten very frustrated with her.

But in a heart to heart with her last week, the truth was revealed. She simply hates what she’s doing. It’s not that she CAN’T do it; she’s actually getting good marks. But she hates it with every fibre of her being.

And so we have switched her major. Five minutes after we made that decision she sat down at the piano and began to play a really complicated piece she hasn’t touched in six months. It’s as if life came back to her again.

I had depressed and exasperated my daughter by pushing her in a direction she should not go. It was good advice; what my husband and I were saying made sense. But it only made sense in general; it did not make sense for her specifically. And each child is an individual.

My mother, who is a career counselor, made the observation that it is better to be the best, even in a very large and overpopulated field, than to be just mediocre in a smaller and more in-demand field. The best will always be in demand.

My younger daughter spends a lot of time at skating, and shares ice with some competitive figure skaters. Katie skates for the pure love of the sport, though she doesn’t compete. She just loves to learn. But she is often flabbergasted by how many skaters she talks to on the ice who absolutely hate being there. They may skate well, but they are only skating because their parents want them to. They would rather be anywhere else.

I never thought I would be a parent like that, and yet I became one without noticing. I am very glad that we were only off course for about six months, and we have since corrected. I have now encouraged my daughter to pursue the things that she genuinely loves and is gifted at.

This whole episode is a reminder to me that our dreams for our kids are often rooted too much in this earth–this makes sense for him, and he’ll be successful!–rather than in the next, looking at how God has equipped them for service. And it’s a reminder that we should never take pride in thinking we have it all together, because quite often we don’t.

Be careful about dreaming big dreams for your kids, and then pressuring them to fulfill them. Let God dream the dreams for your children, and let Him impress them upon your kids. Yes, kids need to be responsible, and they need to support themselves. But ultimately God has a plan for them, and it may not be to be the richest or the most successful. And as parents, we need to be okay with that.


  1. Megan G. says:

    Great post, Sheila.

  2. Christie says:

    Great post! My friends and family often cringe when they make statements about college and my kids and I say to them; “if they want to go to college”. They think I’m crazy. I tell them what matters most is the path God has set forth for them, if that includes college then so be it. But if not, then they have to figure out what they enjoy and as long as they can support themselves then more power to them. Society today puts too much pressure on children and on career in general. If it’s glorifying to God then that’s all that matters.

  3. Thanks so much sharing this. I’ve heard it mentioned that this scripture could mean that, but had never read anything where it was discussed in more detail. My children are young and I’m sure I will need this knowledge many times!

  4. My mom & I were talking last night about guiding our oldest toward a career that would put food on the table and having art as something for her to enjoy on the side. While I agree with the premise that we need to accept work we may not care for (for a time) in order to meet our obligations, I also know that should she succeed with art, it can be a wonderful (and lucurative) career.

    Right now, she wants to be a farmer, a scientist, an artist, a shop owner, an athlete, an animal trainer, and a Star Wars character. I’d say she has a wide variety of choices, some more profitable than others…

    As a homeschooler, we will be exploring some of those careers over the coming years through her schooling. I look forward to seeing what she chooses.

    And I am personally one of those “if they go to college” kids. Now as a mom of 3, I am in my 4th semester of college. I have finally figured out what I want to do when I grow up. :)
    sheridan recently posted…The Miracle in MotionMy Profile

  5. Thank you so much for this post! I try to be intentional in this because I grew up with parents who wanted to raise me in the way they thought I should go or what they had dreamed for me. It was very hard to find my way later, but I also thank God for those experiences because I am better able to relate to my children. This year I have received much grief for not having my oldest go out for t-ball or coaches’ pitch again. She hated it last year and I don’t want to subject her to that again. I am completely okay with my children not participating if they choose not to, even though organized sports are a very big deal where we live.

    I love what your mother has said about this topic. I hope others will feel the same way. I dream for my children to be happy and full of love for life and as long as they are moral in doing so I will support them.

    Thanks again for shedding light on this :)
    Kori recently posted…And So It BeginsMy Profile

  6. Fabulously said, Sheila!! Couldn’t agree with you more. We live close to an affluent neighbourhood and see kids in so many things their parents did there fore they should do or the dad just can’t let go of his time in the limelight when he competed in a certain sport and pushes his kids to do the same. Heartbreaking, actually. So glad you were able to gift your daughter with her desires to pursue a different avenue. I’m sure she will succeed with all her heart as well as her skill set and make you very proud :) Praying regularly for God to reveal each of my kids talents and desires so we can direct them accordingly.

  7. Lovely and so true. We all mess up as parents, but I think it’s beautiful that you hung in there, saw the problem, and cared about getting it fixed. It’s about the relationships we build with them that get us through the trouble spots.

  8. My parents made a similar mistake like that growing up. I was homeschooled almost all the way through and my mom made me take Spanish as my foreign language even though I was absolutely DYING to take French. Like so many people here in the US, she thought it would be a useless language to learn (don’t get me started…) and that Spanish would be much more useful. However, I HATED it and cannot remember a word that I learned. After two years, she finally relented to let me take French when another homeschooling mom started offering classes. And I went on to major in French in college, study abroad for a year in Strasbourg, France and become a high school French teacher. So, there you go. Had they not course corrected, who knows what I would have done with my life!
    Elizabeth@Warrior Wives recently posted…Can Female Friendships Threaten Oneness?My Profile

    • Great story, Elizabeth! And exactly my point. Although I can see your parents’ point, too. So often we do WHAT MAKES SENSE without really seeing that God may have another intention. And it’s learning how to listen to God when it comes to our kids that is so hard.

  9. Great post Sheila.

    It reminds me how easy it is to speak and teach things until we need to apply them in our own lives. Not that we go off on purpose, just that life is not an easy 1-2-3 step. we learn as we go along.

    Thank you for sharing this
    Ngina Otiende recently posted…6 Life Lessons from Dr ChangMy Profile

  10. I definitely agree with you Sheila. My boys are still small, but I want so much for them. I think a lot of times we as parents often look at the pain that some people go through when they don’t follow our path. But when we let go and let God have His way, He will lead them in the right way. It’s tough because we want our children to have success and security, but the question is, “Who’s security do we want them to have–ours or God’s?”

    I will keep watching to see where my sons’ gifts and passions lie and then I will trust God to lead us so they will serve God with excitement and in obedience.
    Tiffany Godfrey recently posted…Your Marriage: How Do You Keep It Spicy?My Profile

  11. Momofthree says:

    I totally agree! Ever since I could remember all I wanted to do was become an elementarty school teacher. When I graduated high school my dad told me there was no money in teaching (jobs were scarce at the time) and I should be taking business courses instead. I earned my Bachelor of Accounting and went on to get an accounting designation and am now working as a Deputy Treasurer. And I still dream of being a teacher. My job is a good one and I work with great people but I will never be great at it because I do not like the field. I dream of having the funds to go back to school and then to teach. I wonder where I would be if I had followed my dream way back when.

    • Oh, Momofthree, that’s sad! Thanks for the reminder that I did the right thing with my daughter this week. I hope that you can find joy in what you do, too!

    • Couldn’t you teach elementary school math with a BS in accounting? I know the laws are widely different, but Virginia definitely doesn’t require you to have a degree in teaching to teach. If you have a degree in Math or Science you just have to take a teachers exam or something and your in.

Comment Policy: Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. Any comment that espouses an anti-marriage philosophy (eg. porn, adultery, abuse and the like) will be deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are replying to another commenter, please be polite and don't assume you know everything about his or her situation. If you are constantly negative or a general troll, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Sheila Wray Gregoire owns the copyright to all comments and may publish them in whatever form she sees fit. She agrees to keep any publication of comments anonymous, even if you are not anonymous on this board.


  1. […] Training Up Children in the Way They Should Go – Sometimes we get our plans, our ideas and our wisdom mixed up with God’s plans, God’s ideas and God’s wisdom… especially when it comes to our kids’ futures. A good reminder! […]

Leave a Comment


CommentLuv badge