When we see our children’s behaviour there are two things that we need to take notice of: their heart and their actions. We need to address both, though if we address the heart (the attitude, the thinking) then often the actions quickly realign themselves because the heart drives the actions.
There can be a situation though when the heart and the actions are not the same. A situation where you can tell the child’s heart (their deepest desire) is not being reflected in their actions. Their heart says one thing – their actions say another. Now this isn’t the norm, but I believe it happens and I think we need to be on the look out for it.
Attitude and Action Mis-match
This is the type of situation where the kids are saying, “I don’t want to act like this” or “I don’t know why this is happening” and they are sincere; they are not just coping out, or putting on a front. What is happening is that somewhere along the way they have had a heart change and yet their actions are habitual and they are taking time to catch up.
Think about yourself. You have a change of thinking, you decide that God would have you respond differently and yet you find yourself in a spiral of repeating your old way of doing things. Frustrating! It doesn’t mean that your heart was not hearing God, or that you made a ½ hearted commitment, no, it means that you have some habitual ways of responding in a given situation and you have to work on aligning your heart with your responses or actions.
This is what is happening with our children. As they grow and mature, they have a heart change, they start to understand God’s Word and respond to it, they begin to believe and think differently. But they still have some wrong actions happening.
The reason this is important not to miss is that for so long our parenting focus is to teach, train and direct their heart (and in doing so we will teach, train and direct their actions). So when we have this situation we immediately presume it is a heart issue. It may not be. Our child’s heart may be in the right place, they just need help in changing their habitual actions.
In our family this conflict (between heart and actions) has happened mostly after 10 years old. It is by this stage that they understand moral thinking, they are understanding how God’s Word applies to their life, and they are able to make these decisions for themselves. (I must say though, that situations that arise with our children, even at this age, don’t always fall into this category we are still working on their hearts in many situations.)
One of the things that strikes me in this particular type of situation is the relief when you tell the child, I can see your heart is in the right place, you’ve just made an unwise choice or I can see your heart is in the right place, you just have to realign your actions to match.
So the caution is to us parents, yes, teach, train and direct the heart but remember sometimes actions are driven by habit more than bad attitudes in the heart. We need to discern and make sure our parenting addresses the right aspect of our children’s lives. Is it a heart attitude? Or is it a matter of aligning heart and actions together?
Download Parenting Cheat Sheet
Discern between a Heart attitude and a bad habit with these 5 questions