Several years ago I started to study the phrase “capture your child’s heart” – it seemed as if it was the catch phrase in parenting and yet I wasn’t sure I could articulate what it meant – regardless of all my reading.

I discovered that the word heart, when used in the Bible, means many things:

  • the conscience – where we respond to circumstances
  • the mind – where we think, understand, reflect and know things
  • what determines our inclinations and determines our will
  • the seat of our passions and emotions


So to capture our child’s heart is where these aspects of our child’s life are in keeping with these areas in our life; that our child has the same belief system as we do. That their conscience pricks and they listen, just as ours does. That their will is determined by those beliefs, just as our will is. That their passions are in keeping with those beliefs, hopefully just as ours are.

This doesn’t mean that they are replicas of us – that would be disregarding personality, temperaments and talents and abilities. But the core that drives them to being who they are, responding to circumstances and standing up for beliefs will be in the same vein as you. There maybe differences but those differences don’t drive wedges because you ultimately want to walk together, on the same path, in the same direction.

Is this where your child is at? Now we need to be careful and not be prideful, because we may have our children’s hearts today, and not tomorrow. Ultimately it isn’t actually about our children being like us at all – it is about our children having the same heart as God; much like David – a man after God’s own heart. We need to have God’s heart, and in that sense our children are to have the same heart as we do – a heart captured by God. This is the work of the Holy Spirit and we need to be praying that God will keep our children’s hearts, and for that matter that God will keep our own heart.

While our children are young we have the opportunity to show them what a heart after God’s heart looks like. We need to show them what God believes and thinks. We need to show them what standard God would have our inclinations shaped by, and what would drive our will. We need to show them what it looks like to have a conscience that is controlled by the Holy Spirit. We need to show them that they have a choice – a God given choice – and that there are consequences to our choices.

Do you know what your children believe? I’m not talking about do they believe in Jesus or not, though they may well need to come to a personal belief about Jesus. But what do they believe about your authority in their lives? What do they believe about their siblings especially if you aren’t in the room? What do they believe about manners at the table? About public property? What do they believe about how they speak to people and the topics they speak about? What do they believe about work, about money, about managing their time? About being a friend? God’s commandments give us the standard for all these things – His Word should direct what we believe about all aspects of life and relationships!

I came across this quote from Josh McDowell that is so important for us parents to take hold of:

A person’s behaviour is based on his values.
But where do the values come from?
From his beliefs.
And where do his beliefs originate from?
What causes a young person to believe is relationships.
Relationships lead to beliefs.
Beliefs form our values.
Our values drive our behaviour.


Regardless of where your child’s heart is today if you focus on building a relationship and maintaining that relationship you have the biggest opportunity to touch that child’s life. What does this look like? It means that you are real about the things in your heart – that you are living them out in a practical and an observable way. Our children are watching and they want reality. Building a relationship with our children means seeing them as real, total, complete people not just our child. Just as we build relationships with the person down the street we need to get to know our children, enjoy their company, help them out, listen to them, be there for them and let them be there for us. This is a relationship. It doesn’t mean we lose our parental authority it means we show them we are people and that we see them as people and we love them, unconditionally.

When we focus on our relationship with our child (even when their heart is in a totally different place than ours) we are in partnership with God – for God so loves our child…. He wants so much for that child to turn to Him and for their heart to be His.

Note: It may seem as if I am talking about the child who has turned his heart from God – and these thoughts are relevant to that situation, but my thoughts are really turning towards the child who doesn’t understand or accept authority, who struggles to be a friend with his sister, who won’t respect property… These are everyday challenges we face in our family while our children’s heart are being turned, moulded and given to God. If you are not happy with some of your child’s behaviours ask yourself what it is that they believe and set out to show them what God would have them believe, give them an opportunity to believe differently, and therefore act differently.


Further Reading

Do you Know Why? When we know why we do things we find the motivation to carry through.

Why Teenagers should Study Worldview: Guest post today from my son Joshua – as he encourages teenagers to study worldview and think about what they believe.

Why these Expectations Will Hurt your Child: False expectations will hurt our child in the end when they discover life isn’t really like that after all. Don’t paint a picture that isn’t true.

Be Careful about Wrong Information Stored in your Heart: When we have the wrong information in our heart it makes us make wrong choices. Make sure we are believing what is true so we can honour God in all we do.

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