A verse often misused is Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old, he will not depart from it” (KJV). Many have been led to believe we can mold our children to be exactly what we want them to be—godly great students, kind, respectful, hardworking (basically perfect)—and when they grow up, even if they wandered a bit, they will be all those things again eventually—they will not depart. But the actual meaning of “the way he should go” is to train each child “according to his bend,” like how each tree tends to grow in a certain direction. Each child comes with a unique set of traits and is not meant to be a carbon copy of you.

I had two children close together, and they were polar opposites. A few years later, a third one came along. I quickly learned there must be three poles, because this one was as unique as the first two. They had different talents, different emotional responses, different methods of play and study, and even different styles of disobedience and rebellion. One would try to charm me when in trouble, another break down into a blustering emotional mess, and the third would just look at me as though she had hexed me with a death curse. I soon realized the discipline and direction used for one child had zero effect on the other, or the opposite—a devastation that was way more horrible than the actual offense.

This was the same for all areas of life. As you get to know your child, think carefully what is needed to train them “according to their bend.” What are their gifts? How do they respond best to discipline? What activity do they love? What do they hate? How can you encourage them to become who God created them to be and not try to make them into mini versions of your own self, all the while not giving in to either the charm, the meltdown, or the hex. Look for positive ways to motivate your children in those activities they hate, like chores or studying for some. Use stuff they love as a reward for having accomplished something difficult. Study their individual “bends,” and then look for ways to train them in godliness and life based on how they were created. 

— Daphne Murrell 

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