Parenting Tip

June 8, 2015

My Child Is Just Going Through The Motions

Sometimes children learn to go through the motions to just get through a discipline experience. They’ll parrot the answers that they know you want to hear. You know that helping them change their hearts is the right thing to do, but you don’t seem to be getting anywhere. What do you do?

“The answer must be bigger consequences.” That tends to be what parents think of first, but the solution is usually more complicated. The key may be adding positive consequences that help children practice a heart change.

One mom said, “My twelve-year-old son was struggling with meanness. I had tried taking away privileges but that didn’t seem to work. I decided to try something different. I told him each day to find three kind things he could do for his brother. He would have to report to me before he was free to go out and play. By focusing on the positive we began seeing some significant change.”

This is a good idea but sometimes change is slow or doesn’t seem to be there at all. In these cases, parents must take a two-pronged approach. First, set up a good routine and enforce it. It’s like a Jello mold. You’re establishing boundaries for children and requiring right responses even though they don’t seem to be able to assimilate change on a deeper level.

Then pray. After all, God is the one who can change a heart. Pray that your children will respond to the discipline and guidelines you set up. Tell your children that you’re praying for them. Don’t give up and just let them go. Continue to set the patterns and routines to be that container that they need to act rightly. Pray that God will breathe life into the container so that children aren’t just acting right, but their hearts are in it too.

Look for small opportunities for dialogue, modeling, and correction that God might use to help them change. Find positive influences for your child. It’s amazing how many times a youth leader at church can say the very same thing that you are saying at home but your kids will receive it better from someone else. Hang in there. The job of parenting requires a lot of faith and work. Both are necessary to help children make changes that will last.

For more about helping children change their hearts, read the book, Parenting is Heart Work, by Dr Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller.

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