What Does it Mean to Parent the Heart?
Parenting the heart…
That sounds like a pretty phrase, but what does it really mean?
I believe there is a vitally important difference between teaching children to obey you and teaching children to do what is right.
Teaching a child to obey means that when you teach your child to clean his room, he does — as long as you tell him to do it and stand there to make sure he does.
Parenting your child's heart means that your child cleans his room on his own because he has learned the value of diligence in his work.
Teaching a child to obey means that your child shares with his friends – when you tell him he needs to share.
Parenting your child's heart means that your child shares without being told because he has learned that God wants us to be kind to others and think of their needs before our own.
Teaching a child to obey means your child turns off the video game — when you tell him to.
Parenting a child's heart means your child turns off the video game without being told because you've taught him the value of using time wisely.
Don't get me wrong. It is important that parents teach their children to obey.
But if we're not careful, we can end up focusing on our children's actions instead of their heart attitudes.
We are satisfied that they pick up their toys when we tell them to. We are satisfied that they share their toys when reminded. We are satisfied that they turn off the video game when told (and happy when they do it without complaining!)
But what happens when you're not there to tell them to clean up or share or turn off the video game?
When your daughter is grown and married, will her house be a wreck because you're not there to tell her to clean it up?
When your grown children have friends going through a hard time, will they pass them by without a second thought because you're not there to tell them to think of others?
When your son is out on his own will he waste all his time on foolish pursuits because you're not there to remind him to use his time wisely?
When we teach our children to obey, we must teach them the Biblical principles behind what we're telling them to do. We must also help them understand other life situations to which they can apply that Biblical principle.
When you tell your child every little thing he is supposed to do rather than placing the responsibility for his actions directly on him, you are failing to develop that child's conscience. (And after his salvation, you are failing to teach him how to listen to the Holy Spirit's promptings.)
A sensitive conscience and a listening ear to the voice of the Holy Spirit will empower your child to do what is right on his own, without being reminded by mom and dad every time.
Maybe you've never thought about child training this way before. Maybe you knew you should be parenting your child's heart, but lacked the practical instruction to do so.
I was recently given the opportunity to review a brand new book entitled: Motivate Your Child: A Christian Parent's Guide to Raising Kids Who Do What They Need to Do Without Being Told.
I normally do not do book reviews on the blog since I just do not have the time to commit to it. However, this one really caught my eye as one that I'd like to read, so I decided to go ahead and do the review.
I am so glad I did!
I have something highlighted on almost every page of this book! There are so many practical ideas that I want to implement in our family.
For instance, after reading this book my husband and I decided it would be wise to implement a chore chart for our children. There are several things they are expected to do each morning before they start their day. It's not a reward or punishment system. They simply cannot come out of their room until their jobs are done. If the job is in another room of the house they must complete it before they can do anything else.
Rather than expecting them to remember everything or tell them what to do over and over, we gave them a visual reminder – a chart that hangs on the wall in their room. Now the ball is in their court. It's up to them to get the work done without being told. If they want to come out of their room they will get the work done.
Parenting this way takes lots of work and consistency. It's not a magical solution that is going to revolutionize your home overnight. But practice makes perfect – literally! The book contains activities that you can do with your children to practice exercising the conscience until doing right becomes a habit in your child's life.
You can order the book right here.
What changes are you going to make in your home to help direct your child's heart rather than focusing only on his actions?