I am reading the book Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel and this is what he says about this verse.
"Parents assume this verse is saying that if we raise our children in a Christian home, take them to church and Sunday School, point out the pitfalls of the corrupted world around them, and maybe put them in a safe environment then when they are older they are going to embrace the moral and spiritual presuppositions they were trained with in their youth...The problem is, I can come up with plenty of examples of kids who were raised according to the parameters that I just outlined, but they rejected the spiritual training of their youth when they got older. When parents see this happen, they wonder if God broke His promise to them. The answer is "NO." ...What is amazing to me is how so many people continue to misapply Prov 22:6.
The "train up a child" part has an interesting usage when you break down the Hebrew text. The expression "train up" is used in other Hebrew literature to describe a maneuver that ancient midwives used to cause newborns to begin the sucking impulse. Right after birth, they would take the juice of crushed grapes or dates and put it on their index finger and massage the baby's gums and palate. Besides developing the sucking responses, this would also cleanse the newborns mouth of amniotic fluids.
When used in Prov 22, the writer is saying that we should use childhood as an opportunity to build a clean and healthy thirst for life that God has uniquely designed for that child.....One of the most accurate English synonyms for this Hebrew word dereck would be the word bents.
This is how the same word is translated in Ps 11 referring to the bend of a bow.
If you were making a bow out of a tree limb, you'd first study the limb to figure out what its natural "bent" is. Then you'd string it. If you didn't do this, when you pulled the bow back it would snap because it was strung against its natural bent rather than with it. In the same way we are to groom our children according to their natural bents. This means coming alongside them with a plan to help leverage their natural and unique gifts and skills into highly developed assets that they can lean on in the future.
....it also means that we should study them enough to know which natural bents they have that push them in the wrong direction. They might struggle with an inordinate amount of fear, shyness, stubbornness, agrumentiveness, dependence, independence, sexual drive, or need to take dangerous risks. We can't make these liabilities disappear, but we are to raise them in such a way that we account for them and give them tools to help process them properly."
I think this is great perspective and I want to write more about how I see this playing out personally in my life later. Love to hear your thoughts.