Thanks for being my guinea pigs!
I worry constantly during this parenting process whether what I’m sowing into my kids now is going to have the desired effect through the teenage years and into adulthood. Whether I’m reaching their hearts and planting God’s Word and values and lessons into them, or whether I’m just creating little obedient robots that obey when they are in my house but become prodigals when they are sent off to make their own decisions and interact with the rest of the world. And of course there is no absolute cure to insure that our children will choose to use what we’ve taught them since we are all human and have the ability to choose whether to follow God or follow something else. But I’ve found some tools that I feel the Lord has lead me to, so that I can give my best to help our kids have a foundation of loving God, loving people and being productive members of society.
One of the tools that I’ve come across is the concept of not just giving our kids boundaries but providing the moral and sometimes practical reason why they have those boundaries. I know that I, personally, am more willing to change my behavior when I have a concrete understanding of what God says about it and the effect it might have on others. As an adult, just being told that I need to change a behavior doesn’t cut it for me no matter how willing I am to do what is right. I need something that connects to my heart and my mind so I can remember it when the situation arises again. So to expect our kids, that are still in training, to change a behavior without a reason is a rather high standard that even parents can struggle with.
This concept of giving a moral or practical reason can be used at even the youngest ages. I remember having play dates when Elijah was 2 years old and having to teach him to not hit the other kids. And whether I thought he could understand or not, I began to build a pattern of explaining why we were changing the behavior. It was more practical than moral at that point because he was so young, but I was still teaching him that the reason we don’t hit someone with a toy is because it hurts them and that we need to treat the other kids the way that we want them to treat us.
For example, we had a little altercation in our house the other day between my 11 year old daughter Allegra and her 7 year old brother Malachi. She had gotten angry at Malachi for some reason and wanted to lash out at him so she swung her leg at him as if to kick him. She didn’t make contact but she wanted the swing at him to get the effect of dominance and revenge. I pulled them both aside and normally I would just say that it’s not nice to kick at your brother, I want you to stop it now, but a few verses went through my head and I knew I needed to turn this into a heart teaching instead of a behavior teaching.
God spoke to me using Mathew 5 and from that I gathered that our sin starts when we have the intention, not just when we take action. I really wanted Allegra to know that her desire to lash out at Malachi was also a sin or offense against God. So she really had a higher power to answer to than just me.
We started to look up some verses:
“The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out. But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.”
So he knows what’s happening on the inside and sometimes it’s not very pretty and we can never fool him about our intent.
I talked to Allegra about the fact that even though her kick didn’t actually make contact, that the desire to lash out at her brother crossed the line just as much as if she had left a bruise on him. That God knows what is in our hearts and minds and He was offended at how she had treated her brother who was specially made and loved by God, just as much as she was. So her apologies needed to be expressed to God as well as her little brother.
And I saw something in her break. Instead of a sullen “sorry” her eyes welled up with tears and she humbled herself. I walked her through her confession and how to ask God to forgive her and then she apologized to her brother and climbed on my lap for hugs and reassurance. We had a tender moment where I revealed that I have to constantly do this with God myself as well as with her, Chris and the rest of the kids. And then off she went, her heart connected with mine a little more, a new understanding of her brothers value in God’s eyes and a widened view of how hurting someone else hurts God too.
So I hope that this is something helpful that you can put in your parenting toolbox to help you through this huge responsibility of raising the next generation of healthy, thoughtful, God honoring, and productive people.