When parents first lay their eyes on their newborn baby, they immediately fall in love with them. They cuddle this tiny person in their arms. The baby scent draws them closer to plant tiny kisses on their faces. Those soft fingers and toes and button noses are too cute to nibble on.
Soon, the baby scent fades and the tender limbs stiffens and becomes defiant. Assertion and independence lead to disobedience, conflict and disappointment simply because the child wants to “grow up”. During this season of life, the table is now turned, “Is my child in-love with me”?
This question got me reflecting after Peewee and I attended “Counterflow: Raising Successful Kids in Today’s World”, a parenting conference held at the CCF Center. We heard from speakers like Francis Kong, Senior Pastor for Christ’s Commission Fellowship (CCF) Dr. Peter Tanchi and his wife Deonna who spoke all spoke with authority on the subject matter. They knew what they were talking about. They have raised adult kids and the Tan-chi’s are now enjoying their grandchildren.
I learned that since God always looks at our hearts, so should we as parents. It’s easy to focus on helping our child achieve academic excellence but we forget to focus on the heart of our children. What drives them to do what we want them to do. Are they being achievers because they want to receive a reward in the end or they are too afraid to disappoint Mom and Dad?
We can make them do things or behave in a way that is socially acceptable but if their heart is not connected to us, the “good behavior” doesn’t last long. Their motivation to behave is brought by fear and not LOVE.
I remember the story of a little boy who went to church with his parents. He couldn’t sit still and kept moving around disturbing the other church attendees. His parents asked him to sit but he won’t. Until finally, he did sit down grudgingly. The he said to his parents, “I may be sitting down but inside me I’m standing up!”
Dr. Tan chi said the heart is the battleground. Lasting change takes place in the heart. When their hearts are rooted in love and in God, then they will yield a fruit, which is expressed in their behavior.
Deuteronomy 6:1-2 says “Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, 2 that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.” (NKJV)
Let me share some of the thoughts I picked up on how to (positively) influence the heart of our child
1. Through our relationship with them. It’s not enough that mothers bore them into this world or that fathers provide them food, clothing and shelter. We have to take our role as parents seriously. Connection with them is the key. The more they feel loved by us the more they would respond to us positively. The more they would want to please us. The more they would obey. But this is not a one-day deal, it’s a process and a journey. Relationship is built on a day to day connection with our kids.
2. We have to be intentional in our parenting. It’s not anymore the issue of quality time but Quantity Time. No matter how busy we are in our jobs, our businesses, our homes, we must find time to be there for our kids no matter what. The truth of the matter is, they would not remember how expensive the toy they received from you. But what would be carved in their hearts are the times when dad helped his little boy learn how to ride a bike or maybe the time mom carefully cleaned the scrapes on her little girl’s knee. Spending time with also allows us to train them well. We experience magic moments with them which helps us build up their character.
3. Modeling is about authenticity not perfection. Our children do not need perfect parents. They need parents who are honest and with integrity. Our children are like photocopying machines. Unknowingly, we may be passing on a negative trait or habit to them. Character is not taught but caught. We walk our talk. I love this quote, “Your actions speak so loudly I can’t hear what you are saying.”
4. Vision gives them direction in life. We help our kids create a vision of their future. We remind them that whatever choice they make now will impact their future. For school-aged children and teens, their focus should be their family and their education. This is also the best time to hone their skills/talents. We can lead them to opportunities that would develop their people skills, life skills, and God-given talents.
Since all of us (parents and children) cannot escape the consequences of our decisions, we have to guide our children in making right choices. Will this activity/opportunity help me achieve my vision? Will this have a lasting effect on my future? Will this choice help me get close to God or not? An example would be having a relationship with the opposite sex while still in high school. This is not advisable, even if the today’s youth are practicing this, unless they are ready to get married at age 16?
5. Connect them to God and pray for them. In the end, no matter how intentional we may be in modeling and giving them a vision of their future, if their hearts are far from us then it is difficult to influence them. Since God was the one who put their hearts, we plead God to watch over our children. That he would soften their disobedient hearts. “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 11:19
It was Francis Kong who suggested to be strict with our children while they are still young. Their hearts are still pliable. They will respond to our teaching and influence. But when they get older we should the loosen our grip little by little. Not the other way around.
“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.” Proverbs 22:11 Our kids do not know what they are doing. That’s why it is our role as parents to train and disciple them in the way God wants them to be taught.