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I want change - but do they? - Issue 186
February 04, 2011
Hi there! ....

This week We are back from our holidays - 6 weeks is a long time away and we were all so looking forward to being home. We were in Queensland during the floods though we were always safe and not affected some family and friends were. It was strange being a tourist in the midst of such community upheaval.

As we settle back into home life there is much to be done. Unpacking was top of the list (I hate unpacking!!) but most of it is done and will be finished off today. Then we need to re-establish our daily frameworks - routines and habits. So little by little we'll work on that. Our first is our morning and evening routines.

One strong lesson I learnt while away is that I can live with a lot less! So as I come back home decluttering hits the top of my list - not so much because it is always a good new years effort but because my heart is getting tired of stuff around me. But once again, little steps, one little pile at a time.

My blogging schedule is still a bit erratic as I settle in and find new rhythms for this year but please do continue to visit me over at Live life with your Kids blog I've changed the template this week so it all looks a little different over there.

Live life with your kids!

If you are an Australian reader I would appreciate you reading this special request.

I want change but do they?

As parents one of the things we dearly want is for our children to change! We might not usually say that, in fact it may sound uncomfortable to say it that bluntly as we usually talk in terms of development, growth, maturity, and training. But reality is that we are looking for change in our children. This isn’t a bad thing – we all have areas in our life that need to change. It is our role as parents to facilitate that change in our children’s lives until they become responsible for their own heart and life. But we need to understand one thing – it is their heart. It doesn’t matter how old they are it is their heart.

I wonder how you make change in your heart – do you do it because someone tells you to… unlikely. It is more likely because you see the necessity; you see the rightness of the change. You may not like to change, but you may not like the consequences if you don’t change. But it is your choice, your heart, your life and you make the change.

It is the same for our children. Now, with young children it is a fine line here but my point is the same. Think about it – you have an out-of-sorts toddler and you put them in the cot until they have a happy heart (or happy face). Can you make them be happy? No. All you can do is arrange the circumstances around them until they decide to be happy. To be happy is a moral choice. Their heart – their choice based on the circumstances as they see it.

What about the 5-10 year old – you want them to do their chores in the morning and they keep forgetting. Do any of your efforts to make them remember work? No, you can’t make them have a good attitude (most times it is their attitude that will make them remember or forget). You can only arrange the circumstances around them until they begin to understand the importance of obedience and responsibility. It is their heart – their choice based on their moral understandings.

What about the 16 year old – you want them to speak kindly to their younger siblings. Does any of your ranting and raving at them, telling them how disappointed you are at their tone help? Not likely. You can’t change your teenager – you can only arrange the circumstances around them until they begin to see life isn’t about them, that other people are important and have feelings (these are all moral choices). It is their heart – their choice based on their moral understandings.

The common thread here is that our children have a choice to make and we need to give them time and opportunity to make that choice. The choices they make will determine the change, the growth and maturity in their lives. But it is their choice. The one thing that will determine their choice is what is in their heart.

We cannot just throw stuff at our children and get frustrated that they don’t respond appropriately; we are missing it all together. We need to give them information (and some of this information comes in the form on consequences – negative and positive) so that they can change their belief system. A toddler who whines does so because it gets them what they want (it works). If the parent says that whining isn’t acceptable because …..(Fill-in why you don’t believe whining is acceptable) and then arranges the circumstances so that the child knows whining isn’t going to work; the toddler has the opportunity to stop whining. His choice based on information received. This is the same for everyone.

The Bible calls the place we store this information – our heart. So we need to give our children enough information, and the right information so that they can make good choices (I’m talking moral and attitudinal choices here). This is heart focused parenting*. We cannot just focus on their actions or attitudes – we have to get down into the heart – what is driving their actions and attitudes.

So if we have hit a brick wall as far as seeing change, growth, moral maturity develop in our children’s lives maybe we aren’t giving them enough information, maybe we aren’t giving them time and opportunity to process moral information and then opportunity to make choices (and suffer the consequences). It is important to understand that I am not saying let them make any choice they want to after all it is their choice. God has given children to parents for safety and direction. In the context of what we feel is right for our family we need to train our children.

  • We need to instruct the heart – what is it that God’s word says about this area of your life.
  • We need to give our children time to process that information and let them make a choice about their attitude and actions.
  • We need to make sure there are consequences for our children’s choices.
  • We need to make sure we give our children what they need (moral information) for them to make good choices

Ultimately I am saying, we cannot force our children to change – we have to help them. One of the scriptures that has been key in my mind as a parent is

Thy word have I hid in my heart
that I may not sin against thee.
Ps 119:11

This is ultimately what I want for my children: that they, as an individual can say – God’s word guides and directs me so that I don’t sin against God; that they will walk right with God and man. Jesus commands to us were in this vein as well – that we love God and our neighbour. It is God’s Word written in our hearts that will direct our choices, and enable us to do this.

Often parents don’t know where to start in teaching their children’s hearts. I think the best place is 1 Cor 13 – the love chapter. Most of our actions comes down to the question – am I showing love?

Disclaimer: Often when people think about giving their children information they think of full on lectures complicated with all the ins and outs of all possibilities. Or they think of negotiating or debating with their children. I am not talking about this. When I say we need to give our child’s heart information I am saying that we need to tell them what is right – what God’s Word has to say about this matter. When we give them this information we are building up their hearts so that out of their heart will come right choices for their actions and attitudes.

E.g. The whining toddler Love is not irritable or love does not insist on its own way. Though I tended to used the words Be joyful always 1 Thess 5:16, and taught from Prov 15:13 that A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit conversely if the face was sad I could see a sad heart.

E.g. The forgetful child (in regards to chores and responsibilities) – Love is not self-seeking (thinking about self-first), though we also used various Proverbs that talks about the ant and the sluggard.

E.g. The self-centred teenager not being very kind to their younger siblings – any one of the 1 Cor 13 love verses will be good heart information for this child: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails. (If this example is needed in your family, please don’t dump all these verses at once on your teen– choose a verse and work with your teenager in understanding and believing that one aspect and then move on.)

Of course if we are going to teach our children from this passage we need to have it in our own heart as well. Do we need to change our heart? Do we address our children with love?

* Heart Focus Parenting is a book written to help parents understand heart issues. (also available as e-book).

Have you ever visited my blog?

I didn't get to blogging last week but my last few posts were:
Dressing Appropriately and Dressing Appropriately as a Mum.

Have you read about the Boyanup Chrisitan Homeschool Conference? where I'll be speaking on discipleship homeschooling?

My Bookshop

Blending Life with Lessons e-book - Does your everyday life challenge your homeschool ideas? This is my journey as I discover that it is possible to disciple my children in today's busy lifestyle.

Heart Focus Parenting book/e-book - A heart focused parent will keep their attention on their child's heart for God, instead of on external behaviours.

My Sitemap is a quick reference to all you will find on Lifestyle-Homeschool. I encourage you to have a browse around!

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Until next week

Belinda Letchford
Living life with her kids in Australia!

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