Updated: Mar 10, 2020
Heart work is heart work. I have read many parenting books, especially the older my kids get. I have 2 sons a 14 year old and a 8 year old and 2 daughters both 12 years old. I know the frustration of trying to parent in a way that is steady, God honoring and intentional. I also know how my little blessings seem to bring the stark raving lunatic out of me, almost on a daily basis.
In November 2019, I attended a Children’s Ministry Conference in Nashvile, Tennesse. I chose the elective “Parenting from a Biblical perspective“ the presenters were Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller. They introduced us to the age old Biblical concept found in 1 Samuel 16:7 “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”. It was a simple and an obvious bit of truth.
Let’s get to it......
SEE WITH NEW EYES.... A Heart Story from the Bible. Samuel was tasked with anointing a replacement king for Saul. He obeyed the Lord and went to Bethlehem where he met the family of Jesse. Samuel knew it was from this family that he would choose the new king. When Samuel saw Jesse’s oldest son Eliab, he knew this must be the one. He was tall and handsome like Saul. God interrupted Samuel’s thoughts and told him, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him, The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.”
The authors then go into a great explanation, “YES, it makes sense! Why didn’t we realize it before!?! God‘s measuring stick is different from ours. He looks at the heart. Who knows, maybe Samuel thought if he would have seen earlier how God looks at the heart then maybe he would have better prepared Saul to be king. Challenged him more on a heart level. Samuel learned that God is more interested in the heart than in the outward appearance.
God wants to revolutionize our way of thinking about parenting. God is interested in hearts because that’s where real change takes place. Touching our kids’ Hearts is possible, but it takes some time and planning so we’re ready for the opportunities when they come. Many current parenting trends don’t acknowledge the heart. They emphasize behavior modification. “If you get your homework done, you can watch a movie tonight.” “If you clean your room, you can have a friend over.” This approach of “Do what I say and I’ll let you have what you want” often misses the heart altogether. In fact, it has the opposite effect of what parents want. Behavior modification appeals to children’s resident selfishness. It may work at times, but it has a limited capacity to make lasting changes. A focus on getting the right actions down teaches children image management. The message our children hear is that behavior is what’s important.
It’s time for the heart revolution in parenting. Behavior modification often works for the short term, but it does little to mold a child’s heart for the future. When we take a heart approach to parenting, we partner with God in raising a future generation. Children learn to make changes on the inside, not just outwardly. You can force a child to change behavior, but you can’t force a change of heart.
Motivating heart change isn’t easy. Helping children change their hearts requires a lot of thought, planning and prayer. More and more parents are relearning discipline so that they can have a lasting impact on their children. The authors ask that you please don‘t think that a heart-based approach to discipline is all mushy and lenient. It’s not. Firmness and hard work produce character. The challenge is to help children change on a deeper level so they can become most effective in life.
Real heart solutions in our children’s lives start with your own heart as a parent. In the last two verses of Malachi the prophets looks forward to what God will do in the last days. He wrote, “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” One truth we see over and over again is that parents have to change before their children will change. We find that parents long to connect with their kids. You’d like to be close, but much of the work of family life wears on relationships.
You want to connect on a deeper level, but it seems that much of life is working againist you.
The challenges seems to increase as kids get older. Parenting battles become intense, and many parents spend the quiet moments resting up for the next challenge instead of looking for opportunities to connect on a heart level.
God is in the business of changing people, and he uses parents as a primary tool to facilitate that change in our children’s lives.
Consider the interesting Old Testament story in Exodus. “Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart (28:29). There is a special application for parents in that verse. We sometimes say children are a pain in the neck or they’re Getting in our hair. Try placing them over your heart. It’s amazing what happens when you do. Kids notice the difference and respond accordingly. If you want your children to change their hearts, you must make praying for them a priority in your life.
One mom tells this story: “I felt alone. My kids hated me. They were disrespectful and hurtful to each other and to me. My husband did little to help. He didn’t know what to do, so he withdrew. I couldn’t imagine continuing at this rate for the next ten years until my kids were out of the house. I had to plan something....
”The heart idea intrigued me. It seemed like a good plan, but then again, I’d tried so many other good ideas that didn’t seem to work. I knew I needed to make some changes in myself first. I prayed that God would change my heart, and he did! Then I began to look beyond behavior and see the hearts of my kids and what they needed on a deeper level. Step by step, I went to work, doing what I could to help my children change their hearts.
“At first, it seemed like an overwhelming task. But as I started to focus my energies, I saw change. I was encouraged to continue on, and great things started happening. My husband saw that things were different and partnered with me in parenting. “Together we continued to work. Life has dramatically changed in our home since last year. Instead of a battlefield every day, we now spend enjoyable relationships times together in our family. We still have to correct and set limits, but focusing on our kids’ hearts, we avoid the battles of the past.”
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your souls and with all your strength.” - Deuteronomy 6:5
As you begin a heart approach with your kids, don’t be surprised if God does some deeper work in you as well. After all, God isn’t Just concerned about your children. He’s eager to develop your heart too. So, let him work in and through you and great things will happen. Always remember that your heart is special; it’s where God lives and works.
WHAT IS THE HEART???
Instead of working on the heart, many parents settle for simply changing their children’s behavior. After all, you can see behavior and, most of the time, you can control it. The heart is a mysterious place over which you have little control. The work of understanding it will pay off well as you help your children make lasting changes. You experience greater closeness, and children develop maturity.
1) The Heart is wrestling place - First and foremost, the heart is where we fight internal battles as we try to make sense of life. In their hearts, children wrestle with and come to conclusions about life and its challenges. Recognizing that the heart is a wrestling place gives parents the motivation to relate to their children on a deeper level.
2) The Heart is the place of commitments and determination - After the wrestling, children reach conclusions that turn into decisions and commitments. Commitments provide purpose, meaning and direction. Without these, the heart lives in continual turmoil, tossed around by fear, anger, or anxiety. Often, a continual problem with negative emotions indicates the need for some major heart work. Children need to understand more about life to process it and even adopt new teaching into their value systems.
3) The Heart is where we feel close to others - As parents, we long to connect with our children in meaningful ways. When you correct your six-year-old, and he cries that repentant cry and wants a hug - and tears come to your eyes too, because you‘ve connected with his heart. The closeness you and your children feel (or don’t feel) is a heart function.
4) The Heart is where we experience emotions - People usually recognize that the heart and emotions go together. In fact, some people see this aspect of the heart as the only one. They don’t realize how many other parts of the heart affect a child. Many families ignore emotions or view them as a nuisance. Emotions affect children more that they realize, and it’s important to put them in proper perspective, and plan to deal with them in family life. Jesus told his disciples, “Do not let your heats be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27.
5) The Heart is where temptations and desires develop - Matthew 6:21 says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Psalm 37:4. Desires aren’t always bad; in fact many human longings are good. Knowing the difference, however, can be a challenge at times. Of course, we all wish our children would desire the right things and avoid tempting situations. It;s important to discipline children for wrong behavior, but that’s not enough. To command a child to stop having a bad attitude may draw attention to the child’s problem, but it doesn’t usually address the heart issue the attitude represents. It’s important to discipline children for wrong behavior but that’s not enough. Children often need help processing much of what they’re wrestling with on the inside. Their feelings dominate their decisions. They may long for closeness but not know how to get it. God has placed parents in a position in their children’s lives to help this process.
6) The Heart experiences guilt and conviction of sin - “The Holy Spirit convicts the hearts of people.” Guilt’s Purpose is to point out sin in our lives and motivate us to deal with it. Sometimes you can just look at a child and see that he’s guilty. He knows it. He can feel it. Guilt affects kids’ hearts and robs them of peace. Guilt is experienced in the heart, motivating children to cover up wrongdoing, blame others, or justify it - or confess and make things right. As you help your children process their offenses, you can do some significant heart work. A clear and strong conscience becomes a valuable ally as children maneuver through life’s challenges.
7) The Heart experience passion - When people do something wholeheartedly, they’re doing it with zeal and determination. Sometimes, we say he put his heart into the job, or she has a heart for what she is doing. Part of growing up is knowing when to invest emotionally in something, what to get passionate about.
8) The Heart chooses values to hold and convictions to live by - All parents line for their children to establish convictions that will carry them through tough times. Sometimes those convictions help them control their own emotions. Other times, that internal foundations helps them do what’s right when others are tempting them to do wrong. Responsibility, in part, is staying true to personal values even when no one is watching. Some children do a better job of developing convictions than others, but all need guidance in this area.
9) The Heart is where we connect with God - It’s in the heart where we get to know God in a personal way. He’s chosen to live in our hearts - the central place in our lives - and when he does, he sets things in order. He organizes our priorities, rearranges our values, and reveals sin that must be addressed. Parents often become the hands and feet God uses to mild a child’s heart. Our job is to find out where God is working and then partner with him to do deeper work, necessary in our kid’s lives.
Once you have heart-based approach, your problem-solving strategies change.
A spiritual battle is raging for our children’s hearts. In todays world, parents can’t be complacent and just hope everything will turn out okay.
Now that you’ve explored what the heart is, in the upcoming posts, we will explore and make more sense of the complexities of the heart. Part 2 of 4 to come next week...