Imagine for a moment that you’re driving down the road and the warning light on the dashboard of your car comes on. What is that telling you? It’s telling you that something on the inside of your engine or in the mechanics of your car is not working properly. What do you do when the light is shining in your face? Ignore it? Worry? Call the mechanic?
Did you know that your kids have a built-in warning light, placed there by the God of the universe? On this episode of God Fearing Kids and the Parents Who Raise Them, we’re going to learn how to assess the condition of our children’s hearts by using God’s built in warning light — their behavior.
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WHAT DO YOU MEAN, “GUIDE MY CHILD’S HEART TO THE HEART OF GOD”?
When we say that we want to help you guide the heart of your child to the heart of God, it may sound strange to you. What exactly are we talking aboout?
As Christians, we talk about our relationship with Jesus… we often say that our faith is a relationship, not a religion. That is the same idea behind what we’re talking about on this episode, it’s heart level stuff.
Christian parenting is a relational task aimed at helping children know how to connect to God on a personal level… and it mainly has to with guiding and shaping the child’s attitudes and character.
Before we get too far into it… let’s establish a very important thing…
GET THE RIGHT PARENTING MINDSET, FROM THE OUTSET
Parenting should NOT be aimed at generating the “right” behaviors from your kids. As author Ted Tripp says, that’s like hanging apples on a tree instead of cultivating a tree that produces good fruit.
So please, get that idea completely out of your mind.
Your mindset should be to help your children develop the right kind of heart.
Luke 6:43-45 provides great insight into this…
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.
Jesus is saying all those behaviors you’re so concerned about (and rightly so) come from somewhere… from the heart. That’s true for you and me, and that’s true for our children as well.
The HEART, the INNER PERSON (character, convictions, morality, etc.) is where all behavior comes from.
A PRACTICAL EXAMPLE OF FOSTERING THE RIGHT KIND OF HEART IN YOUR KIDS
let’s say you are the parent of a three year old little girl. Each day, when her Daddy comes home, she runs to him squealing and gives him the biggest squeeze around the neck. Obviously, she’s very excited to see her Daddy. She’s missed him all day. She’s full of joy.
This is a perfect scenario for you to teach your little girl an awareness of herself and what her behavior is communicating. We recall situations like this and the Lord giving us the insight to help our children put words to the things they were feeling. It went something like this…
We would say, “The way you just hugged Daddy around the neck so tightly was great! Does that mean you’re happy that he’s home?”
And our little girl would smile cutely and say, “Yes!”
Our response would be something like, “That is so great! I’m glad you’re happy that your Daddy’s home. Did you know that Jesus is happy that your Daddy is home?”
She may say, “No,” or she might not know how to respond, but she is coming to realize something about herself… “I am happy. My Daddy’s home. That’s why I give him a hug.” She also realizes that Jesus is happy that her Daddy’s home, too.
What are we doing in that scenario? We’re planting seeds, beginning to shape her heart . We are teaching her that Jesus is real and personal in her life, and that He feels the same type of things she feels in that situation.
Let’s stick with that same three year old girl for a moment. Let’s say nap time is over and she comes out of her room, all sullen and moody. You can’t even see her eyes, her eyebrows are so low. Her face is kind of pouty. She’s giving off this, “Don’t touch me,” vibe to everybody who’s around her.
What should a parent do in a situation like this to help that little girl form her heart into a Jesus-like heart?
First of all, observe and assess. See if it happens regularly after every nap. If so, then the parent should realize her moodiness is an issue that needs to be addressed. It’s a heart condition.
“My little daughter’s having an attitude that I need to teach her out of. Because if I, as the parent, do not teach her out of this moodiness, her bad attitude and behavior will bleed into her older years… junior high and high school. If she doesn’t learn how to get out of her moodiness at three, she might have a very hard time getting out of it at age 13.”
In a situation like this, you would do the same kind of thing as in the last example. Go to your daughter and ask, “Why are you sad? Why are you off in the corner?” Try to help her describe what she’s feeling. Many times, a three year old doesn’t know how to describe what they’re feeling. So you help them. You would ask, “Are you feeling sleepy? Did you not want to play with your brother? Are you feeling sad? Are you feeling mad?” Just ask the Lord to help you have discernment about what’s going on so that you can ask the right questions. Once your child is able to articulate what they are feeling, then you can talk more about that. Other times your child really might not know they might be too young and they just can’t figure it out.
It’s then when you say, “Well, when you come out of your nap, Mommy wants you to be happy. Mommy wants you to be loving to your brother. I want you to put a smile on your face and I want you to do that because Jesus loves you. He wants you to be happy. Tomorrow, when you wake up from your nap, I’m going to remind you to be happy.”
Then, when the next day comes, you look at her behavior. Is it appropriate or not? If not, you discipline her appropriately.
This situation actually happened with our three year old daughter. It took about a week’s worth of training with her regarding her moodiness, then afterwards, she actually woke up from her naps feeling happy because the week before we were making her act happy, the week after that, she actually had the freedom to feel it.
Notice the difference between simply requiring right behavior and what we did. We talked it through with her, so she was able to understand the right and wrong of it. We pulled Jesus into view so she could see, in her 3 year old way, that He is involved in her life and desires to help her be the kind of person He wants her to be.
THE HEART IS AT THE BULLSEYE OF ALL BIBLICAL INSTRUCTION
Proverbs 5:21 says…
For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord and the Lord ponders all his paths.
This verse describes and defines what it is we’re trying to do when we are leading our child’s heart to the heart of God.
God sees all of our life, every moment of the day, and God has thoughts about what we do and what we don’t do. He’s graciously given us the entire Bible to instruct us how to live. He’s also written what He thinks of us and how He loves us and forgives us.
That is what we want to communicate to our children every moment of the day, that God is aware of them and that He loves them, is patient with them, is slow to anger, and delights to help them overcome their sin and selfishness.
But they also need to know that He is angry at their sin. He also loves what they did or hates what they did. But He’s ready and willing to forgive.
We’re trying to get them to see the world and see their life the way God sees it, and then to bring their heart attitude and their behavior in line with God’s view of their life.
If we parents are going to do that, we first of all, have got to keep our own heart on track with the Lord. It’s hard to discern if our kids are off track, if we are off track. We covered this issue in-depth on episode three. So go back and review if you need to do so.
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Episode Transcript (click to open)
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Episode 5: How you can guide the heart of your child to the heart of God
Imagine for a moment that you’re driving down the road and the warning light on the dashboard of your car comes on. What is that telling you? Well, it’s telling you that something on the inside of your engine or in the mechanics of your car is not working properly today on God fearing kids and the parents who raise them. We’re going to learn how to assess the condition of our children’s hearts by using God’s built in warning life, their behavior,
Hey friends, welcome back to God, fearing kids and the parents who raise them. That’s you, I’m Carey green and I am Mindi. And we are here to help you today. Guide the heart of your child to the heart of God. That may sound strange to you. What do you mean guide my kids’ heart to the heart of God? Well, as Christians, we talk about our relationship with Jesus. That it’s a relationship, not a religion. Well, this task that we’re talking about today is a heart level task. It’s a relational task that parents have to engage in to help their children know how to connect to the heart of God, especially when it has to do with their own attitudes and their own demeanor and their own sinfulness. We want to start tiptoeing into the area of correction and discipline, and it’s all based on their heart condition.
It’s not based on behavior. It’s based on heart condition. That’s something we want to just get really clear right here at the outset is your mindset. As a parent should not be all about right behavior. Your mindset should be about right heart. So I’m going to read Luke chapter six here, just to show you why this is so important. And then Mindi’s going to jump in and give some examples of how you might be able to tell your child’s heart condition in various settings in various settings, right? Luke chapter six versus 43 through 45 says 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 Figgs are not gathered from thorn bushes 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. So just in summary, Jesus is saying all those behaviors you’re so concerned about have a source. And that source is the heart that goes for your behavior, my behavior and our children’s behavior. All right. So let’s talk about some of the behaviors you might see that indicate that there is a heart that needs to be addressed either positively or negatively. Mindi. Why don’t you give us some ideas here?
I’m thinking of, let’s say a three year old little girl who, when her daddy comes home, she runs to him squealing and just gives him the biggest squeeze around the neck. And obviously she’s so excited to see her daddy she’s missed him all day.
She’s full of joy.
Yes. So that’s a great example of how you can start teaching your young little girl, an awareness of herself and what her behavior is communicating. And I remember doing things like this with our children in, in these positive behaviors where I would come to them and say the way you just hug daddy around the neck. So tightly does that mean you’re happy that he’s home and they would smile real acutely and say yes. And I’d say that is so great. I’m so glad you’re happy that your daddy’s home. And did you know that Jesus is happy that your daddy is home? You know, and she’d probably say no, you know, she would have no idea. So in that situation, she is coming to realize, I am happy. My daddy’s home. That’s why I give him a hug. And then she also realizes Jesus is happy that my daddy’s home. That is how you plant seeds of starting to get to their heart and starting them to learn what Jesus is thinking in His heart.
Yeah. Good, good. Well, let’s stick with that same three year old for a moment. And let’s say nap time is over. And she comes out of her room, all Solen, whether you can even see her eyes or eyebrows are so low and her face is kind of pouty. And, and she’s just kind of like giving off this. Don’t touch me vibe to everybody who’s around her. Assess for me,
What I think parents would need to do in that situation is first of all, observe, see if it happens regularly after every nap. And then the parent would realize this is an issue. This is a heart condition. My little daughter’s having an attitude that I need to teach her out of. And the reason being is because if I, as the parent do not teach her out of it, that will bleed into older years. I’m thinking junior high, high school. If she doesn’t learn how to get out of her moodiness at three, she might have a hard time at 13 getting out of her
Moodiness. She might have an excruciating time at 13.
Definitely. Definitely. So in that situation, you would do the same kind of thing. And you would come to your daughter and ask, why are you sad? Why are you off in the corner? You would try to help her to start to describe what she’s feeling. And many times a three year old, three year old, doesn’t know how to describe what they’re feeling. So you would want to help them. You would ask, are you feeling sleepy? Did you not want to play with your brother? Are you feeling sad? Are you feeling mad? Just ask the Lord to help you to have discernment about what’s going on so that you can ask those right questions. And sometimes it’s, it’s helpful. Sometimes your child can say I’m feeling sad. And then you can talk more about that. Other times your child really might not know they might be too young and they just can’t figure it out.
It’s then when you say, well, when you come out of your nap, mommy wants you to be happy. Mommy wants you to be loving to your brother. I want you to put a smile on your face, and I want you to do that because Jesus loves you. And He wants you to be happy tomorrow. When you wake up from your nap, I’m going to remind you to be happy. And then it starts in the whole process of she’s learning to do the right thing through right behavior. And that’s when we look at her behavior the next day, is it good? Or is it bad? And if not, we discipline her appropriately. So that’s a good example for negative behavior of how you can train your child to have the right heart attitude based on what Jesus is wanting for them. This is an example that we give, because this actually happened with our three year old daughter. And it was probably a week’s worth of training with her on that, that afterwards she woke up actually feeling happy from her naps because the week before we were making her act happy, the week after that, she actually had the freedom to feel it
<laugh>. Yeah. And as we were making her act happy, we were also reinforcing what reasons she had to be happy. And so all of that combined to help. Now, let me give you another scenario. So let’s move some years into the future and say, we have a nine year old boy and he’s sitting at the dinner table and everybody’s pretty much wrapping up and he’s still got his asparagus on his plate. And he’s just sitting there going and not moving his for not doing anything. Maybe just poking at his asparagus. And he’ll kind of look over at you again and go assess for me.
Well, I think that eating situations are always really hard with young children, especially whether you make them eat this asparagus or not. It depends on what you’ve already, maybe gone through with them. I think making them eat the food is not always something that you want to hang your hat on. That that’s the most important thing. It’s the way they’re communicating what their attitude is. A child who’s sitting there just sign heavily. He’s trying to get a point across and many times our children at a very young age, they try to manipulate us. They, they will roll their eyes. They will sigh heavily. And so what you want to do is you want to ask your son, why are you SI heavily? Are you, why are you not eating your asparagus? Are you not happy? Are you upset with something? Are you wanting to get down? And in that situation, the boy has the freedom to be able to clearly say what he is wanting most likely in that situation, he probably would say, well, I’m wanting to be done. It’s amazing. So many times how our children will not just clearly say what’s on their heart. They try to manipulate
Even when what they want is not a bad thing.
Yeah, exactly. Many times we find that our children try manipulation because they’re afraid of our response and our action. Yeah. At those times I’ve always been so happy to be able to, just to tell them, well, if you don’t want to eat your asparagus, you need to just ask mommy, can I be done and not finish my asparagus? That’s teaching them to be truthful about what they’re really thinking and feeling. And then I can truthfully answer them about what I think is best for them.
It’s also teaching them to recognize mommy is good. Yes. Mommy is not here to just be an ogre and make your life miserable. Mommy can be approached. Mommy is kind, you know, all of those things that are true of you. Hint, hint, parents, that should be true of you. <laugh> because you want your child to learn. They don’t have to manipulate manipulation is, is really the worst thing they could do.
Yes, exactly. And when you find that your child is fearful about something and you find that they’re being manipulative, hoping that they can get you to do something it’s so important to get to their heart and get them to admit what they’re really wanting. Because then you can use that example to show the goodness of your heart for them and to tell them that this is God’s heart towards you. He loves you. And He wants to give you good gifts. He knows that you didn’t want to eat that asparagus. He knows you wanted to get down. He wants you just to simply ask me.
That’s great. I think these examples are good to help us flesh it out. None, none of these are super serious rebellious behavior by the kids. These are just everyday common examples that you might face. So let’s move forward. And just talk about the basics of leading your child’s heart to the child of God what’s involved here. Well, Proverbs 5 21 says for a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord. And he, the Lord ponders all his paths. And many you were saying to me just a bit earlier that this verse really kind of describes and defines what it is we’re trying to do. We’re leading our child’s heart to the heart of God. Why don’t you tell everyone what you were telling me?
Well, this verse talks about basically that God sees all of our life every moment of the day, and God has thoughts about what we do and what we don’t do. And He’s given us the whole Bible to instruct us of how to live. And he’s also written in His word, what He thinks of us and how He loves us and forgives us and he’s compassionate and gracious. And so that is what we’re wanting to communicate to our children every moment of the day, that God is aware of them and He loves them and He forgives them and he’s patient with them and he’s slow to anger. And he’s also angry at their sin. He’s also ready and willing to forgive. He also loves what they did or hates what they did. That’s just a reality that if God’s eyes are on us every single day, then it is so very important for us as parents to teach our children that reality.
Yeah. And so in leading our child’s heart to the heart of God, we’re trying to get them to see the world and see their life the way God sees it, and then to bring their heart attitude and their behavior in line with God’s view of their life. So if we, as parents are going to do that, we, first of all have got to keep our own heart on track with the Lord. It’s hard to discern if our kids are off track, if we are off track, because everything gets skewed by the power of sin. So that issue, we covered pretty in depth on episodes one and two. So be sure you go back and review that if you need to bone up on keeping your own heart on track with the Lord. Secondly, we got to be praying as many mentioned all the time for God’s provision of wisdom and just asking the Lord all the time, gimme wisdom to see what’s really going on. We covered that in episode three. So go back there and we can talk about that.
And a good thing that would help with that is as part of your quiet time, maybe read through Proverbs because it is an excellent prayer list for your life and for your children’s life. If you’re wanting your children to know wisdom, read the Proverbs, it will help you to know how to pray for them and to guide them.
And then next in this process, I think we need to sit down and really give some thought to the condition of our children’s hearts. So if you have three kids, think about each of them individually, where their hearts at, toward the Lord, toward me, toward their siblings, you know, are there attitudes I’m seeing that are in need of improvement or areas where they continually fall into sin through temptation, you know, and, and assess, really make an assessment so that you know where you’re starting from.
And the next one really fits with that. Well, quickly address the attitude and the issue that you see with your child. It’s easy to be able to just to say, quickly address the positive. If you see your child doing something positive, praise them right there in front of whoever they need to be able to have that encouragement. But then the negative ones sometimes might be harder to think about. But I remember the conversations that Carey and I would have over our children. He would come home from work and I would let him know what I’ve noticed about one of the kids. I remember, I think it was maybe late elementary school. Um, junior high. I was noticing our oldest son was being disrespectful towards me and we were talking it through and I was giving to him the different examples. And we realized he’s moving into the stage of kind of, I don’t know,
Going to assert himself as a young man.
He’s challenging mom, because she’s the woman in his life.
Right. And it was, it was bordering being disrespectful. Yeah. And so Carey and I talked about it, we prayed about it and we decided that Carey needed to be the one to talk to our son about how he needed to respect me as his mom and because in one day he’s going to need to respect and love his wife. And so it was a really good teaching and training time. And I know that we came up with verses to read to him about that, but this is something that you are doing regularly and you will always do until you die because you will always be a parent. Even with adult kids, you assess heart conditions and attitudes that your adult kids have. And you need to bring him before the Lord and talk about them with your spouse to decide how’s the best way to pray. How’s the best way to respond.
Yeah. Now remember that situation with our son. Part of what I discussed with him from a biblical perspective is that when I married your mother, we became one. So when you are disrespecting her, you are disrespecting me and God is the one who made us one. So you are disrespecting God as well. And my son, he’s 30 years old now. And he told me a few months ago, he still remembers that conversation because I looked him in the eye and I said, I did not say you will not disrespect your mother. I said, you will not disrespect my wife. And he said that distance that I placed between him and his mom and making the relationship between me and her higher than that is what impacted him so much. And that’s the heart of God. God says the marriage relationship is the first priority relationship in the home. And then the kids are second. And so that really impacted him and it got to his heart.
Yes. And he has a beautiful heart. Now he fears the Lord. He honors and loves his wife and he teaches his four young boys. The same thing that Carey taught him that is God’s training in action.
Yeah. And that’s an example of the next point. And that is once you’ve noticed what the attitude or the issue is, you need to speak the truth in love. So you need to clearly define it for the kid. So they know exactly what you’re talking about. It can’t be ambiguous and vague. They need to know exactly what it is that you’re noticing in them. You need to expose it scripturally. So bring scriptures to bear on this situation like Mindi mentioned. And then in all of this, you want to be pointing out the presence and the care of Jesus in this situation, he’s caring for them. But also he cares about truth. Also he cares about kindness and love. I mean, anywhere Jesus touches the situation. You want to highlight that as well.
And do you notice that just in our talking that it’s our children’s behavior that alerted us to a heart condition. Yeah. So that’s the fruit either the bad fruit or the good fruit, the actions and behavior of your kids is very important. It’s an indicator about where the heart of your child is. So don’t only focus on the actions like we said, and if they’re doing good actions, their heart must be good. But what if they’re doing good actions, but they’re rolling their eyes as they walk away from you, even though they still might obey you, you’ve got to stop. And you’ve got to address the fact that they rolled their eyes at you.
Yeah. Yeah. And that ties into the two commands that God gives to children. The first is children obey your parents and the Lord for this is right. But the other is honor. Your father and mother parents seem to be really good at the obedience part in terms of trying to crack down on bad behavior or behavior that irritates the parents sometimes and have a hard time with the honor part because it’s less objective, it’s hard to discern and it takes a lot of work and it’s just easier to, you know, SWAT the kid and tell them quit doing that instead of finding out why they’re doing it, finding out what’s going on inside. But that’s where we’ve got to go.
And for parents who have young children, you’re at a good place because this is where you see a lot of heart issue coming out, even though they might still obey you. There’s a lot of huffing. There’s a lot of sign slumping of the shoulders,
Stomping their feet.
Yeah. Just a lot of different body language, even
Yeah. And tantrums that you can address because they’re expressing their heart, they’re getting their heart out. And it’s an, a great opportunity for you to help them to see what is it that they’re feeling. And bottom line, they need to come to the reality that they are just flat out wanting to disobey or they’re being selfish or whatever. And then that’s when you can teach them what God’s heart is for them and how he loves them and how he wants them to obey.
And our kids need to know that the reason for their obedience is really the same as the reason for our obedience as adults. And that is for our provision and for our protection, we give our kids rules and guidelines in the home because it provides for them. It gives them a great, a better environment. It, it provides harmony in the home. It provides an environment where there’s not a lot of stress and tension and that’s all good for them. And so our rules need to be explained in that context is because we love you, that we have you do these things. And if they’re old enough to understand, we explain that even more. But this issue I love the way Mindi said that their behavior is like the sign it’s, it’s the indicator. It’s like the warning light on the dash of the car that something’s going on under the surface.
And you’ve got to take the time to dig into that. Now, once you’ve gotten there, and once you feel like the kid is understanding the heart issue that you’re bringing to the surface, you want to watch for what? The scriptures in Psalm 51, call contrition con contrition and brokenness. It says the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrary heart, oh God, you will not despise. Now broken spirit doesn’t mean you broke their spirit by how harsh you were with them. That’s not, he’s talking about, he’s talking about someone whose heart is voluntarily broken because they see in sadness and in repentance, how bad they’ve been, how ugly they’ve been, how disobedient they’ve been. That’s what you’re watching for in your kid, because that’s a sign of repentance.
And we saw this in our children, as they got older, even grade school on up, our children would regularly come and confess wrong that they did that we didn’t even know about. That showed us that they had had enough years of being aware of God’s presence in their life. And they one felt a conviction because they did wrong. And they knew he was with them in the room doing it. And they were starting to have the desire to want to please God. So they, they were guilty and they had to do something with it and they couldn’t stand not talking to us about it. And that showed us, their hearts were becoming close to the Lord.
Yeah. And they also, I think had learned, mom and dad are gracious. Mom and dad will respond well to this rather than, you know, being punitive or coming down hard. I mean, when a kid comes to you willingly and confesses, that is a beautiful thing. You have a very good indicator there. The dash, the light on the car, that something good is going on under the surface when that’s the case. So in those instances, you want to lead your child to repentance. You want to lead them to repent, to confess, to God, to ask forgiveness, to do the things all of us need to do when we’ve done wrong. And then when they do confess you grant generous, loving forgiveness, if it’s against you, or if it’s against a sibling, you bring the sibling in and you teach them how to forgive. I mean, this is all like a relational laboratory.
I mean, we’re working these things out together in the home for the good of the family and really to sum it all up. Proverbs 16, verse number six has this great phrase at the end of the verse, it says by the fear of the Lord, one turns away from evil. So we’re teaching our children by showing them God’s heart. What he thinks about the situations of their life and their attitudes. We’re teaching them to fear him, to walk in humble contrition before him a place of, of humility and brokenness that God does not despise. And that turns them away from evil. So the behavior begins to change and their heart begins to shine through as the good and upright heart that it really is.
And a good, simple way to think about it is as you are training your child, you’re wanting to help to draw out what is in their heart, what they think and feel about in a given situation. And then you’re wanting them to know what you think and feel about that. And then you’re wanting them to know what God thinks and feels about that. And it could be a sin issue. It could be an obedience issue. It could just be a normal circumstance at school. Just anything. When they’re able to talk about what they’re thinking and feeling, it helps them to be healthy in their mind and in their emotions. And then when you help them to know how to think about it, because you’re telling them how God tells them to think about it, that is what is going to connect their heart to His heart.
Well said. I think that’s a great way to wrap this up. We’re going to thank you again for joining us for another episode. If you have questions about this or any other topic relating to parenting, we would encourage you to make a quick recording of your questions so we can include it in some Q and a episodes coming up. You can do that by going to God, faring kids.com and click the button that says, ask my question.
Thank you for listening. And we’re looking forward to next time.
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