targeting the heart {parenting: part 3}

Read the premise for and additional notes on this series.

Part 3: Targeting the Heart

We must be aiming to impact the hearts of our children and not just change their behaviour.

We live out of our hearts:

“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” –Luke 6: 43-45

God has already given us everything we need to guidance. He is in me, for me, and with me. 

Each person’s heart is their causal core. According to the Bible, the heart can: repent, believe, see, pray, sing, discern, grieve, think, list, give, harden, fear, hate, love, pray, turn away, rejoice, know, remember. The things you do and say are an overflow of the heart. You can’t do or say something and then say that you “didn’t mean it.” You did mean it. Your heart was angry. You wanted to hurt someone.

We have to focus on the heart of our kids, and not their outward resulting actions. Lasting change travels through the pathway of the heart, so that the resulting behavior is good, genuinely good. In our frustration as parents, we use:

  • threats (“you don’t want to know what will happen if you keep xxx”),
  • manipulation (“if you are good, you can have xxx”)
  • guilt (“you shouldn’t be driving your parents crazy like this”).

These things may change behaviour, but they don’t change heart motivations. When that child is faced with a decision on their own, without a nagging parent hanging above them threatening, manipulating, and guilting them, they’ll make the bad decision because there’s no overflow of good direction in their heart. Instead, we have to see that we have no ability to change our kids on our own. Our teaching helps protect them, but does not restore them. Only Jesus can help you teach them, and only Jesus can restore their hearts.

Being an Example:

 Every time you talk to them about their behavior, tell them also how you struggle. Model an understanding of what’s beneath their disobedience. 

What that looks like for us:

  • Understanding that Shilah’s behaviour comes from her heart has to be coupled with knowing that when discipline is hard or days are just challenging, God is not so unkind or unwise that he will call you to a task and not enable you to do it.
  • As a parent, we shouldn’t get angry. If I was truly concerned about the condition if my kids’ hearts, I wouldn’t be angry – I would be loving and compassionate and perseverant. In an instance that I am angry or upset or frustrated, I am angry not because she defied God, but because she defied me. She broke my law or intruded on my comfort. As parents, we have to get over ourselves. Confess to God that you are incapable of leading your kids with your own strength. God is calling you to value something greater than your laws and your comfort. This means a lot of prayer, for my own attitude and my own heart.

How it’s going:

  • There’s not a lot of immediate satisfaction in parenting. Sometimes, there is, but some days you’re disciplining a lot and they’re tiring and so whiny and it would be easier to let them watch three hours of TV and get some work done, because accomplishment in work often reaps praise quickly. It’s easier to just correct their crappy behaviour so that they’re not making you look bad in public or leaving you with a headache at the end of the day. It’s hard to parent, but I am trusting that it’s worth it.
  • We have to relate to them. I struggle everyday, so I can’t be surprised when she does too. In defiance, I turn off my alarm and go back to sleep in the morning. In defiance, Shilah turns and runs the other way when I ask her to come here please. Same thing. So, when I am disciplining, I try and talk to her a bit. “I know it’s hard to obey mama sometimes, and it’s more fun to play with your toys right now, but we need to clean up so that our friends feel welcome when they come over! Can you trust mama and obey?”
Next week, I will walk through practical questions to use in talking with your child. It’s my favorite part of everything we’ve learned!

the everyday: part 2 {august 26, 2011}

go to the everyday: part 1 to see what this series is all about.

the everyday: part 2 {august 26, 2011}
  • i still think Shilah doesn’t quite get that Jon leaves and goes to work everyday. the last few days she’s gone to the window by the door at 11am or 4pm or whenever she wants to see him and says, “dada. watch!” because she’s going to watch for dada to come up the walkway to the door. ummm, sorry bug. he doesn’t just wait out in the driveway all day for you to call on him.
  • she usually also asks for him when she wakes up, “dada?” as if she’s just checking if it’s the weekend yet and dada is here.
  • it has now been more than 100 degrees for more than 70 days this summer in austin. this will help cool you down.
  • i am learning to sew! slowly but surely and i know not a single sewing term. i am learning by watching youtube videos and just googling things when i get stuck. this is funny because, well, because i don’t know anything about sewing, so i end up googling things like, “what to do when needle in my sewing machine breaks” and “sewing machine making thumping sounds” and “how to make thread more tight when sewing.”

shilah, let’s find your shoes, it’s time to go.

i turn around to find her shoes and turn back to see this:

go? she says.

what a big girl.

girly outfits

shilah is spoiled with talent around her.

my aunt knit her this hat when she was a wee baby:

she has also knit a super sweet dress and bib, and now this sweater, presented with a matching dress and sandals. so cute!

if you are wondering, you can’t have this sweater. i mean, you could try begging aunt susan, but she is a creative bird and shouldn’t be caged. she doesn’t often make the same thing twice and that makes every piece so, so special!

one year

i could tell you how fast one year goes and how so much changes and how much they grow.

i could tell you how weird it is when you think…no, it can’t have been a whole year. but then it has.

or i could just show you this:

what’s the inclination of a child? {parenting: part 2}








Read the premise for and additional notes on this series.


Part 2: What’s the inclination of a child?

Kids are interpreters and worshippers.

  1. Interpreters:  Human beings made in the image of God don’t live life based on the facts of their experience, but based on their interpretation of the facts. We will dig to make sense of our existence. Kids will grow and learn and want to know more about life. They will look to what’s around them to understand purpose and why they’re here. They will ask layers and layers of “why” questions.
  2. Worshippers:  The human identity is to worship. In every moment, we worship something. We worship other’s approval when we lie about something we did or exaggerate a story to make it sound better. We worship ourselves every time we put our own interests over others. Kids worship themselves and their own power when they hit another kid because they feel wronged.

What that looks like for us:

  • Like being a theological community, we have to be in awe of God as parents. When Shilah stops on our way out to the car to smell the herbs growing in the pots outside the front door, I say, “Don’t those smell good? God made those to smell so pretty for you.” 
  • We have to constantly place God in the center of her world so that she doesn’t place herself in the center. My heart has to plead for her, “no, that is not what you want. That will never work. There is a God who loves you.” To show her that she’s not the center of everything, she is not to worship herself, I have to show her that I am not the center of my world. I need to help other people and take my daughter along with me. I need to interact with the world in a way that shows her that this life isn’t all about us. That means getting out of the house and getting involved in the city. That means taking meals to people and having people over to our house. That means effort and time and care and not separating my daughter from all of those things. She needs to see them! For us that means I am at home. I work from home and I take her with me most everywhere I go. We serve in the marriage ministry at church and we constantly have groups of people over to our house – large groups where people hang out and get to know each other and smaller groups for counseling. These people see our daughter and she sees them. She helps me prepare. Right now, that means she stands on a chair so she’s watching at counter-height while I prep dinner, and I give her a rag and she wipes off the coffee table. These are little things but they are important and she is learning.

How it’s going: 

  • This one feels silly at first but I try to do it at least a few times a day. She’s interested most anything I say, so I know I shouldn’t feel silly telling her about God!
  • It’s hard to incorporate your kids, when I have her clean the coffee table, I have to usually clean it again. The process takes twice as long. It’s way easier to have her just watch sesame street while I get done what I need to. But it’s not the same. So, I am constantly reminding myself to have patience and to bring her into whatever I am doing.

Takeaways for this week: Show them that because of God, they have purpose, and integrate them into service for others, so they see that this life isn’t all about them.

the everyday: part 1 {august 19, 2011}

i am using this blog to do a bit more documenting of family happenings.

you can tell, i know.

i have read jen’s blog for a while. years, perhaps. it is refreshing because it’s about her everyday life. most weeks, she publishes a post called, “bits and pieces” and it’s just a list, long or short, of what’s been going on with their family for the week. it’s encouraging because it’s real.

i will call ours “the everyday” and i will start now.

the everyday: part 1 {august 19, 2011}

  • shilah says a lot of words, and is starting to put two-word phrases together, “light on” “elton bone” “coffee hot” etc. lest you be mislead, i should tell you that those phrases don’t sound like the way you just read them in your head, they sound like “ly-eeeee—oohhhn” “el-tee—bo” and “faw-fee—ha”.
  • she eats probably eight servings of fruit a day and no vegetables. i am going to write this one off as a phase.
  • jon is now the financial manager and business manager of a school. the job is as big as it sounds and he is doing wonderfully at it. school started this week.
  • we are missing a chunk of flooring in our house and some areas of drywall from a leak we had this summer. hopefully i can update you when we get this all replaced. have a contractor you love? do let me know.
  • elton lost a bunch of hair on his back about six weeks ago for no real reason. nothing else seemed wrong with him, so we never went to the vet, and now his hair is growing back but thicker and coarser, and way, way darker (like, what was once white is now auburn).
that is a weird list.

what’s the significance of family? {parenting: part one}

hey look, a parenting series.

really, this is just a compilation of my notes and thoughts after lots of emails about disciplining a toddler and a parenting conference we attended by Paul Tripp about getting to the heart of parenting. i have no parenting expertise. to claim so would be quite foolish, however, it’s always helpful for me to hear from others what information they’re basing their actions on, what that looks like in their families, and how it’s going. so i thought i’d use the blog to share my thoughts and experiences. definitely share your experiences in the comments, or email me!

i’ll post a new topic every Monday for the next six weeks or so. no kids? not to worry, there will be all of the regular recipe and craft posts on other days.

The Significance of Family {parenting: part one}

The information:

Families are God’s primary learning community.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  Deuteronomy 6:5-7

It is not the job of our state or our schools or even our church to be the primary learning arena for our kids. It’s our job as parents to create that environment. The state protects the family, and the church and school equip and support the family. The job of the family is distinctly educational. It is the agent God uses to form the character of and context for the child. Family is intended to be a theological, sociological, and redemptive community.

  1. Theological Community: Because theology is the study of God, theological community is a community of people that studies God. The family must point to the being, character, and plan of God. God is the fact that dictated the earth. God made everything in the world that you and I live in. Teach this in your home!
  2. Sociological Community: The family is relational. God’s design is that we would live in community with willing, self-sacrificing love for one another. There is no better place to have this environment than in the family. In a family, children must live and share with people they didn’t choose. As a parent, you can’t ever look at your child after they lie to you and say they didn’t hit their brother and say, “I can’t believe you did that. I can’t believe you lied.” Because you can believe it. You do that same stuff every day. You lie, you manipulate someone to get what you want. You make a bad judgment call. You are that selfish. You ought to have compassion and tenderness when you watch your kids struggle to love!
  3. Redemptive Community: The family should point to the redemption of Christ. Through their struggle to love, your children will see that they can’t do it on their own. That creates a holy frustration. A desire for help. A need for Jesus. If we don’t point toward Christ, we seclude them from having to learn and struggle with love, and we teach them they don’t need anything but themselves. We create self-righteous Pharisees who have no draw to the gospel because they don’t think they need it.

What that looks like for us:

  • To be a theological community, we have to be in awe of God as parents. When Shilah stops on our way out to the car to smell the herbs growing in the pots outside the front door, I say, “Don’t those smell good? God made those to smell so pretty for you.” 
  • To be a sociological community, we can’t over-manage Shilah’s life so that she can avoid hard situations. I can’t skip having Shilah interact with other kids for a few weeks because she’s in a really grouchy stage where she has to be reminded a lot to share. To teach self-sacrificing love, we must have self-sacrificing love. We have to stay up late and get up early and we have to have discipline the same things over and over again. We have to help her struggle to love, which means when she gets in trouble for something, she stays on our lap until she’s emotionally ok. She stays until she acknowledges  that we forgive her, and we love her, and that she can trust us and love us too, even though we have to discipline her.
  • To be a redemptive community, we have to point to Christ. We have to talk about how it is hard to love, and we can’t love well on our own. Jesus loves us and he can help us love other people too. For Shilah, we talk about how it is hard to obey, “Shilah, I know you want to take your shoes off right now but mommy asked you not to. It’s hard to obey, but remember that Jesus loves you, and he can help you love and obey mommy.”

How it’s going:

  • Theological community: This one feels silly at first but I try to do it at least a few times a day. She’s interested most anything I say, so I know I shouldn’t feel silly telling her about God!
  • Sociological community:  This one is hardest for me. When something is hard for me, inter-relationally, I want to avoid it. But by avoiding situations where she could possibly be tired, upset, feisty, etc., I will be avoiding every situation and teaching her that it’s ok to not forgive people or run from someone who is difficult. This will also make her wonder if I will run from her when she is difficult. That makes me so sad to think about, because I never want to run from her! I have to get on the floor and play with her and help her learn what it means to love other kids and endure relationships!
  • Redemptive community: Second hardest for me. Even though she doesn’t understand all of my words, I want to be talking to her about how, when we understand the love of God, it is an overflowing of our hearts to love other people. It’s to hard to love others when we’re not filled and abounding with the love of God, we need Jesus! Again, I feel silly talking to her in multiple full sentences, but that is only my pride.
Takeaways for this week: be in awe of God, help your child love, and point them to Jesus.