by: Richelle Torres
Parenting Is More Than Changing Behavior
by Children's Pastor Mike Harvey
I think we have all been there. Your kids are playing together, and then one of them lets out a blood-curdling scream. You run over to investigate and learn that Johnny hit Sally — all over a toy he wanted to play with. After making sure everyone is unharmed, your mind shifts to changing behavior and how to discipline your kids.
Often, there are several basic ways of handling these kinds of conflicts with kids. The first can be to try and determine who had the toy first and justly return the toy to its original operator. A second option would be to try and encourage the kids to be better at sharing. Another option would be to take the toy away and tell the children that since they cannot “play nice,” they do not need to play at all.
Whether your default reaction to disciplining your kids is one of the ones listed above or not, I think the general tendency is to end the chaos as quickly as possible. And if you can do it without additional tears and screaming — even better.
But have you ever thought about how God would want you to handle that situation? How would he want you to teach discipline to your kids at that moment? Have you ever evaluated your own goals during a scenario like that? What if we were to stop and scan the scriptures for parenting advice? One of the themes that would stick out is that God is concerned about the state of our hearts, rather than simply behavior modification. Therefore, it follows that we should help shape their hearts too.
Here are three ways to help shape a child’s heart:
1. Ask Heart Revealing Questions
By no means can we ignore our children’s behavior, but we don’t have to stop after addressing it either. We need to continue on once the dust settles and ask good questions about their motives. We need to learn about what they were thinking before the hurtful words spoken or the unloving interaction with a sibling. Becoming good students of our kids starts by asking good questions that give you a window into their hearts.
2. Share Heart Revealing Truths
Sharing simple truths from scripture to show your kids their hearts allows them to compare what they are thinking, feeling, saying, and doing against what God wants for them. As an example, when my oldest son is being kind to his little brother, I like to remind him of 1 Corinthians 13:5, which says that love does not insist on its own way. I’ll ask my son, “Are you loving your brother right now? Are you insisting on your own way?” I try to get him to think about his own little heart and evaluate whether it is living for God or for himself.
3. Be Consistent
Hearts don’t change overnight. Be faithful to address the heart of the sinful behavior you see, and over time you will find that you and your kids are thinking more and more about the heart behind the behavior. It will go easier for your kids to consider the heart behind their behavior and easier for you to point their little hearts back to loving God. And that is what God cares about the most.
As parents, we need to recognize that disciplining kids is not all about behavior modification. We are called to help shape our kids’ hearts and help them grow in a love for God. Helping our kids to consider whether their thoughts, words, attitudes, and actions are motivated by a love for God is one of the greatest parenting techniques we can do.
*The content of this week’s blog is taken in part from an article written by Focus on the Family’s, Josh Zeichik. Click here for the full article.