There is no doubt that the heart is the heart of the matter for each of us. This is what the Bible teaches and I have mentioned it elsewhere. The Bible teaches that the responses from the heart dictate the issues of each person’s life. If your heart responds with jealousy to others, for example, then jealousy becomes the main issue of your life. If your heart responds with pride then pride becomes the main issue of your life.
Your Child’s Heart
While you may be concerned with your child’s behaviour and how well they will fit in with your hopes and dreams, the main issue and challenge you should attend to is to train the heart of your child.
You can create an academic or a sportsman out of your child. But their career is not the most important issue. You can teach them to be polite and to please your parents, making a good impression wherever they go, but that is not the most important issue.
You can even train them to be well behaved and compliant all the time, but that is not the most important issue.
Your child’s heart is the most important issue.
Discipline and the Human Heart
Some parents will instruct their child, hoping that understanding will cause them to make wise choices. Some parents will set high standards for their child in the hope that when they miss the mark they are still performing above others. Whatever approach the parent takes the most important matter is the heart, not the actual behaviour.
Three children can all do the right thing, but for different reasons. One child might come when the parent calls, because they hope to get some food. The next child comes, only because they are following their sibling. And the third may tag along because they don’t want to be left on their own. All three have come when the parent called, but none of them has any real strength of character or maturity in their heart.
A well trained heart results in a child doing the right thing for the right reasons in heart, even in the face of oppostion. When a child does what they do not wish to do, with a fear of God and desire to please Him, then their heart is in a much better place than others.
Games Don’t Help
Playing games with your child will not help your child’s heart. Placating the upset child will not help the child’s heart. Allowing the child to get away with doing wrong will not help the child’s heart.
What helps the child is reality. A word of reality is worth a day of game playing. Your child needs to be wise, knowing what God requires of them and doing it because they want to please God.
The fun games which can easily be resorted to rob the child of the chance to discipline their heart and do what is right as an act of worship to God.
The Rod of Correction Helps
According to the wisdom of King Solomon your child’s heart is contaminated with foolishness. The only antidote to foolishness in the heart of a child is the ‘rod of correction’, which is not the same thing as the ‘rod of anger’. When a parent loves his child he will discipline the child with the rod of correction and drive the innate foolishness out of the heart of the child. This is a vital part of training the heart of the child.
Any parent who neglects the use of the ‘rod of correction’ is ignoring the wisdom of God and will fail to remove the foolishness that is in their child’s heart.
“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” Proverbs 22:15
Biblical Wisdom Given to the Child
Children respond to reality very well. Rather than telling your child fancy illusory things, instruct them in God’s wisdom and truth. They need to know that they were created by God, for God’s glory. They need to know that God loves them and has a powerful plan for their life. They need to know about the devil and his devices. They need to know of God’s grace and His ability to restore those who have been damaged by their wrong choices.
Children can comprehend that there is a devil who wants to draw them away from God and that it is up to them to choose to trust God even when it is hard to do so. Children can comprehend that when people have chosen to do something that does not please God they become trapped in that sin and find it hard to break free again. They can understand temptation, discipline and the joy of being forgiven.
Don’t hold back Biblical wisdom from your child.
I have to add this disclaimer, since I have met some pretty intense dads over the years. Some parents are too heavy in their discussion of spiritual realities. Children can feel completely smothered in the weight of spiritual intensity from their parents.
While I advocate spiritual wisdom being taught to the child I also advocate that the parents lighten up. Don’t bury your child in the intensity of the truths you are teaching them. Remember that God wins out in the end. There is no need for your child to want out of life, or to feel that everything will be one enormous burden. Be sure to celebrate God’s supremacy, Christ’s victory, our liberty and the Holy Spirit’s power.
When we have an accurate view of reality we will not be buried in intensity but dancing in anticipation. If your view of Biblical reality does not make you excited then you do not yet know the whole picture.
Turn the Light toward the Heart
When you are dealing with issues either in your child or impacting your child, be sure to open up the heart issues. Turn the spotlight onto the heart to reveal the heart issues in your child which relate to this issue.
When our children were being troubled by other children we would ask our sons, “What must be going on in the heart of that child that he must annoy you in order to be happy?” Our children quickly realised that these trouble children were in fact troubled children. Our children did not envy them nor wish to be like them.
You can also turn the spotlight onto your child’s heart. If they have been annoying one of their siblings you might ask them, “What makes you feel like you need to make your brother unhappy? Are you jealous of your brother?”
Your child is aware of their own heart. Your interrogation or investigation will resonate with their own perception and give them the emotional intelligence to be aware of their own heart.
Train the Human Heart
Once the child has a chance to see their own heart you are able to direct them to respond properly to the issues springing up in their heart.
As they learn to repent and forgive, their heart will be strengthened and they will move away from compromise to clarity and purity of response.
In all that you do as a parent, be sure to train the heart of your child.