Did your mum tell you about the little man that sits on your shoulder and reminds you of the right thing to do – he is especially active when you are about to do the wrong thing!! I guess Mum was talking about my conscience, and I have tried to communicate that to my children as well – they need to listen to the little voice inside them that encourages them to act in line with their values and beliefs.
The workings of our innerself is more complicated than I can understand and I’m sure there is all sorts of technical hitches with the little man theory once you start digging in and thinking about it. But it is the simple words of parenting that help our children understand and benefit from what scientists or theologians are still working out.
We need to teach our children to listen to themselves. This is known today as building ‘intrapersonal skills’. Intrapersonal skills (as opposed to Interpersonal) is what we call the communication that happens within myself – it is the internal dialogues I have with myself about myself. It is an important part of parenting to help our children listen to this conversation.
“Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” are two big questions in life. We do not need to have our children reach early twenties before they start to answer those questions. Jesus answers these questions for us… I am made in God’s image, I am beloved of God, I am forgiven, I am reconciled to God and alive in Christ, I am free from condemnation, I am God’s child.
I am here to obey God’s Word – I am to show love to others, to encourage others to good works, I am to preach the good news, to make disciples, to love God with all my heart, mind and strength. (Though I do this because God loves me, not so that He will love me – He already does! I do it not to be forgiven, but because I already am!!)
Our children need to understand – and believe these things. You see, our kids can understand them, but until they start having conversations with themselves and truly thinking about it, they won’t believe it. Unless they believe it – it won’t affect their life.
Another aspect of having healthy conversations with oneself is to be able to reflect and monitor your own choices, thoughts and feelings and to know your own strengths and weaknesses.
In modern educational and parenting circles the baseline for our assessments has been redefined – it has become grey and the standard is ‘do your best’, ‘do what you feel is good and right’: there are no absolutes. This is not consistent with God’s word. Our choices, our thoughts, feelings, character, passions and will need to be lined up with the word of God.
What do your Children Believe in their Heart?
I can help develop the skills of ‘listening to myself’ in my children when I:
–Encourage them to know the Word of God. This has to be the base line for what they think about themselves and their choices/actions. If they don’t know what the Word of God has to say on any one topic I teach them or direct them to a personal study.
–Encourage them to pray and to listen to God. Listening to oneself can quickly become humanistic where we know what is good and right for ourselves. This is not the Christian perspective – we are nothing without God, and it is God that needs to direct our inner conversations.
–Ask them questions instead of telling them all the time. When they have done the wrong thing, I can tell them or I can encourage them, by asking questions, to think about what they believe and if their actions line up with that belief.
–Ask them (now that they are older) to think through what process they need to go through to change their thinking or habits. When they were younger I gave the consequences, but as they grow they need to be able to see the consequences of their own actions, but also see what changes they need to make and how they are going to train themselves to do what is right.
–Let them express their emotions and thoughts but always bring them back to the word of God. They may disagree with the Word of God, but they need to hear it. The Word of God is what we call ‘objective truth’ – it is true regardless of your circumstances or your feelings.
–Let them make their own choices. Once my children have the moral understanding of what the right thing to do is, the heart to choose wisely and the skill necessary, I need to let them make the choice. If I always make the choices for them, they are not learning to listen to their inner self.
Unless our children can pause and listen to their innerself – their heart – what they believe then they will become puppets to those around them. Puppets to their parents, their peers, their future boss, or their culture en mass.
We must help our children to listen to that quiet voice that reminds them to think about whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, anything that is excellent or praiseworthy.
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Confidence comes when we understand what God thinks about us. Knowing this gives our kids confidence to do what they are made to do.
Heart focus parenting is about teaching our children beliefs and values,training their character and preparing them to make wise choices in their life.