This post has been updated though it still tells of the heart conversations I had with my kids. It is a bit like a journal entry as I reflect on what was going on in my house at that time. I hope by sharing it years later, you will be able to see how much time it takes to talk to the heart.
Make Time in your Day to Train your Child’s Heart
It takes time to address our children’s hearts. It would be much quicker and even easier if we just address their behaviour. But all behaviour is driven by the heart – which is why when we address behaviour we don’t change the heart, but when we address the heart we change behaviour.
But life gets busy and it is easy to be preoccupied. We should never be too busy or too occupied to address the heart issue.
What do our children think in their hearts?
What do they believe?
What do they think important?
For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7
Whenever our children do something – right or wrong – it is because of something they believe or value
Examples of Heart Conversations
Just reflecting over this week I have had some important conversations with my kids. Important because they are heart conversations; conversations that will shape their beliefs, their thinking, their character, their passions. These things will shape their life one way or the other.
–Be content with your choice. Twice this week we were in town and bought a treat for morning tea. Both times, once the choice was made one of my children really wanted what someone else had ordered. We talked about being content with your choice. We need to be bold enough to make a choice (we can’t dither) and then we need to accept it. I can think of more implications to this heart idea than just whether I should have ordered a mango smoothie or a berry icecream cone! But when I took the opportunity to discuss it, I laid the foundation for other conversations on handling the consequences of our decisions.
–Our need for external boundaries instead of internal discipline. As I discussed this with one of my children it was close to home for me too – it is something we are going to have to work on together. I was asked if it is a bad thing to need external boundaries, deadlines, commitments to make us keep on track. And though it isn’t necessarily a bad thing – there are many situations where we won’t achieve unless the discipline comes from within. Do your children work with internal boundaries or external boundaries (such as you reminding them)? This is something that is age appropriate – and something we will continue to work on with all our children.
–Out of sorts. What happens in your family when someone wakes up out of sorts? Not quite themselves? Their heart – their joy – their desire to be with people – has to come from within them. In our family the grumpy person needs to go and find their happy heart. I can’t make them be happy or at peace with the world – it is their choice, but there is an expectation to respect others so it often best to go and find some time to yourself and get things right.
–Thoroughness – we discussed the aspect of thoroughness where we need to know what the right goal is for this moment. This is a good example of keeping all character traits in balance. We can be working hard at being diligent – but at the wrong task for that moment in time. We are diligent but not thorough.
–Forgetfulness – this is often thrown up as the excuse for not completing responsibilities. The other excuse is often busyness. The thing is we always find time for what is important to us. We find time for Facebook, for our hobbies, for talking to our friends – but do we find time for our devotions, our exercise, and getting our chores done. Forgetting your responsibilities is generally an indicator that they are not high on your priority list.
This is simply a summary of some of the conversations I had.
There are some days where I feel that we don’t achieve anything – to do lists and lesson plans just get moved to the next day. But when I document these types of conversations I can see where our time goes.
It takes time to have conversations.
You can’t plan conversations.
You can’t rush conversations.
You can’t control conversations.
Conversations that reach our child’s heart – that is, conversations that help them see heart issues and be willing to deal with them. We have to acknowledge both the value in heart conversations, as well as how long they take – in order to respect the time they take out of our day.
Conversations not Lectures
It is important to consider the difference between a lecture and a conversation because the above notes could read like a lecture. Lectures just provide information. Conversation on the other hand engages both people as they discuss (back and forward) the issue at hand.
Lecture is information delivered by one person – a conversation engages both parties.
Have conversations with your children.
A conversation can only be had with a child or teen who agrees that this conversation needs to be had. If they are defensive, argumentative or angry in any way there is no way you can have a conversation. Should your child have this resisting heart then they need some time to themselves – time where they can reflect on what is important to them, and time for them to see the need to change. A conversation can only be had once a child wants to learn more from you.
A conversation can only be had once the parent is also willing to converse and engage. If the parent is angry or rushed they will tend to revert to a lecture. A lecture is a short term strategy – it makes the parent feel good (they’ve delivered the information that the child needs to know) but it has no impact on the child’s heart. A double whammy is that it also damages or wears down the parent-child relationship.
Ask Questions to Foster Conversations
I find meeting new people a challenge and have tried to learn conversational skills to help me overcome this. One of the things that I have learnt is that questions are good conversational openers. I find questions are the way to avoid lecture and open conversations with my kids too. I ask them, “What is in your heart that made you act that way? This has been family lingo for a long time so they generally know what I mean.
But other questions that help them reflect on heart issues are:
- What happened that I’m not so happy about? Why am I concerned about that? What do you think about that?
- Was that a wrong choice? Why? What are you going to do about it?
- What does God’s word say about what you’ve just done?
- Who were you thinking of just now?
We need to watch though that we use our children’s answers the right way. It is very easy to use their answer as food for our anger and frustration and burst out and attack them with their very words. Unfair!! The reason we’ve asked them questions is to help them see what is in their heart, to help them see what they are thinking in their heart and to help them line their heart up with the word of God.
Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24
Conversations Take Time
A conversation invites the child to be responsible for their heart. But it isn’t negotiating or arguing. It is a time where you can explain God’s word and help them to see the importance of that in their own life. Conversations will look different with different ages. A child who is just learning God’s word will need you to teach what God’s word has to say, but a child who has God’s word on their heart, needs you to help them connect with that.
Each one of these issues took time to address. Each one was inconvenient in that I was busy doing stuff when these issues arose. Mind you, there were plenty of issues that I saw, that I didn’t take on. We do have to choose our battles, and manage all the different balls we juggle. But we cannot let our busyness distract us from what is our true calling – to be a parent: to shape our children’s hearts.
Over to you…
What heart-things have you addressed in your family this week? (Let me know in the comments)
What does your Child Believe? Heart focus parenting is about teaching our children beliefs and values, it is about training their character and preparing them to be able to make wise choices in their life.
My Go-to Consequence: Any consequence needs to help our child reflect on their own heart so they can take responsibility for their choices. Consequences teach not punish.