engaging the heart {parenting: part 4}

Read the premise for and additional notes on this series.

Part 4: Engaging the Heart

This piece is short, but so, so practical.

We are wired not to see ourselves with accuracy. It’s why we get defensive when someone calls us out for something we did wrong, it’s why we want to blame our sin on and why things my boss says to me at my yearly review can surprise me.

We think we see well, and then we realize later that we didn’t see well. Later we look back  and realize where we were wrong. Sometimes years later. We make phone calls and say we’re sorry.

Kids are the same. A long, loud lecture doesn’t typically help your child see where his behaviours are wrong and his heart is in the wrong spot. We have to help to open the eyes of their heart by drawing them to personal insight. They need to see for themselves, not just hear us tell them.

We need to ask heart-oriented questions  any incident or misbehaviour to help kids see what was really going on instead of blaming someone else, or a situation, or just being defensive of their wrong actions. Here are five heart-oriented questions to bring them to this confession:

  1. What was going on?
  2. What were you thinking and feeling when this was happening?
  3. What did you do in response?
  4. Why did you do it? What were you seeking to accomplish?
  5. What were the results?
Do you see what those questions are getting to?
We can finally get away from, “You can’t hit him just because he hit you first!” Instead, it’s, “You can’t hit him because you are upset.”
Your heart is at the center of your actions. Your behavior came out of your heart – you can’t just blame it on another person or situation. You are responsible for how you act! You are responsible for how you respond!

What that looks like for us:
  • Shilah can say a lot of words but doesn’t string many together. She’s starting to talk about emotions. She’ll say “happy!” when we’re on the floor reading books. We’ll ask these questions in a simple form and help feed her some answers. “Shilah, you hit mama, you know that hitting is disobeying, right?” “When we had to leave your toys to go change your diaper, did that make you sad?” “Did that make you upset?” and talk her through – even though you are upset you have to obey, you can’t just hit mama because you are upset.
How it’s going:
  • Apparently I am also a child, because I find myself asking these questions in my own head when I start to get defensive, when I tend toward gossip, when I begin to be judgmental. I think these questions are as fitting for us as they are for our kids.



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!

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.