The Secret to Successful Parenting: Cultivating Your Child’s Heart
This post is, in a sense, a guest post. This was given in the form of a lesson by Collen Hoffman, who is a wonderful example of a Christian wife and mother. Having raised three children, she has lots of wisdom to share, and I’m thrilled she is allowing me to share her talk with you in this format.
According to Colleen, the secret to successful parenting is to realize that it’s not about following a checklist of advice. Instead, it’s all about developing a strong relationship with your children and cultivating their hearts.
Cultivating a Child’s Heart
Cultivating a child’s heart is very similar to cultivating a garden.
- We must get to the root of the problem. If you deal with the surface problem but not the heart, it will spring back, just like a weed that isn’t dug out by the roots.
- It takes years to see fruit. Just like a sapling apple tree takes years of nurturing before it produces a crop, our children’s hearts take years of cultivating before we see all the results.
- We must correct problems while they are young and pliable. Children, just like young trees, must be straightened when they are young and moldable. If we wait too long, they will be too set in their ways to change completely.
Godly parenting address the heart – the core of the person. We cannot focus just on behavior and miss the heart. We have to find the root of the problem then help our children think Biblically about how to deal with it.
We also can’t be focused on a checklist of things to do to produce a perfect kid. No checklist can accomplish this. Instead, we need to be all about building meaningful relationships with our children.
Cultivating our Child’s HEART
- H: Hypocrisy destroys.
We have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. If our kids see us loving other things more than God (even good things can become idols) or if we say one thing but do the other, they will see our faith is not authentic. And they will want no part of it. (I also raise this concern in my post Why Do Kids from Good Families Walk Away from the Faith?)
And what about our motive? Do we discipline out of true love for our kids or are we disciplining out of pride (My kids’ behavior reflects on me.), a desire for control (I need everything to be orderly.), or a fear of man (Don’t you dare embarrass me!)? When we discipline for these reasons, we have motivation idols and are more concerned about our own reputation than the good of our kids. And what happens is that we only intimidate them. We don’t reach their hearts.
- E: Eyes and Ears (Be careful!)
Do you remember the lyrics to the old song “Be careful little eyes what you see….”? The truth is timeless. We must teach our kids to beware of the influence of the world.
There is a God, and it’s not you. Our kids need to hear this message because the culture is telling them just the opposite – that everything is all about them.
We can’t isolate our kids from the world, but their access needs to be guarded. As they get older, watch how they respond to temptations. If they are not responding well, establish new boundaries in the area in which they are struggling. On the other hand, if they do respond well, give them more freedom and see how they respond. The goal is to teach them to stand on their own.
- A: Archive: File God’s Word away in our hearts.
We need study and memorize God’s Word so that we have it ready to give to our kids. When your child struggles with a certain sin, come alongside them, tell them you understand their struggle, and take them to the Bible.
- R: Restore relationships
Our kids are going to misbehave and may even rebel, but we must always reestablish the relationship. If we discipline without love we build a wall between their hearts and ours.
If you find yourself disciplining one child a lot, make time to do something special with just them to show them love and rebuild the relationship.
Show them you love them with no strings attached.
Remember that we are demonstrating to them what God is like. Are we forgiving, merciful, and loving?
- T: Time equals love to our children.
Parenting is a process of repeated instruction, exhortation, and encouragement. It’s exhausting. We need to beware of being too busy. Being busy competes with intimacy and truly reaching their hearts. It’s tough because it’s not usually a choice between good and bad. Normally it’s a choice between good and good. Such as, should I take my kid to the park or make a meal for my friend who just had a baby? These are tough questions, but when we rearrange our schedule to make our kids a priority, they feel valued. Can we put everything else on hold when our kids need us?
Finally, in order to cultivate our child’s heart, we need to know their heart. And how do you get to know it? By asking questions and listening carefully to what their responses reveal about their heart.
Sample Questions to Ask Your Children
- What is your greatest fear right now?
- What do you worry about?
- What do you need more from Mom and Dad?
- What do you get really angry about?
- What do you get really sad about?
- What are your greatest dreams?
- What are your greatest joys?
What else have you learned that helps you cultivate your child’s heart? What are your biggest challenges? Share your experience with a comment below.