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Parenting Tip

April 15, 2015

The Real Issues are Harder to See

Parents who only focus on behavior change are devastated when their children reveal unresolved issues of the heart as they grow older. The child who is found stealing from the family, the teenager who gets caught drinking with friends, or the young person who starts using drugs have one thing in common: a heart problem that has developed over time.

The heart consists of thoughts, intentions, motivations, desires, and fantasies. Children play out foolishness in their hearts long before it comes out in their actions. Jesus tells us in Mark 7 of the evils that start in the heart before coming out in behavior. Many parents discipline with a two-step process. First, they see wrong behavior and second, they use a number of techniques to get their child to do what’s right. Behavior is changed, but the heart isn’t addressed. A better discipline process requires two more steps, making four altogether.

First, identify the wrong behavior. For example, your daughter begins to complain when you ask her to help with the dishes. Second, identify the dishonoring heart issue. Maybe it’s selfishness with her time, or a disrespect for authority. Third, identify the honoring heart issue needed. She could develop flexibility or thoughtfulness of others. Then, fourth, the right behavior grows out of the honoring heart issue. She could help with the dishes without complaining, or respectfully discuss an alternative. With these four steps, instead of two, you can address what’s going on below the surface—a more complete discipline that teaches children about their hearts.

Giving a consequence isn’t the end of the parent’s responsibility. Sometimes a consequence just gets the child’s attention, allowing the parent then to address deeper heart-related issues. Talk about the underlying motivations and the deeper issues. Helping children change their hearts is harder, but that’s where the lasting change takes place.

For more practical ideas on developing honor in your family take a look at the book, Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes, In You and Your Kids by Dr Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller. We call it The Honor Book.

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