Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Want the heart? Start with the feet.

After the last post about first-time obedience, several people said that yes, they’re concerned about obedience, but getting to the heart of their child is their main goal in parenting. 

I understand that concern – most of the talk in parenting circles is all about getting to the heart of your child. A quick Google search of the phrase, “Getting to the heart of your child,” produces a zillion entries, from books to blog posts to magazine articles. There are suggestions on questions you should ask your child each night, four ways to dig deep into your child’s heart (which sounds kind of gross), 20 questions to ask to know your child’s heart. Clearly, parents are concerned about their kids’ hearts and how to reach them.

  Buh-bye! 
HT: Victoria Harris
Unfortunately, those books and articles don’t tell parents what they really need to know: before even considering working on your kid’s hearts you have to get your kid’s behavior in line. Without that, you can kiss getting to know your kid’s heart buh-bye.

This sounds so horribly backwards. These days we’re not supposed to be talking about behavior – we’re to be concerned with the heart and motives and emotions. But unless you teach your kid to sit still and be quiet, you can forget his heart. If your kid won’t come to you when you call him and if she won’t pick up her toys when you tell her to, you will not get to discuss heart matters. How do you expect to have that nightly three-question session if your kid won’t sit still when you tell her to?

Teaching your child to obey comes first.

I heard Dennis Prager say if parents do the hard work of parenting before age 8 they can practically retire in the teen years. Of course, you still will be engaged, but the hard work of discipline for behavior will be all but over if you work on the behavior in the early years.

Is there a magic wand for parenting? If you get your preschooler's actions in line will you mysteriously solve all teenage behavior issues? Of course not. That's not what I'm saying, But I am suggesting that tackling first-time obedience with your toddler will make it much easier to have those heart-to-heart talks you so desire with kids of any age.

Parents, I commend you for wanting to know the heart of your child. I love that you want to impart your values and wisdom. I think it’s amazing that you are concerned to really “get” your kid. But if you don’t have the same desire to help that child control his actions, all that heart stuff is for naught.

Besides, I can tell you what’s going on in your child’s heart: Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him. (Proverbs 22:15) Want to root out the folly? Then you must discipline your child.

Train your child to obey. Work on behavior early. Once obedience is in check, you will have the opportunity to focus on the heart. And the benefits of working things in that order will last a lifetime.