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!